I’m glad the Florida Legislature is taking steps to protect nibbled Pop-Tarts as acceptable make-believe firearms in the hands of the state’s public school students.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who was the author of the state’s “stand your ground” gun law for adults, is now pushing a kind of “stand your playground” gun law that would prohibit school districts from automatically disciplining students who display simulated weapons at school.
The genesis for this bill, in part, was a case in Maryland last year over a second-grader who was suspended for fashioning a handgun from his half-eaten Pop-Tart-like breakfast pastry and announcing to his classmates that he had a gun.
Baxley’s bill spells out that Florida students would not be disciplined for “brandishing a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm or weapon.”
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The bill also would allow kids to use their fingers or pencils as guns, turn their Lego blocks into guns, draw guns in art class, and bring toy guns to school, as long as they aren’t more than 2 inches long.
School districts would have the right to discipline these junior gunslingers only if their make-believe weaponry “disrupts student learning, causes bodily harm to another person, or places another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.”
Normally, I would be skeptical of this bill, which maintains that the Second Amendment sanctions public schools as protected Pop-Tart weapon zones.
But this might be the rare Florida gun bill that actually won’t create more harm to Floridians.
If this bill encourages school kids to imagine that Pop-Tarts function better as building materials for fake guns, rather than an acceptable breakfast food, it will be doing Florida’s kids a lot of good.
Florida has more than its share of child obesity, which accounts for about 13 percent of children in the state between 10 and 17 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And obese children sometimes develop Type 2 diabetes, normally associated with adults, as adolescents.
So, taking in the big picture, it’s rational to conclude that kids would be much better off pretending to shoot their classmates with a frosted Pop-Tart than actually eating one.
In order to make a credible Pop-Tart handgun, you’d need to leave most of the breakfast pastry intact. And after handling it all day and moving it in and out of your pocket, it’s bound to be too mangled and unappetizing to eat.
Which would be a healthy outcome.
A Pop-Tart is mostly empty carbohydrates supplied by flour, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, dextrose and cracker meal. And it comes in a two-pack, meaning that if you eat them both, you’re getting about eight teaspoons of sugar.
The American Heart Association reports that elementary-school age kids in America consume about 21 teaspoons of sugar a day in their diets, when they should be eating no more than three.
So using the Pop-Tart as a gun, instead of a breakfast pastry, is a step in the right direction.
The trick will be to make sure that the frosting doesn’t glint enough in the sun to make it look like a real weapon, which could empower teachers to use deadly force as they stand their ground.