It’s a situation we see replayed across North America with alarming frequency. So-called “zero tolerance” policies against weapons in “gun-free zones” bring the full weight of the Almighty State down on the unsuspecting head of some “mere citizen” in ways that defy both common sense and rationality.
Such is the case of 17-year-old Cody Chitwod. Cody is, like so many Georgia boys his age, an avid fisherman, and it’s this passion for the outdoors that landed him in very serious trouble.
Cody attends Lassiter High School in Cobb County, Georgia. The school is, in accordance with today’s Nanny State Mentality, a gun-free zone and like all such zones, takes a zero-tolerance stance on “weapons” on school property.
Cody loaded his fishing gear into his car with the intention of going fishing after school. That seems innocent enough, right? A kid wants to go fishing.
Where’s the crime in that?
Cody’s planned after-school fishing trip was the same day police showed up at Lassiter High School with drug-sniffing dogs for a “random search” of school property and all vehicles located on it.
The dogs sniffed something in Cody’s car, giving police all the probable cause they required to perform a complete search of his vehicle. Turns out the dogs freaked over the presence of trace amounts of black powder, residue left over from 4th of July fireworks.
No harm there.
It was Cody’s fishing tackle box that caused the over-reaction and felony charges against the young man.
His fishing tackle box contained a knife for cleaning the fish he caught. The presence of this knife violated the school’s zero tolerance policy. Cody was arrested and charged with a felony weapons offense. If convicted he could face anywhere from 2 to 10 years in prison and $10,000 fine.
The irony is this young man planned to join the Air Force so he could serve his nation. A felony conviction would be an end to that plan, not to mention a bar to most of the professions to which the young man aspires.
All this because the 17-year-old wanted to go fishing after school. All this because zero-tolerance policies are applied with absolutely zero common sense.
Thankfully some Georgia state legislators agree that zero-tolerance policies must go. Georgia State Representative Ed Setzler (R-Kennesaw) said:
“The public expects the same good common sense they use every day of their lives to apply to the laws of our state, and we as legislators seek nothing less. We’ll inspect the current state of the law, but our school leaders don’t like it, our law enforcement doesn’t like it, and we’re finding out the citizens who understand the current state of the law certainly don’t like it.”
Writer Dave Jolly makes a great point when he writes:
I wonder what they would find in the cars of teachers and other school faculty if they were searched? Have any of them ever put fishing tackle or a toolbox in their car and then took them to school? If so, would they face the same felony weapons charges as a student?
I understand the need to protect students, but how many students are having their lives ruined by something as innocent as throwing their tackle box in the car without thinking about the knife in the bottom used to clean fish? Just like everything else in life, there has to be some common sense used in these situations, but so few educators today exercise any form of common sense that they look more like tyrants that educators.
Hopefully, Chitwood’s attorney will be able to get the felony charges dropped so he can continue on with his life and serve his country.
Indeed. Without applying common sense to situations like Cody's, all we're teaching our young people is that everyone is a terrorist-in-waiting.
That is absurd and offensive to anyone with the willingness to use the brain God gave them.