Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
But ignorance seems to be the only excuse offered for the handling of an incident in which an Augusta Prep student fired a gun on campus three months ago.
It's the only reasonable explanation for Prep Headmaster Jack Hall's actions following the May 5 shooting. A Prep student, as explained in a letter Hall sent home to parents, brought a gun to campus (unintentionally, the letter makes clear). Another student found the gun and dry-fired it; a third student pulled the trigger and fired a bullet into the vehicle's windshield. A fourth student sat in the back seat during the gunplay without touching the weapon.
Thank God no one was hurt. Afterward, a Prep board member, a lawyer whom Hall would not identify to reporters, called Augusta District Attorney Danny Craig about the shooting. Craig's recollection of their conversation is that he was led to believe that the Sheriff's Office was investigating the case; they weren't.
When a weapon is brought onto a campus, Georgia law requires the principal to notify local law enforcement and the sheriff's office. In this case, Columbia County authorities weren't told about the incident until three months later, when a copy of Hall's letter was anonymously mailed to The News-Times.
Augusta Prep has earned a stellar academic reputation, and well deserves the high regard in which it is held in the community. But with that status comes this expectation: The school cannot plausibly claim ignorance of such basic law without also calling that reputation into question.
The school's discipline of the students involved in the case requires each of them to undergo a gun-safety course, which is a fine idea. It's only fair to suggest that Prep officials likewise get a refresher on the basics of campus law.
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