For many youngsters, an empty cartridge casing can serve as a souvenir from an exciting day spent at the range or hunting with their elders. For one student at Chanute Elementary School in Chanute, Kans., however, an empty cartridge case will likely be a reminder of the day overwrought school administrators threatened to turn his academic career upside down.
According to a report in the Chanute Tribune, on December 2, grade-schooler Camron Carlson spent the evening with his mom and her friend as they sighted in a deer rifle. At some point during the activity, Camron placed one of the pieces of spent brass in his pocket.
The following day at school, Camron recounted the event to his friends, during which the spent case came out of his pocket. School officials swooped in and detained Carlson in the school’s administration offices until his mother, Deana Carlson, could arrive. Carlson told reporters that the traumatic ordeal had reduced her son to tears, noting, “The principal made him feel that an empty shell was dangerous.”
Carlson went on to describe her encounter with Principal Gary Wheeler to the Tribune. Wheeler initially told Carlson that Camron could be suspended for 168 days, before the school district settled on a five-day punishment. Carlson told the paper, “I looked at [Wheeler] and I said ‘this is the wrong call.’” She added, “I could understand if there was a student who had multiple offenses [but] there was nothing dangerous about what he had done.” Wheeler dismissed Carlson’s concerns, telling her, “you need to just go on.”
In light of the Chanute Public Schools Unified School District 2014-2015 Elementary School Handbook, it is unclear why Camron faced such harsh discipline. The handbook’s weapons policy clearly bans “[a]ny firearm or ammunition for any firearm.” However, the document does not outline a position on inert components of ammunition. Chanute school officials targeting harmless ammunition components begs the disturbing question: Would a child be similarly punished if they brought to school an early American musket ball or a civil war-era Minie ball for history class or show and tell? How about just a single ball bearing?
Carlson and Camron’s grandmother, Mary Sue Carlson, suggested larger cultural reasons lurk behind Camron’s mistreatment. Carlson stated, “My son is being discouraged and looked down upon for being a boy.” Mary Sue added that she believes what happened to her grandson is an attack on the family’s hunting culture, stating, “Our family does a lot of deer hunting… This is hunting country. This child has been led to believe that that’s not okay.”
Summing up her son’s actions, Carlson stated that Camron “was just being a boy and bragging because it’s cool.” We have to agree. Sighting in a deer rifle and taking a piece of the spent brass that results is a safe, normal and wholesome activity, enjoyed by millions.
As for the frantic behavior of the Chanute Elementary officials, we would turn Principal Wheeler’s advice to Camron’s mother right back at him. Owning and shooting firearms is normal, as is carrying forward fond memories of it.