Anger as good student stung by bad gun law

The damage that can be done by inflexible and punitive gun laws has been highlighted by the arrest and expulsion from school of a senior student over a harmless incident.

David “Cole” Withrow, an honours student at a North Carolina, USA, high school has had his education abruptly ended just weeks short of his graduation after accidentally bringing an unloaded shotgun to school in his car.

He also faces criminal charges that could further damage his future prospects.

His plight has been taken up by fellow students, who want the 18-year-old Eagle Scout let off and allowed back to school.

They say was trying to do the right thing and did not hide his mistake, and believe he is being punished for the being honest.

Withrow had been skeet shooting on Sunday, but had forgotten to remove the firearm from his car before going to school on Monday. Upon realising his error, he attempted to call his mother to get permission to leave school and take the gun home. The shotgun was left locked in his car.

However, Withrow was arrested and expelled instead of being allowed to correct his mistake.

The schools board has backed the actions, a spokesperson saying, “A student brought an unloaded shotgun on campus. The shotgun was located in a locked vehicle. Administration reacted promptly and the proper procedures and protocol were followed. The law is very clear when a person knowingly and willingly brings a weapon onto educational property.”

But the local community is reportedly rallying behind Withrow, and “Free Cole” has become a common slogan in his town and on social media.

“You teach your kids if you’re in trouble or if you see you’ve done something wrong, go ahead and admit it,” a family friend said.

“Be a man and it’ll be fixed. In this case, that’s what he did and he’s being punished for it. That’s not the lesson we need to teach our kids.”

“Everyone makes a mistake,” a fellow student said. “He tried to do the right thing by it and it’s upsetting.”

There are also accusations of double standards after it was revealed two school staffers have previously brought guns to school but were not heavily punished.

One, who continues to serve as the school’s assistant principal, was suspended for three days.

The local sheriff’s office confirmed that staff and students automatically face different levels of charges: misdemeanours for staff and felonies for students.

Unless the school and police back down, the only glimmer of hope for Withrow is that he could take up his high school education again in a year’s time, when the expulsion period is over.

A criminal conviction, however, may weigh heavily against him for years to come.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.