Wearing an NRA T-Shirt Leads to Criminal Charges for West Virginia Teen

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A 14-year-old middle school student appears to be staging some sort of intriguing political protest in Logan, West Virginia, where he was recently charged with causing a disruption after wearing an NRA T-shirt to school.

Actually, let's qualify that a little bit. It appears that Jared Marcum just went to school one day, wearing a T-shirt bearing the NRA logo. (Spoiler: There's a gun in the logo — two, in fact.) A teacher spotted the article, while Marcum was in the lunch line, ordered him to turn it inside out, Marcum refused and police officers got involved. Police arrested the eighth grader, who now faces charges of "disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer," the Associated Press reports

Without going into the details of the case — which are so far pretty vague — it's worth pointing out how we know the young suspect's name. He is a minor, after all. However, Marcum's name is in the press, because that's what Marcum wants. "The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles charged with crimes," the AP noted in its story, "but Marcum and his family wanted his name and case known." Marcum is a freedom fighter, see. "When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it's not against any school policy," the teen told the press. "The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, 'No, I'm exercising my right to free speech.' I said it calmly."

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So this is about free speech. Fair enough. The topic of middle school dress codes typically makes for a rather dry debate. But when Congress has just failed spectacularly at passing gun control reform — another way of putting that would be to say that the NRA just won magnificently — a standoff over a T-shirt provides a curious lens through which to view the whole debate. Without know the particulars of the Logan Middle School dress code, we can't definitively say that he violated the policy or not. We can, however, say that this reeks of unresolved hysteria.

It's never a good idea to wear a T-shirt with guns on it to school. Tons of kids probably get into trouble for this kind of thing every day, but when one kid in a tiny West Virginia town wins national headlines over his T-shirt, there's clearly a lot more going on than an inappropriate T-shirt. During a violent week for America, one that follows too many violent weeks before it, tension is high. Gun control reform, even in the eyes of the NRA, remains an unfinished mission, and clearly, Americans are still thinking about it. It's probably going to take a more assertive effort than arresting a middle schooler to clear the air, though.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.