Police in Schools

17-Year-Old Says 'I Could Buy an AR-15,' Gets Arrested

"The offense is akin to joking about a bomb in the airport," Ledyard High School's principal said. "One simply doesn't do it."


School gun
Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)

A high school in Ledyard, Connecticut, called the cops on a 17-year-old student who made a non-threatening comment about a gun in class. Police then arrested him, and he now faces charges of breaching the peace.

According to Ledyard High School Principal Amanda Fagan, the student said "I could buy an AR-15" or something very similar. That's it.

"In an abundance of caution, despite the fact that this student is a minor who cannot, in fact, legally purchase such a weapon, we made the decision to consult with the Ledyard Police, who made the decision to take the student into custody," Fagan said in a statement, according to FOX61.

The student made the comment during his first-period class. The principal was quickly notified, and she made the decision to call the cops—even though it was clear to her that he was neither making a threat nor in possession of any actual guns. In a message to parents, Fagan stressed that the student presented absolutely no danger.

"The student in question does not have access to firearms at home," she said. "There was never any threat to the safety of your children or the adults who teach and tend to them each day."

It's not clear what the tone of the remark was—perhaps the young man was complaining that it's too easy to buy a gun. I called and emailed Fagan for additional clarification, but she did not immediately respond.

The Associated Press reports that the student will be appear before a juvenile court to face charges of breaching the peace.

"The offense is akin to joking about a bomb in the airport," Fagan said in her message. "One simply doesn't do it."

And one shouldn't. But the question is whether someone should face life-altering consequences for doing it. There was no harm committed. There was no real danger. The authorities involved understood that there was no real danger. The kid is being punished anyway.

In her statement, Fagan referred to the recent Parkland, Florida, school shooting:

In the wake of any school violence, nerves are often frayed. Today is no exception. Many of us—parents, students, educators—faced today with feelings of sadness, anger, even fear as we began to process the news of the eighth fatal school shooting in America in seven weeks. This time, it was 17 high school students and staff members who lost their lives yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Like every school staff in America today, the staff of Ledyard High School had heightened senses all day, working to be sure our smiles were particularly welcoming, our ears were particularly open, our interactions particularly genuine.

Incidents like this—the arrest of a teenager for daring to even mention a gun—are precisely why I've warned that putting more cops in schools and encouraging a see-something-say-something mentality are not reasonable responses to school shootings. These policies make us feel like we did something, but they wouldn't necessarily make school any safer. They're more likely to curtail teens' civil liberties and needlessly draw students into the criminal justice system.