The Day I Brought My Semi-Automatic Rifle to School

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High School Rifle Team


It was a warm September morning in 1996 when I reached into my closet to grab my rifle case and my range bag that I had prepped the previous night. I opened up the bag and the case to double check I had everything I needed. Rifle: check. 500 rounds of ammunition: check. Hearing protection: check. Eye protection: check. With any luck, I’d get through all 500 rounds today. Time to head to school . . .

Sounds like the making of a sensational media headline doesn’t it? Headlines similar to: “14 Year Old Brings Assault Rifle to School” or “500 Rounds of Ammunition Found on High School Student in Classroom”.

Did you miss those headlines? Do you remember that mass shooting at a high school in Phoenix in 1996? You don’t? Well maybe because nobody died at my hands that day…or any other third Tuesday of the month when I, and 15 – 25 other high school students, brought our firearms to school for an after school trip to the range.

That’s right; I was a member of a school-approved shooting club.

For most reading this, you probably already know that I was shooting a .22LR semi-automatic rifle as there aren’t too many calibers that sell 500-rounds in a single box. My rifle was made by Browning some 50 years prior and belonged to my grandfather at some point in time, bought in New York City of all places.

It was also my first firearm. Some of the other club members brought everything from pre-ban AR-15’s (it was 1996 after all) and AK-47’s, and even this funny-looking new Glock handgun with some kind of oddly placed holes on the top of the slide that supposedly compensated the recoil.

Browning .22LR semi-automatic
Courtesy Rock Island Auction

We all still followed the law, meaning I had to endure a 50-minute car ride to school with my mother instead of my usual carpool. So that day I accepted that I would be deprived of good music and the mildly perverse conversations that dominated such trips with three other teenage males.

During that day’s car ride, my thoughts were mainly focused on the horrible “old person” music coming out of the speakers and how I was going to exit the vehicle in the least embarrassing way possible at our destination.

We arrived at the school and followed the club’s protocol by leaving the firearms with our teacher/club instructor (a former Air Force colonel). He was a science teacher with a separate lockable room for all the science equipment and that’s where our firearms and ammunition sat during the day.

Around 40 firearms with their ammunition were stored next to a classroom full of hormonal, pimply-faced high school kids rotating through six separate science classes that day. One of those guns was an AR-15 equipped with “a shoulder thing that goes up.” I’m sure Carolyn McCarthy wouldn’t have approved.

In those pre-Eric Harris/Dylan Klebold days, the biggest concern we had was someone walking off with a club member’s firearm, not the school shootings for which certain journalists and politicians seem to yearn.

The day was the usual, uneventful, work-intensive, learning-filled high school day that one might expect from a school not constrained by the public education blob. After the last bell rang, when the parking lot was full of students heading for their cars or being picked up by their parents, the other club members and I boarded one of the waiting 15-passenger vans and headed to the range.

Think about it for a second; around twenty 14 to 18 year old high school students made their way to partake in recreational shooting, all carrying firearms in the high school parking lot, full of hundreds of people.

Where was Shannon watts when you needed her to save everyone from us nutty, gun-crazed American teenagers?

That day — and every third Tuesday of each month during the school year — we did what many enthusiasts still do when they go to the range. We punched a lot of holes through paper. Some students earned various club certifications. Some of us competed, and some of us just had fun.

All of us learned about firearm safety and respecting the tools with which we were entrusted. When the day was over, we headed home and not one drop of “blood ran in the streets” due to our firearms.

So what happened to the sportsman’s club? To my knowledge it still exists. Students still compete and go to the range even now. They still haven’t made any headlines on the news and I’d like to keep the sensationalist opinion journalists from doing so, which is why I’m not naming my former high school.

It’s a shame I am inclined to think that way in the land of the free. I am unaware of what role the school takes in regards to firearms on school grounds these days (official sponsorship, storage, etc), as it has been many years since I was a high school freshman.

What happened to our society? The answer is difficult, as mass murders have stayed relatively stagnant for decades. As people of the gun, we understand that mass-murderers aren’t exclusive to the last 1020 or even 50 years. They are not exclusive to the United States, guns aren’t the only tools used, and citizens aren’t always the ones committing such crimes.

However, modern mass murderers in the US do appear to meticulously plan out their attacks much more rigorously than the seemingly random killings prior to Columbine. The research and prep work many of these people do prior to their homicidal acts display a desire for the attackers’ maximum effect.

James Holmes and Adam Lanza conducted research for months (maybe even years) prior to carrying out their heinous acts. They, among others like Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold thought out how others would react to their actions and attempted to plan accordingly in order to increase the amount of casualties. All, except for Jared Loughner, chose “gun free zones” as their targets.

As you can tell, I’m not talking about the 90% of homicides committed by repeat felony offenders for which the media seems to have little issue with being out on the streets, but the uptick in the casualties achieved during mass-shootings in the US. On the surface, a pattern (other than firearms) can be drawn between the most heinous mass killers.

There exists an underlying desire for recognition, a bloody temper tantrum against society, punishing us for perceived wrongs which we play no direct part but are guilty by association. In their minds, they will be heard and we will suffer for their societal blacklisting.

What has enabled this line of thinking and the continued attempts by mass murderers to one up each other for the title of Most Infamous? It used to be that all you had to do was kill (or attempt to kill) someone famous, but now all one has to do is watch the news coverage of a mass murderer in this country to see why these killers thrive on the notion of going out with a bang.

Sure, various contributing factors like psychiatric drugsvideo games and violence in several forms of media can be attributed to some of these murderers, but the notoriety they receive is universal which leads me to my final conclusion. In a country that is hard wired for media at your fingertips, instant news alerts, Facebook posts, and a Twitter feed that is constantly buzzing in your pocket, killing kids is a psychopath’s sure-fire way to notoriety.

As the media began its own push for gun control, culminating in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, the public became more engrossed in the debate. With the advent of the internet and blogging, more people than ever have an opinion they want to express. As with any law or laws that restrict natural rights, deep-rooted passion of the issue is bound to turn into uncontrolled rants between the less articulate masses on both sides of the debate. At a rudimentary level, this is the crux of why the media reports so heavily on these issues. Sensationalizing these events drives ratings, increased ratings causes an increase in similar stories.

Take a look at the ratings the Monday before the Sandy Hook shooting and the Monday after (hint: Piers Morgan Tonight more than doubled its ratings share). Of course, the people consuming the “news” are the ones that ultimately propel the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality. If the news outlets would like the American public to believe the 2nd Amendment and its supporters are guilty of enabling these killers, they must also accept their culpability in using their 1st Amendment protection to provide notoriety and celebrity status to the disturbed individuals that commit these crimes (I won’t hold my breath).

The difference, of course, between the liberty-restricting mindset and the pro-liberty mindset is quite clear; the latter group is willing to accept the risks that come with a free society while the former group will not. If the anti-2A politicians and media ever get their way and achieve civilian disarmament, they will still have to face the fact that their reporting will drive these killers to other methods in order to achieve their celebrity status… or we could actually try to work toward a solution that allows us to keep our liberties and target the problem, but where are the electable votes and viewership in that approach?

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  1. Okay, but I DO NOT remember high school kids dressing like that, with those haircuts, in 1996. Did you leave out the part where you went to high school in Latvia?

    • I graduated high school in 1993, and I went to one of the dorkiest high schools in America, the Illinois Math and Science Academy. And my roommate, swear to God, was first generation Latvian. None of us would have ever dressed like that. (A few may have had similar haircuts.)

    • Hover your mouse over photo:


    • Graduating in the stone age ( 1965 ), we kept our guns in a gun rack in the truck or in the trunk of the car..

  2. Aaaaaaaand there goes any credibility you might have had when you brought up video games as a contributing factor.

    • I’m going off the reports that Adam Lanza used a spread sheet that cataloged mass killers that was similar to the ranking lists in the video games he played. I’m saying he used it as part of his planning, not that video games cause people to go on their rampages.

      • You mean a list of names and results, like any competitive activity? Let’s not single out video games and try to pin it on the results list at the end of the match, I see the same kinds of numbers after just about any competitive sporting event, no matter how innocuous.

        Other than that, a well written article.

        • Where was I “singling out” video games? I was singling out their desire for fame from the media by putting in more planning prior to carrying out their attacks. Did you read any of the articles I linked? Investigators believe that in this case there was a parallel from video games to how he planned and carried out the attack in regards to his score sheet. He was trying to get, in his mind, the highest score. And yes, if didn’t have access to video games he could have gotten the high score mentality from somewhere else, I’m not disputing that. Just as if firearms were banned, he would have attempted to find another means of carrying out his attacks. Read what I posted below.

    • mlolilato, you ought to go over to the snoop dog post. They got people over there blaming his music for kids getting into the thug life. Movies, games music all gets blamed for societies ills.

  3. I remember pickup trucks with gun racks full of shotguns in the High School parking lot in the late 80s when I went to school. The guns quietly waited for us until they final bell rang and we rushed out to hit the fields hunting for pheasants. I even remember the assistant principal coming out to check out someone’s latest firearm acquisition. The pheasants were reasonably safe from me, and the school was safe from all of us.
    I also remember carrying a pocket knife to school every day from about fifth grade on. I know most of us did. No one was stabbed.
    I miss the innocence and simplicity of those days.

  4. Nice, NYC2AZ. I was a member of the high school rifle club in NYC in the early sixties. Those were the days.

    • Thanks Ralph. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago when I was transporting my rifle (later rifles & handguns) to a school in Phoenix and I didn’t have to worry about someone calling the police.

  5. as a person whom video games showed him how “cool” guns could be, i have to disagree with the video game part. i understand the source says that, but im not sure its the case.

    other than the “score sheet” (which could be said about any nerd who brings up Home Runs, Touchdowns, 3-PT % or any other sports statistic), how did video games help him kill more people? if so, im certain DoD would love to use them to help our soldiers be more effective on the battlefield.

    ive played alot of video games, i have alot of friends who play a hell of a lot more “call of battlefield modern pac-man mario” than i do, however if i gave them my AR-15 or GLOCK 17 they would be absolutely lost. they couldnt hit the broad side of a barn with it.

    so in short, i dont think video games made him more effective.

    • Holy crap guys… defensive much? I play CoD also. It doesn’t make me want to go out and murder people. That being said, I am again talking about the planning aspect. I’m not saying video games are a cause, just another one of the many sources these guys seem to use to get ideas on how to plan out these attacks. Just as some go to the internet to learn how to build bombs. If you read what I’m saying, I’m not advocating the restriction of freedoms, just focusing on how these guys are trying to reach their celebrity status. I would even hazard a guess that someone like Lanza would have wanted video games in the discussion, just as he would have wanted guns in the discussion. I think some of these guys are hoping for a major law passed in the name of their massacre. Then they will have achieved something that their predecessors haven’t. Think about it, even we in the States know about the Port Arthur and Dunblane massacres and we’re not even from those countries. Why? Because it led to civilian disarmament.

      • Says you have too much idle nonproductive time on your hands. Find something to do that will improve yourself or your community.

        • Same could be said for someone watching football all day Sunday, doesn’t make them any less productive during the week. Back to the person, not the (insert activity you don’t like here).

          Nice personal attack though.


  6. I was on my high school rifle team (Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Maryland, class of ’67), earning a varsity letter in riflery for the 1966-67 school year. We practiced at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, which had a range in the main school building.

    I kept my Winchester 52-D cased in my car, along with all of the accoutrements, parking at B-CC during class, and at Montgomery Blair HS after school.

    No one ever fussed or said anything negative when we carried our cased rifles into the school building.

    After graduating from B-CC, I went to Montgomery College – Takoma Park, and was on the rifle team for the two years that I was there. We practiced at the Army Reserve Center Range in Rockville (MD) on Hwy 28 at Twinbrook Parkway.

    For several weeks, while without a car (that’s another story, thanks to my brother), I took a DC Transit city bus from Chevy Chase to the Reserve Center in Rockville, transferring buses in downtown Silver Spring. A previous phone call to DC Transit revealed that there was no problem taking a rifle on a city bus as long as it was cased. My 52-D was in what was obviously a rifle case, and I never had an issue waiting at a bus stop or taking it on the city buses. One bus driver befriended me, talking about guns all the way to Rockville. We had this friendly chat a few afternoons a week for the weeks I was without a car.

    Later, I was on the rifle team at the University of Maryland, College Park; again no problems or issues.

    Try walking into a Montgomery County (MD) high school today carrying a cased rifle – can you say “freaked out !” What would happen today if I brought my cased 52-D (still have it) on a Metro bus for that same run? Probably meet the Montgomery County PD SWAT team!

    My, how times have changed.

  7. “What happened to our society?” I’ll tell you what happened to our society. We rejected God. Since 1962 and 1963 when we took the Bible and prayer out of government indoctrination centers (schools) our society has plummeted in it’s morality. For those of you who disagree I recommend “America’s Godly Heritage” by David Barton which you can view on

    • amen to the taking out GOD from our society and also not having a complete(1 father 1 mother) family doesnt help a bit.thier is no way kids can learn morales and values from computer games and chat rooms.we now rush to put gramps and grandma into old folks home so they arent around to help teach anymore grateful i was taught morales and values by my parents and grandparents.

      back when we went to school teachers were exzactly that….teachers not babysitters.nowdays you cant do anything but listen to the kids cuss you out in most of the inner city thankful my kids arent young and having to grow up in this “new” normal…what a joke!but my grandkids and yours will have to live with the crap sandwich they are having served up to them! we need to get back to basics,i would go on but idk if anyone even cares anymore…and thats a shame. please forgive my terrible typing skils and punctuation before someone flips out over it.i wish i hadnt quit typing class now!! hope this night finds you all well and good,GOD bless…Rick

      • Rick – seems like you have the germ of an idea there. Perhaps it’s time to create an exciting and interesting game that teaches moral values by allowing the player to choose certain actions and see/experience the consequences. Let the game build on the choices you’ve made too, to show how those choices can combine into good or bad outcomes.

        • id be the first to tell ya my choices havent all been good.matter of fact a whole lot of them have been bad.but that would be a great”game”if we could get them to even play at all.if i knew how to do alla that fancy computer stuff….dangit!Rick

  8. My daddy used to tell me stories about carrying his gun when he walked to school, checking traps along the way, propping it next to his coat in the corner of the classroom, and cleaning it at his desk when he finished his exercises early in Math class. He was sure he and the other boys gave the teachers a few grey hairs, but there was nary a drop of blood spilled.

    Sadly, the common sense which seems to have almost universally prevailed then has been lost, today, it seems.

    • I really don’t want to “out” my former high school to anyone lurking. I will say it was a private high school, but that’s about it on an open forum.

  9. Oh how i pine for the mid 90s when, in lower Appalachia gentle men and women could haul a shoulder arm in the truck to school. I suppose they could now but the results would be…..different

  10. Haha – I googled “what is a barrel shroud?” and the video with the gun controller stumbling over her answer was the 2nd result. lol

    • Same in Iowa. But don’t allow shotgun on school grounds. Have to abandon them (unsecured) in private cars and park on street off of school property. Ignoring the BS 1000ft rule. Still use the school bus to haul kids/equipment to state trap meet (at least until Obuma/NSA reads this).

    • I’m not surprised that shooting clubs still exist, but I am surprised that one exists in IL. Thanks for the info.

  11. Good article. Made we wish my HSbhad a rifle team. Closest thing we had was an Army ROTC drill squad, but I’d rather be shooting rifles then spinning them around and doing fancy steps.

    • Thanks g. I switched HS’s after my freshman year, the biggest thing I missed was the sportsman club.

  12. There’s universally good writing in these posts. We should be proud of ourselves as a group. Armed Intelligentsia indeed.

  13. While we’re talking about high school clubs I’m sure I’ll date myself when I say that I attended a one room school with 20 students in Southeast Iowa. 15 of us were in the same grade. Both girls and boys brought their guns to school once a month and our teacher taught gun safety plus we would shoot on the small range behind the school house. There was a large wooden gun case in the rear of the classroom where we would place our guns until after class. We also brought our guns to school if our Mother’s asked us to bring home some squirrels or doves for supper on our way home from school.

    I find it really sad that much of our Americana culture has been stolen from us by our politicians because they think we need to be protected from ourselves as a result of a few isolated incidents. Yes, I said isolated, when you compare the number of mass-killing incidents to the rest of the daily non-violent events in our culture.

  14. Our class picture wasn’t as good as the one above. The boys all wore blue jeans and cotton or denim shirts plus cw boots. The girls wore colorful pleated skirts with cotton blouses plus saddle shoes. Of course, we all wore white socks. The boys also wore caps (not the current duck bill style) with John Deer, Ford, or International Harvester logos. Also, we all Square Danced, Jitter Bugged, Foxtrot, and the really great slow dance where you could hold your girlfriend in your arms and just smell her lilac perfume and feel her body pressing against you. oops… sorry for the porn.

  15. The first time I field-stripped a 1911 with my dad, he told me the first time he cleaned his first 1911 was during lunch in grade school at his desk. Think he said he was 11 at the time.

    He also said the only requirement to buy one at the time was that you had to be tall enough to put your money on the counter.

    Sad times…

  16. I’m a young buck here. Graduated 2011. The high school I went to had a trap team. They wasn’t supposed to bring their guns on school property, but nobody went and checked. A 20 gauge stayed behind my seat my junior and senior year. Now I’m in college, carry permit and all. My s&w stays in my jeep.

    Along the way, my 20 gauge was seen by both the Sro and my football coach. Both inspected the single shot, commented on how they liked its weight and balance (hard to beat a single shot), replaced it to the scabbard on the back seat, and went along.

    In college, I buddied up with a security guard there. We have been to our local rifle range together multiple times now. In his words “I know you and 99% of the people who have guns will never point them at another person. Why should you or any other gun owner like you be told where or where not they can carry? It would make me a hippicrit, seeing the glock in my glove box”

    I understand its not the smartest thing, but the point is it doesn’t hurt anything. And given i come from a slower part of the country, but how should that change anything?

    Btw, there’s been a 3 blade case in my front pocket, beside my Copenhagen, since I was a freshman in high school. And at least one of those were used openly a few times 🙂

  17. What happened to our society? We stopped teaching respect for human life. And discipline. And respect for firearms. And so many other important things. Kids don’t get disciplined anymore because they’re “fragile”, which is obviously crap. I’m fairly young, and I can see how screwed up my generation is (the generation of Lanza, etc). These people have no respect, they were not taught discipline. My parents would’ve whooped my ass for some things I see kids get away with in PUBLIC! That is it right there, no respect.

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