It all started humbly enough: A 10-year-old boy in Commack, N.Y. was unhappy about a minor scuffle in the school yard. The boy and two other students talked about going home to fetch a water gun, a “paint gun” and a BB gun to use in retaliation. Teachers overheard the conversation, and that’s when things quickly escalated.
John Mayer, the father of the boy, received a call from the Pines Elementary School informing him that school officials had filed a police report about his son, a “kid with a gun, ready to go,” and that his son would be suspended for two days. School officials also “interrogated” the three boys.
The trouble for the Mayer family didn’t end there. Mayer got another call, this time from the Suffolk County Pistol Licensing Bureau. They notified Mayer that his license would be suspended and that police would arrive at his home to confiscate his 15 pistols.
Mayer quickly transferred the firearms to a friend’s home where they would be secure. They may have to remain there for eight long years – police informed Mayer that his license may remain suspended until his son moves out of his home.
This story is both comforting and worrying. On the bright side, school officials overheard that children were talking about bringing a gun to school. They acted quickly by filing a police report and disciplining children. Had this been the actual first stages of a mass gun shooting event, the teachers’ actions would have nipped it in the bud.
Conversely, many gun rights advocates – and even a few gun control advocates – worry that the state’s reaction was far too severe. After school officials discovered that the students only intended to fetch water guns and that the students didn’t have access to Mayer’s properly secured firearms, it probably should have ended there.
Mayer lamented, “We’ve grown to such an absurd point now with firearms where kids can’t even be kids.”
Mayer’s lawyer, New York firearms attorney James Murtha, told the press: “We understand that in this day and age things can get perceived wrong. But we are talking about a child making silly comments. And now a man’s constitutional rights have been dramatically violated.”
Did police and local government overstep their bounds when they moved to confiscate Mayer’s weapons, or are the police simply doing their due diligence as they investigate a potentially dangerous incident?