In August 2019, Lake Superior State University student, Eagle Scout and Second Amendment aficionado Lucas Gerhard posted a picture of an AR-15 rifle he was going to take back to college.
Guns are allowed on campus and he was looking forward to showing off his firearm, something his father says he bought with his summer earnings working at a diner.
“Takin this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow,” he said in a private Snapchat group, showing his new purchase.
You get the obvious joke. The mere sight of a gun melts millennial/Gen-Z activist types who take trigger warnings seriously. It’s funny.
It got Gerhard charged with terrorism.
According to The College Fix, someone in the private Snapchat group showed the photo to another student outside the group — a young woman who had political disagreements with Lucas and had been blocked from his account.
(The Washington Examiner reported two students outside the group were shown the picture and both went to campus safety.)
Even though she wasn’t included in the group, the young woman found the AR-15 photo threatening.
She took a snapshot and informed his school.
When he came back for the fall semester and checked his gun in at the school armory, officials at the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan school informed local law enforcement, and police were soon at his dorm, replete with a search warrant for his Snapchat account.
Mark Gerhard told The College Fix his son had problems on campus before this due to his conservative beliefs.
And yet, even though they had the photo, the school let him return.
Gerhard also noted Lake Superior State believed he was such a threat that “there was no contact by law enforcement until approximately 4-5 hours after his arrival on campus. This is well after he checked in his rifle and ammunition, received his room key and a building pass that opened virtually every door on campus.”
The young man told police that hurting people was the furthest thing from his mind — in fact, he wanted to be a policeman.
But a prosecutor charged him anyway with making terroristic threats, which could carry up to 20 years in prison.
“I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe the prosecutor had actually decided to press charges,” Gerhard’s father told the Detroit Free Press.
He added that his son was “never vindictive about anything, never antagonistic” even if he was an outspoken conservative.
Lucas was sent to jail for 83 days on $250,000 bond. While incarcerated, his diabetes medicine was poorly administered and prison meals made his blood sugar “dangerously high,” his father said.
He was eventually released and remains under house arrest.
Perhaps most disturbing, The College Fix reported that “Gerhard claimed that through the arraignment, pre-trial and preliminary exam processes, university staff would be there watching and would ‘join up with the prosecutor and go behind closed doors’ after most sessions.”
The university did not comment when contacted by The College Fix. Most notably, it didn’t bother to answer why he’d been allowed to return to campus even though the school deemed him enough of a threat to notify law enforcement upon his return.
At present, Lucas Gerhard is scheduled to go to trial over a Snapchat image of a legally purchased gun and a joke which in no way constituted a terrorist threat.
GOP state Rep.Beau LaFave told The College Fix he supports Gerhard and says he was exercising his right to free speech.
“I think in this particular instance it’s pretty clear that an individual at LSSU exercised his First Amendment right to talk about his Second Amendment right and the police, the university and everybody involved made grievous mistakes in charging him with a 20 year terrorism felony. And I think it’s disturbing to have de facto red flag laws implemented by the police, the judge, the prosecutor and the university when he broke, to my knowledge, no laws,” he said.
Another state GOP lawmaker, Michigan state Rep. John Reilly, has introduced a bill which would redefine the crime of both making a terroristic threat and falsely reporting terrorism.
According to the Free Press, Michigan doesn’t require a target for a terroristic threat for or a “reasonable person” to interpret it as a threat.
“I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined for telling a joke among friends,” Reilly said. “It’s a travesty that the county prosecutor charged him with any crime, for something that is clearly and undeniably protected speech under the First Amendment.”
I’m not certain the bill has the chance to save him. We can only pray a jury has enough common sense to do so.
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