The MDJ posted a story over the weekend about the possibility of the General Assembly looking into modifying the current Zero Tolerance laws. Cobb County has seen a few dumb arrests recently and I’m sure everyone remembers that Tweety Bird key chain a few years ago.
This seems like a good idea to me since it used to be required that an individual have an intent to break the law (mens rea) before being charged with a crime. Also as an Eagle Scout, you’d be hard pressed to find me without a pocket knife. Same goes for my Jeep and a Leatherman.
The problem with a zero tolerance of any kind is that it leaves little leeway for the circumstances surrounding the event. If a student simply forgot to take the tackle box out of the trunk from that weekends fishing trip, he can still get suspended and arrested. It’s not like the student was planning on using a scaling knife to take over the school.
Then there’s the 12 year old new Boy Scout. He goes on a hiking trip with his troop but the only backpack he has is his school bag. He gets back to school Monday and finds his Swiss Army knife while digging for his homework. Upon this revelation he goes to his teacher to do the right thing. And upon telling his teacher, he gets treated the same as someone who actually wanted to do violence. What kind of message is that “It’s better to lie and hope you don’t get caught, because if you do the right thing you’re still going to get the same punishment.”
Should we keep guns out of school, definitely. Should we punish a kid for forgetting to take the tackle box out of the trunk or the EMS knife he carries in his car because a buddy of his died in a car wreck, no. The rules need the ability to discriminate between violent intent and everything else.
There needs to be room for the allowance of common sense, though that concept in conjunction with government seem to meet very rarely. Hopefully these two state legislators will be able to make some common sense changes to a very broad law.