Gun found in student backpack

Jacob Clanton, Sports Editor

Manhattan High administration found an unloaded gun in a student’s backpack last Thursday. Riley County Police arrested West Campus sophomore Gabriel Martinez in connection with criminal use of a weapon, criminal carry of a weapon, distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Students were reassured that there was never a threat to the building.

“We are thankful for the safe outcome,” building principal Greg Hoyt said in an email, “and are committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all students, staff members, and guests at Manhattan High School. I applaud the work of school officials and our school resource officer, and am especially thankful for the student who first reported on a separate incident.”

Though finding a gun is not a typical occurrence, it has happened before for Manhattan High. In the 2012-2013 school year, a USD 383 custodian found a handgun in Sunset Cemetery. Much like the current incident, it was determined that the situation was not dangerous.

As a whole, guns are not typically found in Manhattan. If one is found, the first thing to do is to contact the police department.

“Show us where it is,” Resource Officer Randy Pushee said, “don’t touch it, just leave it where it’s at. Because you don’t know, it could have been used for something.”

After finding a gun, the police department runs the gun’s serial code through the National Crime Information Center index to see if the gun is stolen.

“[Most of the time, the gun is] not … stolen,” Pushee said, “but a lot of times they’re lost, or they’re old antique guns. They find them that are old, rusted ones.”

There is a reason guns aren’t found on high school grounds very often: it’s illegal according to federal law. Even with a new Kansas law allowing concealed carry weapons on college campuses, high schools still have a special exemption.

“There’s federal guidelines that cover firearms in schools,” Pushee said. “We’re exempt from [the concealed carry laws]. You can not carry a firearm on school grounds unless it is a law enforcement officer, or hunter safety, or for some specific reason with permission.”

Kansas law states that any person over the age of 21 can conceal carry a firearm without holding a permit. “Criminal use of weapons is knowingly… possession of any firearm by any person, other than a law enforcement officer, in or on any school property,” according to the 2012 statute (21-6301-11).

The Manhattan High student handbook goes more in-depth. According to the handbook, “a student shall not knowingly possess, handle or transmit any object that can reasonably be considered a weapon at school, on school property or at a school-sponsored event. This shall include any weapon, any item being used as a weapon or destructive device, or any facsimile of a weapon.”

There are some exceptions to the rule. Bringing weapons to school is allowed for a Hunter Safety class or any other approved activity. For example, if a drama production wanted to use a prop that looked like a weapon, they could get clearance from the administration. Pushee indicated that is a rare occurrence though.

Overall, Manhattan High can claim to be a fairly safe school.  That feat is only accomplished with the help of all the students.

“This is your school,” Pushee said, “so that’s the thing we still preach. You see something, say something. That’s the way we find things out. There’s only one of me and four administrators, but there’s 1300 of you guys. That’s where this is the same as society, same as out in the city. We can only do what the community helps us do. You guys see more than we see, you hear more than we hear, so you tell somebody, and we keep everybody safe.”