Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Gun Free Schools Act says, "Nothing in this section shall apply to a firearm that is lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school property,

Fwd: From: Gary Marbut-MSSA [mailto:mssa@mtssa.org]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 4:07 PM
To: mssa@mtssa.org
Subject: Prepared statement re Demari

Dear MSSA Friends,

This evening at 6 PM is the expulsion hearing for Demari DeReu for inadvertently leaving her hunting rifle locked in the trunk of her car at school.

MSSA Director Tom Opre will present my prepared statement to the Columbia Falls High School Board of Trustees at the hearing this evening.

FYI, my prepared statement is below. Also FYI, from 1996 to 2007, 236 Montana kids were expelled (not including those who were only suspended) under the auspices of the federal Gun Free Schools Act. Given the trend, that number is probably 350 by now, and probably over 300 were incidents much like Demari - a kid just forgot to take a hunting rifle out of their car or pickup.

There WILL be a bill before the 2011 Legislature to curb this abuse of Montana kids by school officials.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana

December 13, 2010

Columbia Falls High School
Board of Trustees

Dear Trustees,

This evening the Board considers the possibility of expelling a model student from the Columbia Falls High School. You are forced to consider this possibility specifically because of the actions of one or more of your employees.

Unfortunately, you have a larger issue to wrestle with than whether or not to expel Demari DeReu. You will have figured out by now that Demari doesn't deserve expulsion and you will probably let her off for "time served."

However, the larger problem are your employees who fueled this incident, employees who overreacted needlessly and chose to make a mountain out of a molehill. Your employees have claimed that in this type of incident their "hands are tied" by the federal Gun Free Schools Act. In offering this excuse for their misconduct, your employees are either incompetent or they are trying to dodge personal responsibility.

The Gun Free Schools Act says, "Nothing in this section shall apply to a firearm that is lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school property, …" What Demari did was activity protected by federal law, not prohibited by it. Your employees were wrong.

Your employees have injured an innocent person. Whatever employees are responsible for this fiasco, and for being either incompetent or dishonest, have caused Demari and her family a great deal of emotional and psychological trauma. Your employees have exposed Demari to public scorn and ridicule. Your employees may have damaged Demari's opportunity to enter college or obtain scholarships for college. With reckless disregard for the welfare and future of this model student and her family, your employees made a snap judgment that was wrong and harmful.

So, the larger question before the Board this evening is, what will you do about whatever of your employees are responsible for causing this problem?

Demari volunteered that her unloaded and cased hunting rifle was locked in the trunk of her car. She asked your employees if she could take her car home and remove her hunting rifle. She was denied that opportunity. Your employees could have told her that the rifle locked in her vehicle was protected by federal law and no big deal -- don't worry about it. Instead of that, she was suspended and suspended in a way that forced her into an expulsion hearing. Her parents were told both in writing and verbally that she would be expelled for a year. The intent of school officials was to hang her. In defense they claim their "hands are tied" by federal law. They were wrong.

It turns out that your employees made a very serious mistake, a mistake because federal law protects rather than prohibits what Demari did, and serious because an innocent person was injured because of their mistake.

Your employees may claim that they were unaware of the fact that Demari's conduct was protected, not prohibited, by federal law. These employees are highly compensated, probably paid twice the median income in Montana or more, and hold themselves out to be professionals. You hired them because of their supposed competence and professionalism. They also have authority that, if used unwisely, can injure students in their charge. Because of their authority and advertised and assumed professionalism, they are paid to be versed in things such as federal laws they claim to enforce. For the amount they are paid and the responsibility they accept, they have a duty to not be misinformed. Saying, "Gosh, I didn't know" is simply unacceptable.

The community and many others are waiting with great interest to learn what the Board of Trustees will do about the mistakes or misconduct of its employees.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association

Here is another update from Gary Marbut.


Fwd: Dear MSSA Friends,

Pasted below is a report from Sean Frampton, Demari's attorney, about
Demari's school board expulsion hearing last evening.

Although the school board voted unanimously to not expel Demari, I am
disappointed that she is on probation and her record will only be
cleared at the end of the school year if she has no further
violations. I do not believe this incident was a violation (except a
violation of Demari by school administrators). Continuing probation
implies that Demari did something wrong. I don't like that implication.

Also, I've heard no reports that the school board will address the
mistakes made by their employees, school administrators, or seek to
revise their flawed school policy that is at variance with federal law.

BTW, I have finished drafting a bill to fix state law to prevent
further occurrences like this. That draft has been delivered to
requesting legislators. Expect that bill to be introduced into the
upcoming legislative session and to be added to MSSA's already
extensive legislative agenda.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana

The meeting ended with a good result for Demari. More
than 75 people showed up in support of Demari at a location that was
changed at the last minute to accommodate the expected large
crowds. Approximately 10 to 15 picketers with signs such as "Free
Demari" were standing outside of the hearing place. The local and
regional print and television media also attended.

The hearing began with the school's position. Of
particular note was the Principal's recitation of the number of times
that the policy had been communicated to the students, including a
review by the teacher on the first day of class and specific
announcements during hunting season.

Demari told her story to the Board herself. She
testified consistently with the position communicated in the
media. I then spoke to the legal issues. My main point was that
Montana never intended to "trap" kids with this law. I found two
instances in the legislative record where representatives inquired
and satisfied themselves that the proposed bill (now statute) would
not trap them. One such legislature said "he does not want to see
rural kids with a .22 in the back of their truck trapped by the
bill." Another asked if a student "could bring a truck with a gun in
a gun rack and park it there all day." In both instances, the
response to their inquiry was that a hunting rifle "wouldn't be a
concern of this legislation." I then addressed the exception in
federal law that the Gun Free School Act "shall [not] apply to a
firearm that is lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school
property." 20 USCS 7151.

Two other interesting points I raised were that when
a school teacher, in reviewing the policies, instructed Demari and
other students to just call the principal if they accidently leave a
hunting rifle in the car and they will be allowed to take it home
and, impliedly, without punishment, such a statement constituted an
oral policy that was different and less strict than their written
policies. Also, I argued that the school officials did not follow
their own policy which requires that prior to dispensing disciplinary
action, the school authorities shall consider extenuating circumstances.

Larry Wilson, the only NRA member on the Board of
Trustees, moved to deny the expulsion, have Demari's record and her
suspension expunged at the end of the year, be readmitted immediately
into school, and given all of the assistance necessary to catch up on
her homework and be allowed to take her exams. Superintended
Nicosia, who initially had recommended expulsion, withdrew his
recommendation and stated that he will do everything within his power
to help Demari make up her work. The Board unanimously passed the motion.

At one point in the hearing, Demari became very
emotional. The issue was whether this suspension would affect
Demari's ability to enter college. The Principal said that he spoke
to a number of schools, including the University of Montana where
Demari wants to go, and represented that this suspension will not
hurt her education. Demari asked her attorney (for permission - GM)
to speak and when she spoke, she became very emotional about how this
has already affected her chances because she has at least two F
grades due to her inability to take mid-term exams. The school
authorities assured her that they would do everything necessary to help her.

Eleven people spoke in public comment. All were in
favor of Demari. Most speakers received applause after their
comments. Tom Opre, a Board member of the Montana Shooting Sports
Association, received an applause when he said that the school
district needed "common sense policies." Fred Hodgebloom generated
applause when he said the motion should be amended to give Demari an
apology and to suspend the school officials for their conduct. Two
representatives from the Montana legislature were present and in
support of Demari. Jerry O'Neil, who represents the district which
comprises Columbia Falls, advised that he currently has a place
holder for a bill and would be willing to sponsor a bill to amend the
laws to make them more clear.


  1. She did what wrong? nothing according to the law! What a crock!


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