Crossing the Styx

I was driving around in northern Virginia last week and heard this news story on the radio:

11-Yr-Old Suspended From School For Merely TALKING About Guns
Martin Di Caro, WMAL.com, June 3, 2013

OWINGS, MD — The father of a middle schooler in Calvert County, Md. says his 11-year-old son was suspended for 10 days for merely talking about guns on the bus ride home.

Bruce Henkelman of Huntingtown says his son, a sixth grader at Northern Middle School in Owings, was talking with friends about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre when the bus driver hauled him back to school to be questioned by the principal, Darrel Prioleau.

“The principal told me that with what happened at Sandy Hook if you say the word ‘gun’ in my school you are going to get suspended for 10 days,” Henkelman said in an interview with WMAL.com. …

The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff’s deputy, who also wanted to search the family home without a warrant, Henkelman said. … No search was performed, and the deputy left Henkelman’s home after the father answered questions in a four-page questionnaire issued by the Sheriff’s Office.

So much for free speech in Maryland, I guess. It’s like Monty Python’s Knights of Ni, who cannot suffer anyone to say “it”. Nothing like going after both First and Second Amendments in one fell swoop, with a stab at the Fourth Amendment for good measure.

Here’s what I saw a few minutes later at the Post Exchange on Fort Belvoir, Virginia:

All right!  (Looks like false advertising, though – I see toy binoculars, bullets, and handcuffs in there, too.)

Despite Maryland’s draconian measures, there’s no appreciable difference between Maryland and Virginia in the firearms death rate (11.5 versus 11.1 deaths per 100,000, respectively). Maryland is far away the leader in the rate of violent crime, though, at 494 crimes per 100,000 people in 2010, compared to Virginia’s 197. Maryland’s rate was the 10th highest in the nation; Virginia’s was 46th.

Maryland always seems to be in a continual state of crackdown on every human behavior imaginable, usually with the opposite effect of what was intended.

Another illuminating example is comparing the two states’ taxation of tobacco: between 2006 and 2011 Maryland doubled its cigarette tax from $1 to $2 per pack, while Virginia’s tax remained unchanged at 30 cents. The result? Cigarette smuggling in Maryland rose from 10.4% to 26.8% – over a quarter of the cigarettes consumed in Maryland are smuggled in, and the taxes paid on them go elsewhere. Great job!

Crossing the Potomac River into Maryland seems like crossing the Styx into the Underworld. All hope abandon ye who enter here: you’ll need to surrender Charon’s obol just to enter the state. (Or a shrubbery, at least.)

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