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Censorship United States Your Rights Online

Webcomic Author Deemed a Terrorist Threat 486

Posted by kdawson
from the now-that's-just-silly dept.
CaptainCarrot writes "Writer/IT contractor Matt Boyd, formerly the man who made up the words for webcomic Mac Hall and who now does the same for his and Ian McConville's new comic Three Panel Soul, was recently fired from his government job. His conversation with a co-worker about a gun he intended to buy for target shooting was overheard by someone in a nearby cubicle. As it was unfortunately the day of the Virginia Tech shootings, the eavesdropper panicked and reported him to management. That was bad enough. But when he used the comic to document the meeting where the reason for his firing was explained, he was visited by representatives of local law enforcement investigating him on suspicion of making a "terroristic threat" using the Internet. No charges have been filed. Yet. FLEEN interviewed Matt about the incident."
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Webcomic Author Deemed a Terrorist Threat

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:57PM (#19005057)
    The term "terroristic threat" has been around a long time, and has nothing to do with "terrorism" or a "terrorist threat", as it is used in the vernacular.

    The term and legal notion of "terroristic threat" has been around for a long time, and has nothing to do with the "war on terror", 9/11, the Bush administration, or censorship.

    Also, he is a contract employee who can be released at any time for any reason, even moreso than a normal at-will employee who also can be released at any time for any reason.

    Even Boyd himself in his interview [fleen.com] correctly notes that "a terroristic threat is an old legal concept".

    He is also not charged with any crime (though technically he could be), but that's always true. He says the "detectives at least seem satisfied" that he was "harmless", and showed samples of his work to one of the detectives.

    It would be better to read his interview [fleen.com], instead of believing someone thinks this has anything to do with "terrorism" or a "terrorist threat" (no one does; remember, "terroristic threat is a legal concept that has been around a long time).

    Actually, I take that back. There are people painting this as allegedly being thought of as "terrorism". It's people who want to get all indignant about it [dieselsweeties.com].

    By the way: anyone who thinks Virginia Tech could have "prevented" this shooting somehow, this is exactly what you get [slashdot.org].
    • Also (Score:2, Insightful)

      by daveschroeder (516195) *
      Unless you know everyone around you, this [threepanelsoul.com] probably isn't an appropriate conversation for the workplace, which Boyd says is a verbatim transcript [fleen.com] of what got him fired^H^H^H^H^Hreleased from a contract position that he can be released from at any time.

      And this [threepanelsoul.com], even if joking, is probably not, all things considered, the wisest response. Only he, or people who know him well, knows he's not serious, frankly. Yeah, it's funny. But he already got fired for talking about how many times you'd have to shoot someone
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dynamo (6127)
        Um, this is worth gutting all in a huff about. The government is supposed to defend freedom, not take it away. He might have been stupid to say those things, but NONE WERE THREATS of any kind. nor was the comic. No one accused him of mental problems or being likely to hurt anyone.

        The lack of intelligence in law enforcement is no excuse to trample on civil rights. The worst he should have gotten was probation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by daveschroeder (516195) *
          Huh?

          He didn't "get" anything. If you mean probation with respect to his work, that's between him and his employer. It most absolutely is not the government's role in a situation like this to mandate that he keep a contract job that he can be removed from, legally, at any time.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            I hate to tell you this, but you can not fire people, even contractors, for just ANY reason. The reason you don't tell them why you are firing them is because there are so many ways to that firing someone is illegal.
            • Re:Also (Score:5, Informative)

              by Dragonslicer (991472) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:00PM (#19005741)

              I hate to tell you this, but you can not fire people, even contractors, for just ANY reason.
              True, you can't fire people based upon age, race, gender, sexual orientation (in some states), or one of a few other reasons commonly referred to as "protected classes". In most states, employment is "at will", meaning you can be fired for any reason other than being a member of one of these protected classes. Owning a gun or talking about buying a gun is, as far as I know, does not qualify you for a protected class.
            • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Dredd13 (14750) <dredd@megacity.org> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:01PM (#19005759) Homepage
              This depends a great deal on where you live. In a lot of at-will states, it is sufficient to simply say "you are fired." You don't need a reason of any kind. It can be "because you wore a purple shirt today," and unless "purple shirt wearing" is a protected class against discrimination (hint - it isn't), it sticks. Every jurisdiction is different, but this is the way it actually works in a lot of locations. I know I've heard human resources attorneys in my state (NY) tell me this on multiple occasions.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by NecroPuppy (222648)
                One facet to that... If you're in an "at will" state and they actually give you a reason (they don't have to), it has to actually be a legitimate reason.

                They can't lie.
                They can't make something up.
                They can't be noticably discriminatory.

                But all they do have to say is "you are fired", and if that's all they say, then there isn't much that can be done.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Thornae (53316)
              I hate to tell you this, but you can not fire people, even contractors, for just ANY reason.

              Just FYI, and to show you that the US isn't the only Western country with a fascist government, in Australia... you can.

              Under our Glorious Leader's "Work Choices" legislation, companies with less than 100 employees are exempt from the Unfair Dismissal laws. You're pregnant? Bye! You're Asian? Sorry! You're not willing to work unpaid overtime? Seeya!

              (Okay, it's not quite that out of hand, but it's getting there. My si
        • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:59PM (#19005737) Journal
          Like many other crimes these days, it is the implication that you might do the crime that is becoming illegal, or in this case punishable. Like the virtual rape in second life http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/04/15 25222 [slashdot.org]. Or things like prosecuting someone who thinks they are flirting with a minor. Sure things like murder, pedophilia and terroism aren't going to have any vocal champions, but it grows into things like outlawing marijuana flavored candy.

          http://www.reason.com/news/show/119442.html [reason.com] "Several jurisdictions, including Chicago, already have banned cannabis-flavored candy; Georgia is on the verge of prohibiting sales to minors; and legislators in other states have proposed their own restrictions or bans. Before the whole country is overwhelmed by the urge to prohibit anything that tastes like pot, let's pause to consider the aim of such legislation. Ban proponents do not claim the candy itself is dangerous. Rather, they object to the ideas it represents."

          Let's face it, ideas and presumed intentions are becoming criminal. George Orwell called it.
          • The ticket says Anderton, oh shit... If you don't get google "minority report" and "P K Dick."
      • Re:Also (Score:4, Insightful)

        by glwtta (532858) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:38PM (#19005523) Homepage
        Only he, or people who know him well, knows he's not serious, frankly.

        Well, I must be some kind of psychic then, because I've never met him and yet I was somehow convinced that he wasn't planning to murder people when I saw that comic.

        Can we find something else to get all in a huff about?

        Are you serious? The "presumed an insane killer until proven otherwise" attitude from his employers and the local police isn't enough to get in a huff about?
        • Re:Also (Score:4, Insightful)

          by daveschroeder (516195) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:52PM (#19005653)
          Well, I must be some kind of psychic then, because I've never met him and yet I was somehow convinced that he wasn't planning to murder people when I saw that comic.

          *Sigh*.

          Ok, I'll explain this to you.

          Without respect to his comic at all, someone at his place of work overheard him talking about how many times you'd have to shoot someone in the face with a .22 to kill them. A coworker, who most likely didn't know him, or know him well since he's a contractor, reported this incident to their supervisor.

          He was released from his contract position (which the employer has every right to do) for the incident.

          If you can't understand that was a stupid or at least marginally unwise thing for him to do, then I don't know what to say. Of course it sucks that he got "fired"/released from his contract position for it, but then, this is why we say that actions have consequences.

          At this point, the comic isn't involved. At all.

          Are you serious? The "presumed an insane killer until proven otherwise" attitude from his employers and the local police isn't enough to get in a huff about?

          Uh, I couldn't possibly care less about his employer. They acted correctly, given the complaint and the situation. You just simply don't say something like that unless you know everyone around you knows you're joking.

          Remember, the web comic still has not come into play yet.

          AFTER he was fired, he humorously recounted it in his comic, which someone at some point must have seen, and in which he made what someone determined to be a threat, even if it was 100% in jest and humor. The police followed up on said complaint, which it is their JOB to do - no "guilty until proven innocent" yet - and then determined there was no actual threat (which again, is their job).

          Words and actions have meaning, and consequences. Yes, there is all sorts of nuance, but we can't have this "have it both ways" collective mentality we do where we think "gee, maybe we could have stopped the Virginia Tech shootings" but then allow people to make what can be interpreted by some to be verbal or written threats. Yes, I get the comic. Haha, funny, etc. But his phone conversation about shooting someone in the face multiple times with a .22 to kill them, which was a gun he just bought, was interpreted by someone who probably didn't know him to be a threat. Which she reported. While it would be great if the employer could parse through things and say, hey, we realize you were joking, it's possible his employer didn't know him that well either, since he was a contract employee. And frankly, they can release a contractor at any time regardless, so that point is moot.

          This is a non-story, and yes I'm serious. But people started confusing "terroristic threat" with "terrorism", so I'm sure this will have a nice, long life on many a blog.
          • Re:Also (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:21PM (#19005931)
            A very level headed post, and mostly correct.

            My only disagreement is with you claiming that the employer acted correctly. Traditional HR policies are mostly geared around doing everything possible to keep the company from being sued, even if that isn't the 'correct' thing to do morally or ethically or even rationally.

            I think lending validity to hypersensitive reactions based on overheard conversations is not a good thing for a company's long term workplace environment. And in the broader sense, pretending that things like this make us safer detracts from real issues that actually would make us safer if we had time or inclination to address them. Firing everyone who verbalizes something that someone might feel is threatening won't get us any closer to figuring out the differences between all those people and the VT shooter.
            • by PopeRatzo (965947) *
              True. What is being missed is that if this is a non-story, then the company acted improperly, if legally. It's like the kid being expelled from school for bringing a plastic gun to school for a pageant about the civil war.

              If we are going to say that this is "no big deal" we should remember that this guy lost a job because of it, even though he posed no threat and was cleared by law enforcement.

              All the jailhouse IANALs here at Slashdot love to talk about whether something is legal, but seldom about whether
    • by notque (636838)
      Obviously it has nothing to do with terrorism, or terroristic.

      Unless the targets he planned on shooting were to urge a political change. Or he told the paper targets before hand that he was coming to get them unless they used recyclable paper.

      Maybe the person who told on him wasn't actually a person, but instead of a picture of Osama Bin Laden with a bullseye over the nose.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:40PM (#19005547)
      'By the way: anyone who thinks Virginia Tech could have "prevented" this shooting somehow, this is exactly what you get.'

      That's ridiculous. And I'm even pro-2nd amendment.

      The comic writer didn't threaten anyone. The impetus for the investigation was an overheard conversation about a gun purchase. Neither is cause for an investigation of this level and a firing.

      Compare that to the VA Tech horror--if you remove entirely Cho's writings (which is not a good level of judgment anyways), he should have been stopped during the purchase of his one gun at a gunshop, as he lied about being mentally incerated and such info is in the state's own judicial system which could have been cross-checked with answers when purchasing that gun. In fact, this past week, I believe the legislature of VA removed that roadblock; the law was fine, the implementation sucked.

      Second, imnsho, and this isn't popular, I think the police HUGELY dropped the ball in the VA Tech situation (and by that opinion, the University is far less contributory through indifference in the 2nd shooting site deaths). If a police officer had been shot in the foot, they would have gone after that guy wholeheartedly, just as they did earlier in the year with a person who allegedly shot a deputy upon escape. The police dropped the ball--even they admit they were investigating another person who they "knew" had killed the first 2...oops, except he didn't. See, if a couple of kids get shot, you're not part of the FOP, it's thrown into a "domestic dispute" craphole where they go after the nearest; investigation is separate from correctly ascertaining threat, which comes full circle in demonstrating why the handling of web comic thing is so incorrect.

      btw, I've never understood the whole firing thing in any case--besides clearly not a threat, you want to make the person even more out of their luck and prone to do something? Amazing how the US becomes more and more like China these days (China is far worse, but the approximations seen over the past 6 years in stories makes that gap narrower).
    • by glwtta (532858) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:47PM (#19005601) Homepage
      Also, he is a contract employee who can be released at any time for any reason, even moreso than a normal at-will employee who also can be released at any time for any reason.

      Ah yes, he was a contract employee, well it's all good then.
      • Yeah, it is.

        As a contractor, he can be released with even less cause (read: basically any cause, or no cause at all) than any other kind of employee, some of which themselves can be released with nearly no cause.

        So yeah, it's "all good".

        . . .

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The term "terroristic threat" has been around a long time, and has nothing to do with "terrorism" or a "terrorist threat", as it is used in the vernacular.

      To my knowladge, "terroristic" isn't even a real word, except in the sense that even engrish words that come into common usage do get promoted to the OED or somesuch publication.

      Basically, people who use the word "terroristic" sound like an eight year old exclaiming "meanienater" when they're told to go to bed. So I kind of doubt that the term has been ar

    • by cortana (588495)
      And there was me thinking that "terroristic" was just a word mistakenly used by the illiterate.
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:26PM (#19005965)

      Also, he is a contract employee who can be released at any time for any reason, even moreso than a normal at-will employee who also can be released at any time for any reason.

      Only within the terms of his contract. Sorry, just couldn't resist after you made "contract" italics and got all righteous. "Contract employee" does not mean "company's little bitch", and in fact, a contract worker can have more protection from sudden termination. Most of us are "at will" employees, and simply having something in your contract that prohibits your employer from firing you for no reason, gives you more rights. If worded reasonably (ie not "I AM UNFIREABLE FOR A YEAR!"), you MAY get that concession.

      If you don't like being an at-will employee: get fired for no reason, sue, and get it far up enough to MAYBE be heard by the supreme court, because they're the ones who set the horrendous precedent in the first place. You don't have a prayer of getting legislation even presented, much less making it past committee, because of all the lobbying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Alioth (221270)
      I have to ask - is "terroristic" cromulent, though?
  • by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:02PM (#19005121)
    Matt Boyd Matt Boyd
    Watcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
    when they come for you
    Matt Boyd, Matt Boyd
    Watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do
    when they come for you
  • chilling effects? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scrain (43626) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:02PM (#19005123)
    Regardless, the comic was at worst a vague veiled show of frustration against the establishment, not a threat to man or corporation.

    As someone who is part of the organization of another major webcomic, things like this are frightening. I like to keep my jobs, personally.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:07PM (#19005177)
    "Fleen: Okay, on a scale of one to ten, are you more a) pissed; b) surprised; c) depressed by this turn of events?

    Boyd: Gonna have to go with b) surprised."


    I'll go with d) confused...err... 4) confus... 10) conf.. I dunno
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:08PM (#19005193) Journal
    It gets kind of ridiculous.

    If the VT shootings hadn't happened, this whole episode wouldn't have happened.

    If nobody read his comics, this whole episode wouldn't have happened.

    There are many reasons that this episode shouldn't have happened, but people are afraid and over-react to 'err on the side of caution'. For many, better safe than sorry is the catchphrase of the week. They don't stop to think, or try to figure out what might be the level headed way to handle things.... like ask why they are talking about guns at work!

    Now, why is it that the US in particular is so fearful? That is the better question, not 'is this guy going to shoot people?' For fscks sake, my retired mother has a 9mm which she uses at the gun range. I don't think that anyone will fear that she is a terrorist. Why should people think anyone that talks about guns is going to go on a killing rampage. If they were going to go kill people, the probably wouldn't be talking openly about guns!! There are millions of guns in the US and save for a few whackjobs, they generally are doing no harm to anyone. (street/drug/mafia crimes not counted) The point is that not everyone with a gun is a murderer. Not everyone from the middle east is a suicide bomber in training.
    • "Terroristic threat" != "terrorism" or "terrorist threat" [slashdot.org]

      It's not the "US" that's fearful. Someone overheard him talking about how many times you'd need to shoot someone in the face to kill them with a .22. Someone who probably doesn't know him personally at all (or at least well) overheard this and reported it. On the day of the biggest mass shooting in the US to boot (which was admittedly why he was even talking about it in the first place).

      Then he got released from a position that he can, as a contractor
      • Then he got released from a position that he can, as a contractor, be released from at any time, for any reason.

        Um, yes, it's easier to fire a contractor. What the hell difference does that make?

        Whenever there's a school or workplace shooting, everyone always rants about the "warning signs" and "why didn't anyone call the police when they guy was talking about shooting people in the face on the phone the other day?"

        Yes, buddy, that is EXACTLY the problem. People ask why completely impractical solutions like
      • by QuantumG (50515)

        It is, in turn, the police's job to follow up on such a complaint, which they did, and after which he himself said the detectives determined that he wasn't actually a threat, and viewed samples of his work.

        Uhhh, since when? Back before 9/11, such a 'complaint' would be met by the police with contempt.

        "Has he committed any crime that you are aware of?"

        "No? Then I'm sorry, the police can't get involved."

        "Well, I'm sorry you're afraid, but he has a right to talk about whatever he wants."

        Now that half the population consists of cry babies and worry warts, the police are being called in for every little thing that might be an indicator of some crime. Kinda makes you wonder how they are managing to police all t

        • I guess that's why the legal concept and notion of "terroristic threat" (not with respect to "terrorism" or anything else) has been around for decades, then, and why police have investigated people merely threatening to kill others for just as long?

          I'm not going to dispute that the political climate plays some role, but come on: people have been dismissed for much less, and had visits from police in response to a complain for lesser still. All before 9/11 and Bush, no less.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by QuantumG (50515)
            As far as I'm aware, he didn't threaten to shoot anyone.

            And I remember a time where the only person you couldn't threaten to shoot was the president.

            I find it interesting that 9/11 was almost 6 years ago.. there's people turning 18 now who were 12 or 13 when 9/11 happened. I dunno about you, but when I was 12 or 13 I had little concept of what freedoms adults had in society. As such, this year a whole generation of kids who have been raised in this 'political climate' are coming of age.

            How will they see f
        • how they are managing to police all the actual crime[?] Oh yeah, that's right, massive budget increases and unconstitutional powers.

          Umm, those are working?

      • by Guuge (719028)

        There might not be anything he can do about getting released and investigated, but that doesn't justify either event. People in his position have a right to be upset about frivolous firings, and citizens have a right to complain about police resources being wasted on obviously false leads.

    • by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:23PM (#19005369)
      There are many reasons that this episode shouldn't have happened, but people are afraid and over-react to 'err on the side of caution'. For many, better safe than sorry is the catchphrase of the week. They don't stop to think, or try to figure out what might be the level headed way to handle things

      If everyone isn't terrified, you can't justify a war on terror.
    • by glwtta (532858)
      If nobody read his comics, this whole episode wouldn't have happened.

      He would've still gotten the sack for no reason.
    • by basic0 (182925) <mmccollow&yahoo,ca> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:34PM (#19005467)
      Why should people think anyone that talks about guns is going to go on a killing rampage. If they were going to go kill people, the probably wouldn't be talking openly about guns!!

      Good point. You ever notice that the real nutjobs out there that walk into some public area and spray bullets all over the place are always described as "quiet" and "shy" and "oh my, he never talked about guns" and "gee, it's so surprising because he was a really nice boy" etc etc..

      I can't remember one time when they talked to people who knew one of these mass murderers after the fact and they've said anything remotely like "well, he did talk about guns a lot" and "he went to the shooting range every week".

      I mean seriously, if you were planning to commit such a terrible crime, or any crime for that matter, would you let any details out before you did it? Why would you risk getting busted before the fact? Don't they teach "think like a criminal" to law enforcement anymore?

      Actually, I don't suppose they could...then they'd have to march every new graduate right off the dais and into a paddywagon for "criminal thoughts".

    • It gets kind of ridiculous. If the VT shootings hadn't happened, this whole episode wouldn't have happened. If nobody read his comics, this whole episode wouldn't have happened.

      If he had kept his mouth shut at work about describing in graphic detail how to kill someone with a 22 rifle, this whole episode wouldn't have happened. If he hadn't cracked a joke in the termination "meeting" (or invented it in the webcomic) which could pretty clearly be misinterpreted, this whole episode wouldn't have happene

      • by ZenShadow (101870) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:11PM (#19006323) Homepage
        First of all, from my understanding (IANAL) of the law, assault would require that the comments be directed at a particular person. The person in question was eavesdropping on the conversation, and therefore could in no way be construed as a potential target of the comment -- and that's forgetting the context of the conversation, which was obviously "I don't want a weapon, I want to shoot targets, so I bought a weapon that's harder to screw up and kill someone with."

        Sorry, you've got to have a screw loose to construe that conversation as threatening, assuming that the quotes are accurate.

        Secondly, I've heard worse in the workplace on many occasions, and we all laugh and move on. If you're so scared of your own shadow that you can't stop and think about it for a minute before running to mommy, then you're part of the problem, not the solution. You are what the real terrorists are trying to create.

        --S
  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:14PM (#19005263) Homepage Journal
    Additional words : t h e H E L L o u t t a t h e m
  • What the heck... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvilGoodGuy (811015) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:15PM (#19005275)
    I'm really starting to get worried about our government, and the common American. All of this terrorist crap is turning into one big witch hunt. I don't like my neighboor, maybe I should report him and have the men with the black bags take him awawy...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So let's see...

      1. Guy makes webcomic talking about going postal
      2. Someone gets spooked, calls the Feds
      3. Feds investigate, find nothing, no charges are filed

      Yeah, we're turning into a real fscking police state here.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        They feds should not be "investigating" thought crimes.

        If someone overheard him saying that he had shot some people, then the police could investigate.

        Until then, there's no crime been committed, the police should butt the fuck out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't like my neighboor, maybe I should report him and have the men with the black bags take him awawy...

      If you do, could you post the results and maybe a FAQ? I have some annoying neighbors, too.

  • Real terrorists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by noidentity (188756) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:19PM (#19005323)
    Will the real terrorists please stand up? Yes, you, the one who intentionally works to incite fear in people. And you too.
  • Current situation aside, I am jealous of how precise and effortless his graphics looks. Guy definitely has talent.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tacroy (813477)
      Matt doesn't draw them, Ian Mconville draws them. www.machall.com
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:26PM (#19005381)

    ...fired from his government job [CC]. His conversation with a co-worker about a gun he intended to buy for target shooting was overheard by someone in a nearby cubicle.

    I'd be interested to hear the NRA's response to this.
    • by ray-auch (454705)
      I'd be interested to hear the NRA's response to this.

      They might not respond much, since anything they say is likely to get them fired...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blackbear (587044)
      "I'd be interested to hear the NRA's response to this."

      Unfortunately the NRA has been MIA on a lot of this type of stuff. It used to be that a member could ask them for help, and if you were in the right, they would give you a hand.

      These days The NRA is more interested in what your political and marketing value it to them. For example, they've been actively opposing the case that recently led to an appeals court ruling in the DC Circuit that affirmed the Second Amendment as an individual right and struck do
  • Nothing new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkebNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:27PM (#19005391)
    This type of thing has been going on since at least the Oklahoma City bombing and I assume it wasn't new even then.

    Back then I had given a friend that is interested in making primitive weapons a printout on how to make his own black powder. This was a day or two before the Oklahoma City bombing, he had another friend at work (on of the national labs) that did the same thing and brought it in to him - this was the day after the bombing. A co-worker saw it laying on his desk and decided he was getting ready to blow everything up, called the FBI, and started about a two month long investigation. Obviously it led nowhere.

    A few years later someone in our college set off an "incendiary device" (the detectives later told me it was acid and aluminum foil in a plastic jug) and I was, once more, investigated for all sorts of nice things. Again, nothing came of it as there was nothing there. I do not recall now what they accused me of, I assume it would now be "terrorist" but back then there was some other hot-button label for it.

    And you might as well have been whatever the most despicable thing you can think of if you were in a gun club during the mid-90's and the great crusade against "militias" (not to mention almost every single incident was somehow their fault). There was almost no one anywhere defending you then - you were an evil gun-toting maniac. It was MUCH more endemic than the current "terrorist" thing - and at least there *are* terrorist out there that want to do us harm even though we are over reacting.

    After any event there are people that fly into a panic of stupid things, call someone, and it gets all blown out of proportion. Most law enforcement thinks it stupid and - like the Duke non-rape case - you will sometimes get a political position decide it is time to show the people they are "doing something" and you get to be the one screwed. If you are unlucky you get Nifong as the prosecutor, this is the local prosecutor being an ass.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Oh man, if I think of all the things I built as a teenager: It started with model airplanes and escalated to rockets and crackers and eventually lead to much bigger bangs that rattled the neighborhood. I stopped when I set a whole mountain on fire with a hot-air balloon gone wrong, but looking back I actually stopped because I ran out of pocket money. Chemicals are expensive...
  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:39PM (#19005527) Journal
    everyone is a terroristic threat, except those who aren't.

    Oh I feel so much safer now....
  • Ridiculous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:46PM (#19005595) Homepage
    Surely he has a case for unfair dismissal...
    If guns are legal to own, then they have absoloutely no right to fire him for buying, or intending to buy one.
    • If the state he was working in has "at will" employment laws, no, he doesn't have a case. And he wasn't fired for buying a gun or intending to buy a gun, he was fired for talking in the office about guns.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)

      If guns are legal to own, then they have absoloutely no right to fire him for buying, or intending to buy one.

      Really? Because I'm thinking of renting a truck, and filling it up with bags of fertilizer.

      Nothing illegal about that.
  • jeez (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:52PM (#19005651)
    ...and here we are back in the McCarthy era again.
    Has anyone called him a communist yet?
  • after columbine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sentientbrendan (316150) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:53PM (#19005657)
    immediately after columbine, back when I was in middle school (I guess that was quite a while ago) I remember a lot of kids getting expelled because for no particular reason other than that they were problem kids, had ADD, were loners, acted out a little, etc. If they made the administration nervous, they'd chuck them out the door. School and government bureaucrats tend to fear people who stick out more than anyone else.

    In context it's kind of hilarious because our school had a problem with gang violence (it was the suburbs and middle school, so this wasn't exactly the stuff you see in the movies, but it was pretty bad), that the administration more or less ignored.
  • Will NRA provide any help to him? A lawyer, perhaps? A big compensation and all?
    After all, if people will get fired left and right because they were talking about weapons, that'd pretty much kill NRA, no?
  • I guess (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lars T. (470328) <Lars DOT Traeger AT googlemail DOT com> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:04PM (#19005775) Journal
    he [threepanelsoul.com] had [threepanelsoul.com] it [threepanelsoul.com] coming.
  • Hoplophobes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:08PM (#19005815) Homepage
    In many government agencies, a large percentage of the new people in upper management are hoplophobes. They've never served in the military or lived in an area where gun ownership is common and accepted. They've probably never touched a firearm in their whole life. This causes problems when they are asked to make rational decisions about personnel or firearms policy and their kneejerk reaction is that "guns are evil" and "all gun owners are potential mass murderers". Instead of thinking, they let their fear dictate their actions.
    • In many walks a life, there are not an insignificant number of people who are hoplophiliacs. Often they have served in the military or grew up in an enviornment where gun ownership is common and accepted. They've probably handled hundreds of firearms throughout their life. This causes problems where they are asked to make rational decisions about personnel or firearms policy and their kneejerk reaction is that "guns are safe" and "guns don't kill people, people kill people". Instead of thinking, they let th
    • by florescent_beige (608235) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:08PM (#19006281) Journal
      I have no fear of guns at all. Terrified of bullets though.
  • God I'm glad I live in a country where this shit just doesn't happen.
  • by SixFactor (1052912) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:41PM (#19006071) Journal
    ... I can only advise him to first obtain legal counsel to seek to address his firing, if he really wants to. The NRA can be asked to assist, but frankly, as others have pointed out, his being a contractor diminishes his chances of getting his job back, since he can be released for any reason whatsoever. And to pursue the point further, would he really want to go back to that job?

    This situation is problematic for him from several angles: posing a terroristic threat, creating a hostile work environment, not to mention goofing off and talking about your hobby wasting company time (you know, like cruising /. while at work :-). These are balanced against freedom of speech... and that's about it. Technically, it has nothing to do with the right to keep and bear arms. IMO, his options are pretty limited, if non-existent, and the success path is not clear.

    Generally, I advise my students to limit discussing this very fun hobby to when they know they can talk without being overheard. This is not an attempt to censor folks, but a recommendation to be prudent, realizing that not everyone shares our enthusiasm, and that sadly, there is an aura of fear that grows among the more fearful when firearms are casually discussed.

    Fortunately for me, where I work, many of us are NRA members and we have been told that people feel safer with us around. I take it as a compliment, and do my best to educate the ignorant but willing to learn (but then again, there are those who choose to remain ignorant, and you can only go so far with them). I specialize in teaching those who've never held a firearm before in their lives.
  • People shoot paper targets!

    Still, it's pretty hard to shoot a paper target without a gun...
  • by FFFish (7567) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @10:25PM (#19007091) Homepage
    ...from the inside out.

    The levels of crazy in the USA just keep skyrocketing. Everything seems to create hysteria, panic, and endless problems for ordinary, innocent people.

    The country is fubared.

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