A measure recently signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses the growing frequency of over-zealous zero-tolerance school policies that punish youngsters for simulating guns while playing.
In recent years, schools across the country have disciplined and even expelled youngsters for playing games that involve pretend guns, action interpreted by most law-abiding gun owners and hunters as ridiculous and overreaching.
Singed into law June 20, Florida HB 7029—known as “The Pop Tart Bill”—makes it permissible for students to play with simulated weapons without the likelihood they will be suspended or singled out for their actions. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker), received its name based on a 2013 incident when 6-year-old Rodney Lynch was suspended from his Silver Spring, Md. school after he chewed his breakfast food into a shape his teacher claimed resembled a gun, pointed it at a classmate and said, “Bang, bang.”
There have been numerous similar cases in which students faced discipline and even expulsion for drawing pictures of guns, pointing fingers like a gun and using other firearms pantomime.
- In April, 10-year-old Nathan Entingh was suspended for 3 days from his Columbus, Ohio, school for pointing his finger like a gun in the classroom.
- Jordan Bennett, an 8-year-old Florida boy, was suspended from school in October 2013 for using his finger as a pretend gun while playing cops and robbers.
- In May, 2013, two second-grade boys were suspended from Driver Elementary School in Virginia for pointing pencils at each other while playing soldier.
The Florida bill provides that such action by a student “is not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system.”
The NRA-supported bill passed the Florida House of Representatives in May by a 98-17 vote and breezed through the Senate 32-6.
Under HB 7029, the following behavior is exempted from school discipline or criminal action:
- Simulating firearms or weapons with food
- Possessing toy firearms or weapons less than 2 inches in length
- Using a finger to simulate a firearm or weapon
- Making a gun noise (e.g., "bang" or "pew-pew")
- Drawing or possessing pictures of weapons
- Using a pencil or pen to simulate a gun
The measure clarifies that a student may continue to be subject to disciplinary action if simulating a firearm or weapon while playing substantially disrupts student learning, causes bodily harm to another person or places another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
Marion Hammer, past NRA president who presently heads NRA lobbying efforts in Florida, said, “Children should not be punished because some adult lacks common sense or the capacity for rational judgment.”