A few words about Nathan Entingh’s hand gun.
Meaning, you should understand, not a gun you hold in your hand, but rather, the hand itself, thumb cocked and index finger extended to resemble a pistol. One afternoon late last month, Entingh, who goes to school in Columbus, Ohio, was goofing off in science class when he raised such a “hand gun,” pointed it at another kid’s head, and said, “Boom.” Not a good thing to do and Entingh, who is 10, should certainly have been reprimanded. Instead, he was suspended for three days. His father, Paul, says he’s been told that if it happens again, the next suspension may be permanent.
Nobody involved has accused the boy of making a serious threat, posing a serious danger or indeed, of being anything except an average preadolescent. Doesn’t matter. Ohio, you see, has a “zero-tolerance” policy toward guns or lookalike guns in schools, “zero tolerance” being the favored new millennium approach to keeping schools safe. As in, remove human judgment from the equation. Pretend all infractions are created equal. Treat the girl who brings Midol to class like a heroin dealer. Treat the kindergartner who kisses a classmate on the cheek like a sexual predator.
And send Nathan Entingh home because, like virtually every American boy who ever existed has done at one time or another, he pointed his finger and made shooting sounds. If you think that’s crazy, you probably don’t want to hear about the Maryland second-grader who was suspended last year for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a pistol.
Surely we will all sleep more peacefully tonight, knowing our schools are safe from pointing fingers and Pop-Tart violence.
In the meantime, laws protecting Americans from real guns are marked by an appalling flaccidity that countenances firearms in bars, churches, schools, backyards — Florida seems poised to arm teachers — essentially every nook and cranny of daily life. There is not simply something wrong with that picture. There is something bizarre, something that speaks and reeks of the irresolution of unserious people, unable to grapple thoughtfully with, and devise intelligent solutions for, the problems that press us. Nathan is only the latest person to pay the price for that failure. His suspension is manifestly unfair.