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NRA backs student on gun photo in yearbook

LONDONDERRY, N.H. -- The National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of New Hampshire have agreed to support a Londonderry high school senior in a lawsuit, the student's attorney said.

Blake Douglass, a student at Londonderry High School, had requested that a photo of himself with a shotgun slung over his shoulder be published in the school's yearbook.

The gun is a type usable for skeet shooting, and Penny Dean, Douglass's attorney, has said it is similar to other yearbook photos showing, for example, students with musical instruments or other items demonstrating hobbies.

School officials have said a photo with a gun violates their zero-tolerance policies.

"This is a case of political correctness run amok," said NRA spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs.

The two gun groups are the only organizations committed to supporting Douglass if the dispute reaches federal court. But Dean said several national groups, including church organizations and possibly the American Civil Liberties Union, would probably back her client.

She estimated the national groups could contribute about $100,000, and said Douglass would sue if his district does not overturn its decision on the photo by Oct. 31.

But Londonderry is prepared for a protracted legal battle.

"We have insurance," said Londonderry Superintendent Nathan S. Greenberg. "We believe that the decision that was made was appropriate. I don't have a problem going through the legal process."

School Board Chairman Anne Jacoby agreed. "It seems that the wheels have been pretty much set in motion," she said.

The NRA blamed the district for confusing "the difference between the criminal misuse" of guns and law-abiding citizens' use of them for sports, Hobbs said.

Greenberg said he and other district administrators recognize sport shooting.

"Nobody's saying skeet shooting is a bad thing," he said. "But I think it's a question of appropriateness and venue. If you allow this to happen, you open up a whole series of other possibilities, and I think the school has a right to edit a yearbook."

Hobbs questioned the judgment. "The photograph clearly has nothing to do with violence," she said. "In fact, it reflects a deep-rooted American heritage that teaches safety and responsibility."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, based in Washington, D.C., did not give an overall comment on the lawsuit. But Associate Communications Director Eric Howard said, "If this had been an AK-47 or a Tech-9, that would be a completely different issue."

The district's nixing of Douglass's yearbook photo is not the first time the school's administrators have disallowed aspects of his hobby on campus. Douglass said assistant principals and teachers took away his gun magazines during a lunch period last year.

Greenberg said he was unaware of previous incidents. But "this is not a case of singling out a student," he said. ". . .This was simply a decision that was made based on what we thought was appropriate for a senior yearbook."

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