NRA Sues Albemarle Schools

The National Rifle Organization has filed suit against the Albemarle County school system after a vice principal made a student turn his NRA t-shirt inside out. 12-year-old Alan Newsom was wearing his NRA Sports Shooting Camp t-shirt, which contains an image of silhouetted target shooters, when the school’s vice principal made him turn the shirt inside-out, stating that the shirt violated school policy. There was no school policy against wearing the shirt at the time, though school rules have now been changed to prevent wearing clothing with images of weapons or violence. The suit seeks $150,000 in damages for infringement on the boy’s right to free expression, and also demands that the new rule be struck down as overly-broad. Adrienne Schwisow has the story in today’s Progress.

24 thoughts on “NRA Sues Albemarle Schools”

  1. I figure Jack Jouett ought to take down the Virginia flag from the school.

    Look at that. We’ve got a partially-nude woman standing over somebody that she has presumably just speared to death. Worse yet, the victim appears to be some sort of a political leader, based on the crown. Is the school advocating assassination as a means of overthrow of the government? Or merely celebrating murder? In any case, it’s wrong, and I think that they ought to stop.

    Think of the children. My God, won’t somebody think of the children?


    Where’s John Ashcroft when we need him?

  3. And the bare boobies have a violent connotation all their own. In various Indo-European traditions women (think Boudicca) would bare their breasts for battle. Gasp! Of course, one could make the argument that the boobs are symbolic, but I believe it’s on the flag to subltly indoctrinate our youth into the ways of violence and lust whether they know it or not.

  4. Am I the only one who thinks that damage claims are for quite ludicrous amounts far more often than not?

  5. Personal history time: my father is a gunsmith and I myself have been a junior member of the NRA (lo, these too-many decades ago). I learned rifle safety and other useful stuff. Target shooting is a very Zen-like experience which relies on patience and the body’s breath. I personally know how excited a kid can be about the experience of shooting.

    Guns have practical and real uses. Hunters perform a vital service by replacing the natural predators we shoved out of the eco-system centuries ago. I approve more of hunters who eat their kill than I do of the folks who have come to believe that meat begins on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic.

    That said: city guns and country guns are two very different animals. Urban and suburban children get to know firearms as violent weapons used against people. When a child walks into a suburban school with a picture of a gun on their T-shirt, the first connection will be with violence against people. Schools struggle constantly to teach children to use non-violent methods of conflict resolution. They do this to keep all of the children in their care safe. Schools absolutely have both the right and the responsibility to limit student "speech" rights to accomplish this goal. The NRA has degenerated into a lobbying organization invested in keeping all guns available at all times to all citizens, rather than one that provides useful information to RIFLE owners. I’ve been increasingly ashamed of them for years, but I’m really pissed off to think of the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s going to cost the school system to fight this lawsuit.

  6. I for one can attest that the school system employees make up the rules as they go along. Many rules students are subjected to now in local HS’s are a direct result of my actions. I dont remember a single student complaining about me once, but the administration sure hated me. To the point where if I did it, it MUST be banned, even if it is a truly altruistic act.

    The rule they put in place doesnt even ban this shirt as it was described, There is a BIG difference between a firearm and a weapon. A firearm is NOT a weapon but can be used as one.

    Websters dictionary defines weapon this way:

    something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy

    Think of it this way, the metal forks they provide in school COULD be used as a weapon if I jam one of them into the eye socket of this anti-NRA principal. But until someone does that, it is not a weapon, it is a FORK. I own a rifle, and I have never injured man or beast with it, it is NOT a weapon. It is a firearm.

    If you say that something that can be used as a weapon must be called a weapon, then a blank white t-shirt would be banned because said t-shirt could be removed, twisted up into a crude rope and used to strangle someone.

    Is it just me or has the entire country lost its mind? PLEASE DONT TELL ME WE’RE GOING TO BAN TWEEZERS ON THE GROUND TOO, PLEASE?

  7. I was just thinking about the similarities between this and the Jesus picture fiasco. My gut reaction was for the picture not to be displayed, yet I find myself sympathetic to the boy and his shirt problem. I have no problem with Jesus as a figure and do believe that what he represents is very often distorted. I am very much pro gun rights and appreciate people learning to use them safely and not kill people. Yet there are obviously people who are sensitive to representations of guns in schools just as there are people sensitive to depictions of Jesus there. I find myself having to rethink both issues to make sure I’m not a bloody hypocrite. Anyone else feel the same way?

  8. I’m strongly anti-handgun, I think hunting is awful but I don’t want to ban it, I don’t have much of a problem with rifles.

    I think the principal (or whoever, assistant principal) overreacted to the shirt but I understand why he/she did. I think public school teachers walk around many days with nagging thoughts of Columbine in their heads. You see a kid wearing a shirt with what look like human targets on it–who am I, not being a public school teacher or administrator, to say with my great 20/20 hindsight what he or she should have done instead?

    None of which is to say that there shouldn’t be repercussions for the mistake. If this administrator made the kid feel bad, I think that’s absolutely lousy–not worthy of litigation, but lousy. I have a little boy and it destroys me to imagine that he might go to school one day all excited about his novelty t-shirt only to have an authority figure tell him (in so many words) that he ought to be ashamed.

    I think an apology is in order. I don’t think $150,000 payment is in order.

    I really don’t understand how things like free speech and freedom of religion come down to a monetary settlement. "You violated my freedom of speech, that’ll be $100,000, make the check out to my name." People are being sued for being fallible? For acting hastily and making a mistake? I thought that was how God made us–fallible. Did he intend that we’d run around collecting damages off one another for the mistakes we make? I should think that would be down there with usury on God’s list of no-no’s. (Oh well, we ignore his commands about usury since that’s inconvenient…)

    We’re a nation of second-guessers. We sit around after the fact of an incident and say how obvious it was that a particular move was the wrong move and how obvious it was what the right move should have been and how we would never have made that mistake ourselves.

    All these lawsuits make me ashamed to be a U.S. citizen.

  9. The vice principal had the child in question turn the shirt inside out. He didn’t destroy the shirt, he didn’t suspend the child. He had him turn the shirt inside out. Lets think about whether thats worth damages of any kind.

  10. It’s interesting and totally understandable for people to be more disturbed by handguns than other guns. Aside from target practice I’m hard pressed to find any *other* use for them if you know what I mean. I’ve been given to understand that in the military handguns were worn for the express purpose of disciplining one’s own troops (I’m not implying that it’s not a necessary thing, by any means). They certainly weren’t for shooting the enemy across a great distance. Anyone with military knowledge out there who can verify that (am I wrong?)?

  11. I think that the rationale behind those kinds of damages is that the lawsuit can become a preventive measure against future problems. This is not about getting the $100,000. If you only sue for, say, $1,000, then there is not much incentive for other schools to avoid punishing students for wearing NRA t-shirts.

    Based on the image of the t-shirt that I saw, it could in no way be construed as portraying violence. No human targets are shown or implied. It was clearly a reference to shooting as a sport.

    In fact, shooting guns has been an Olympic sport since 1896.

    Without doubt, football is a far more violent activity than any shooting sport. Football encourages the deliberate, violent tackling and assault of another human being. In any football game, people are being attacked and often badly injured. Injuries at shooting events are extremely rare and accidental when they do happen.

    Thus students wearing football related jerseys, team hats or other football related paraphenalia should be prevented from doing so and punished if they continue.

  12. Good point,

    I can the kids point. He is going to have hours and hours of therapy cause they told him to flip his shirt inside out. Man, I should have my parents sue my middle school when they sent me home for a wearing a Twisted Sister shirt back in the day.

    The problem with the country today is that everyone is looking to sue for anything.

  13. I just had a thought. If the schools don’t want any references to guns or anything like that, then why are the AHS football team allows to have two guns on their hamlets like the UVa’s Sabers? If we want to rid any references to gun so do we allow this? Isn&#8217;t that a double standard?

  14. You are incorrect. Handguns were first developed for cavalry who could use them while holding reins or swords with one hand. Their modern issue to officers, gun crews, etc. is for defensive purposes, and became popular around the time advances in weaponry meant that the traditional sword had become useless for self-defense. A pistol isn’t much good for sniping at the enemy from a distance, but that’s not an officer’s job, and it’s fine for fending off enemies who’ve overrun your command post while being easy to stow away and leave you unencumbered during the more normal times when you have no immediate need for it.

    In that sense a handgun should rationally be less frightening than a rifle. If one wants to murder as many people in as short a time as possible, a rifle would be a much better choice, better yet a pipe bomb or a stolen fuel truck.

  15. "I think that the rationale behind those kinds of damages is that the lawsuit can become a preventive measure against future problems. This is not about getting the $100,000. If you only sue for, say, $1,000, then there is not much incentive for other schools to avoid punishing students for wearing NRA t-shirts."

    Yes, that is the rationale, but I think it’s flawed.

    This rationale assumes that lawsuits actually DO prevent future problems. I don’t think they do.

    Say this lawsuit goes forward and the NRA wins and the school pays up $150,000. So we’re supposed to believe that the day after the settlement, in thousands of elementary schools across America, administrators are going to take this into account when they make their next spur-of-the-moment decision?

    They’re walking down a hallway filled with jostling kids and they spot one wearing a shirt with guns on it and the vice-prin starts to say "come here, you, you’re going to have to turn that shirt inside out.." but then he stops himself and thinks "NO–wait a second, I can’t do that, there was that lawsuit in Albemarle County, Virginia!"


    –because it’s too obscure. there’s a gazillion lawsuits and we don’t know the half of them.

    –more importantly, because all of these situations are one-offs, spur-of-the-moment improvisatory decisions. When people make decisions like that, they simply do not review the case literature on the particular topic before acting. That isn’t the way humans have ever behaved. Maybe before you buy a car or a house you do that. Not before you decide to run a red light, though.

    The NRA lawsuit may decide that this PARTICULAR shirt should be allowed, but its utility for assessing and responding to any of the 8 gazillion other possibly problematic t-shirts out there is limited, to say the least. Every day a HS vice-prin is faced with a brand-new problem that doesn’t exactly fit the contours of the latest lawsuit–so what does he do? sure, if that exact t-shirt popped up again the answer might be clear–but what about some visual variation on that t-shirt, with more guns, or more human-looking targets, or something that more people or different people would say is threatening or offensive? does it apply or not? the vice-prin is not a lawyer, but he feels in his gut he has to act–so he does. BAM–you’re sued!

    I think the thing I want to reiterate (ad infinitum, if you’ll let me) is that this model of incentive/punishment DOES NOT FIT THE WAY HUMANS FUNCTION. Don’t we already know that from thinking about human risk-perception? People make very few of their daily decisions in a Dreamworld of Rationality where they first assess the statistical risks of an action or perform a review of relevant literature.

    And so, I think that these kinds of lawsuits may PRETEND that it’s all about setting precedents that incentivize certain kinds of behavior and stigmatize others, but I think that people are deceiving themselves. It’s really about the money OR about revenge–punish those gun-hating liberals in the public schools.

  16. Yes but perhaps they deserve it, I mean who needs educated children? They just waste their shot at a good job anyway. Just pay a little more attention to the people around you, if education worked, nobody would be working in grocery stores or waffle houses.

    The NRA will spend it on good things like shooting babies and kittens. Oh and also on buildings packed with foaming at the mouth lawyers ready to pounce on ANYONE who MENTIONS guns to ANYONE ELSE for any reason at any TIME for any REASON heretofore wherewithal notwithstanding furthermore nevertheless moreover otherwise therefore likewise however nonetheless $150,000.

  17. I agree fully, handguns are used by army medics to protect themselves and their patients. Even though they were considered non-combatants, in WW2 the japanese were known to bayonet patients IN hostpital beds. Just goes to show that not everyone who owns a gun is violent. I think inner city EMS technicians would do well to carry a sidearm for times when they enter "hot" scenes.

    Personally, I wouldnt be that scared of someone shooting a handgun at me from 100 feet away, I’d simply turn around and run feeling fairly confident that I would only be hit by freak accident. A rifle? Well I’d be fairly shocked that my chest hadnt exploded after the first shot.

    If you DO find yourself in a gunfight, you REALLY dont want to find yourself with a handgun in the face of a longgun. You’d be just as well off with a sword. I think the police should replace their shotguns with MP5’s, considering the sheer number of assualt rifles on the streets already.

  18. Okay, I don’t have to set up a link but if you to and check out the PC Patrol. It is on the bottem with a shield on it, you will find a little story about this issue.

    Good going Cville!

Comments are closed.