The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Toy-gun incident should have been relayed to public


March 25, 2018

Clovis, like most places, is full of gossip and social media prophets of doom who exaggerate and make stuff up, especially as it relates to dangers in the community.

The only thing worse is when public officials enable those fearmongers by withholding information that really is relevant to public safety.

Police Chief Doug Ford and School Superintendent Jody Balch may well have had good intentions when they kept quiet about a Feb. 8 Airsoft pistol incident at Marshall Middle School.

But failing to alert the community, complete with the proper perspective about what happened, only served to make us wonder what else they’re not telling us about public safety issues.

No one was injured when the 12-year-old student brought the toy gun to school. He made threats and shook up the staff and other students, but didn’t actually attack anyone.

What he did do was bring a toy gun into a school and threaten to kill people in a time when the entire country is on hyper alert and nervous about such activity.

The public didn’t need to know about this?

“There was no reason to alert the public to a situation that was over and properly taken care of by officers,” Ford said.

Balch said he did not want to “advertise and alarm the community.”

Perhaps they’re both right. Perhaps they also didn’t mind avoiding public scrutiny and answering questions from frightened parents who would have flooded the school if they’d known.

The community found out about the incident on Friday, when District Attorney Andrea Reeb sent out a news release announcing a jury found the student had committed aggravated assault and “unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises.”

Most reasonable people agree Airsoft pistols, or BB guns, are not likely to kill anyone. They can inflict pain, deal serious eye damage and maybe raise a few welts, but that’s about it. The court’s characterization that they are a “deadly weapon,” is just about as exaggerated as the social media troublemakers who would have trumpeted reports about how “A kid brought a gun to school!” had they known about it that morning.

Ford and Balch should be concerned about community-wide panic that could follow when half-truths are reported.

They should also be concerned about providing accurate information to the community so there is no panic resulting from half-truths and rumors that always get out eventually.

They kept their secret on Feb. 8, so they didn’t have to deal with public scrutiny then.

But they have to deal with it now, along with the questions about what else they may be hiding.

— Unsigned editorials are the opinion of The Eastern New Mexico News editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Langrell and Editor David Stevens.


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