I’ve argued for a while that there’s a profound effort within our culture seeking to stigmatize gun ownership and any interest in firearms. To be honest, though, they already have. They’ve made it so anyone who posts a photograph of them with a firearm will be eviscerated by whatever institutions they can bring to bear.
That’s what happened to Dia’mon Dallas, a nursing student at First Coast Technical College. She shared a picture of her with a firearm at a range.
The picture wasn’t actually threatening. It wasn’t the kind of pic I personally approve of, really. Muzzle discipline is a thing, after all, but she at least kept the booger-hook off the trigger, which puts her leaps and bounds over some. There was no menace to the picture unless you were actively trying to find it.
So, they suspended her.
Now, it seems the college is doubling down on their actions.
In response to her First and Fourteenth Amendment lawsuit against the Florida college, which also makes state-law retaliation claims, FCTC is making a novel argument: Confusion justifies punishment.
The college said in a motion to dismiss that it couldn’t “divine” the purpose of the Facebook post, which it refused to even acknowledge as “speech.” Because of that, it assumed the worst based on the caption:
The picture for which Plaintiff was discipline[d] does not contain any message protected
by the First Amendment. Instead, it glorifies the criminal acts of an infamous couple who
commit robbery and go on a shooting spree. It is not even clear that Dallas and the male in the picture are at a gun range …
The most plausible interpretation for FCTC was that they were telegraphing plans to “go on a shooting spree that ends with what is essentially a suicide pact,” like the real Bonnie and Clyde. The brief even quotes a poem about the infamous couple and links to the movie script for the film adaptation.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explains what “this attempt at pathos” means if adopted by the court:
If one follows FCTC’s argument to its logical conclusion, then every photo, movie, and artistic rendition of crime would be a “glorification” of the underlying acts. Surely even FCTC administrators watch crime thrillers from time to time, and their counsel is at least familiar enough with a film about Bonnie and Clyde to quote from it. If anything, by invoking the movie, FCTC illustrated that visual depictions of infamous criminals are protected speech.
The college’s argument that subjective unintelligibility nullifies the First Amendment gets the case law backwards, FIRE continues. A Facebook photo and text are “pure expression,” protected even more than conduct, which must be understood to convey a “particularized message” to be protected.
FIRE warns that the school is “a dangerous precedent that may end up chilling student speech further down the road,” essentially arguing that whatever administrators want will take precedence over students’ constitutionally protected rights.
Frankly, anyone with half a brain should see why this is a bad idea.
However, this is also what happens when guns are stigmatized. No, bringing up Bonnie and Clyde is less than ideal, but so what? Some people are fascinated by the notorious couple and have even seen them as romantic and tragic figures to be admired. It happened back in their day and some things just don’t change.
That ain’t illegal.
What this was really about, though, was that Bonnie and Clyde were brought up and a firearm was present. Had Dallas just invoked the notorious couple’s name, the college would likely not have given a damn. Yet she had a firearm, which is what the real problem actually was. They crapped their pants that someone had a gun and they freaked out over it, all without actually asking a question or anything.
The problem for FCTC is that now they’re pleading that their own ignorance is sufficient reason to suspend a student from school. It’s not, and I sincerely hope the court hammers them over it.
Hat tip: The Truth About Guns