Author Philip K. Howard, in his 1994 book, calls it “The Death of Common Sense.”
We have become so afraid of anything ever going wrong that we have created laws and rules and regulations that allow “zero tolerance.” No room for rational thought. No allowances for mitigating circumstances. No tolerance for human foibles. No extenuating circumstances. No discretion. No room for responsible parties to make common-sense judgments.
After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, school administrators became paranoid. Young girls were expelled for carrying Midol in their purses. Boys were expelled for having toy soldiers with tiny toy guns in their backpacks. A 6-year-old Cub Scout was suspended for 45 days for bringing a camping utensil to eat his school lunch — when unfolded, it contained a spoon, a fork and, oh my gawd, a knife!
On Tuesday an 18-year-old Sierra Vista High School student was arrested and booked into the Clark County Detention Center, as an adult, on one count of possession of a dangerous weapon on school property. He was released on $2,000 bail. Clark County School District police said he had a weapon in the trunk of his car.
School police spokesman Lt. Ken Young said police found a .22-caliber rifle and ammunition in the trunk of a car being driven by Joseph Patella, who told authorities he had been target shooting the night before in the desert and forgot to remove the weapon from his trunk.
Police became aware of the weapon only because Patella mentioned the gun to school administrators. There were no threats. There was never any mention of intention to do harm. There was no school lockdown. He forgot and told on himself.
If there were a lick of common sense left in the world, he would’ve been told to simply take the gun home.
We are left with zero tolerance for absent-mindedness. The consequences appear to far, far outweigh the “crime.”
Let’s hope the district attorney or some judge weighs the circumstances and tips the scales of justice appropriately.