Legalese — Weapons at School

Photo courtesy of Lori Duff
Photo courtesy of Lori Duff

Like most guys I know who live in these parts, part of my husband’s ‘getting dressed’ ritual includes not only pants, a shirt, socks, and shoes, but also the tucking of a pocket knife into his pants pocket. The utility of this knife is unquestionable. He uses it for all manner of things, none of which is the remotest bit violent: cutting tags off of clothing, getting into packages, prying open stubborn lids, digging things out of the cracks between the car seats, and cleaning his nails. He doesn’t think about having this knife any more than I give my socks any thought after I put them on.

This is a problem. We have two children who are school age. This knife, on school property, is a huge no-no. According to the Official Code of Georgia, section 16-11-127.1, “it shall be unlawful for any person to carry to or to possess or have under such person’s control while within a school safety zone or at a school building, school function, or school property or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the school any weapon or explosive compound.” This means that any school function falls under this law – including the prom which may be held at a private country club, or a field trip or a sporting event.

The word weapon itself is defined very broadly, in so many words that I dare Daniel Webster to come up with a definition longer than this to describe any complicated or subtle word or phrase. Weapon, according to the code, “means and includes any pistol, revolver, or any weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind, or any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, any other knife having a blade of two or more inches, straight-edge razor, razor blade, spring stick, knuckles, whether made from metal, thermoplastic, wood, or other similar material, blackjack, any bat, club, or other bludgeon-type weapon, or any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken, or fighting chain, or any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, or any weapon of like kind, and any stun gun or taser as defined in subsection (a) of Code Section 16-11-106. This paragraph excludes any of these instruments used for classroom work authorized by the teacher.”

So think about this for a second. “[A]ny weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind.” This would include Nerf guns, suction-cup dart shooters, a slingshot, a water balloon launcher, and, potentially, a straw with a wadded up piece of paper stuffed in the end. The razor blades include utility knives that might be used for the after-school job, the razor scraper thing that most people have and – yes – the 25 cent single bladed Bic disposable razor with the plastic handle you might have bought at the grocery store on the way to pick up Johnny from school and put in the back seat. Or, which 17 year old Johnny may have brought to school to get rid of his peer-enviable 6 o’clock shadow before the awards banquet that evening.

There are long, complicated exceptions to this rule, but not as many as you’d think. For example, my son is on the school Archery team. As such, he is required to bring his bow and some very pointy arrows to school for practice. He cannot bring this school-required piece of equipment on the bus, nor can he bring it into the actual school building. It must stay in the gym where it is used (and locked up when not used.) Which makes some sense – the last thing the world needs is 12 year olds running rampant around the school with Hunger Games style weapons. But it also makes for difficult transportation arrangements, since if he wants to bring his bow home to practice, he must go directly from the gym to the car and make no stops to pick up a forgotten math book along the way. If you are picking up a child from a school event, and you have weapons, they must be locked up in a container or in a locked gun rack. Which is all well and good for your hunting rifle or a small pistol, but what about your toolbox (or nail gun) in the bed of your pickup? Or the ubiquitous pocket knife like my husband has?

This law is designed to keep our children safe. I don’t know anyone who is anti-safe-children. However, there is plenty of disagreement on the best way to keep our children safe. As in all of these Legalese columns, I am merely reporting on what the law is. This is a fairly easy law to break accidentally, which explains all the news reports about people being arrested for bringing kitchen knives to cut an apple and having questionable keychains or jewelry that might be shaped just like a throwing star.

Be careful. Leave your knife locked in the glove box if you can’t leave it at home. And leave it at home if you can.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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