Sawyer Shepherd is a normal teenage boy living in rural Missouri. Like many rural teens, he liked to hunt and fish. After an early morning turkey shoot, he made a costly mistake.
Although it was unloaded and disassembled, he forgot to take his turkey gun out of his truck before going to school at Carthage High School in the rural town of Carthage MO. The controversy began April 21st when Shepherd, a high school senior and member of the baseball team, went turkey hunting before school started. Having bagged a bird, he posted a picture to Facebook, then went home, cleaned up and went to school – forgetting his unloaded and disassembled shotgun in its case beneath the seat of his truck.
An anonymous tip called in to the school led to the Sawyer owning up to his mistake when confronted, authorities were called and he received a 10-day suspension and facing expulsion for violating the district’s firearms ban. His graduation was also at risk. That didn’t sit well with many in the Carthage community, it seems they have little tolerance for ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Carthage. Soon the #FreeShep campaign began on Twitter and throughout the rural high school.
Shepherd’s attorney, Juddson McPherson, told Guns.com Thursday. “Had the presumed punishment gone unamended, Sawyer would have been expelled from school for a year and not been able to finish his baseball season, attended prom or graduated with the rest of his class.” According to McPherson, exposure of the story in the media and social media was instrumental in motivating the school board to do what Shepherd’s supporters believed was the right thing.
“While no one is arguing that students should have guns in school buildings, properly storing unloaded firearms in a locked vehicle for hunting purposes before or after school should certainly be allowed in the State of Missouri, just as it is under federal law,” McPherson said.
“He is now back in school, back on the baseball team, attending prom this Saturday and graduating with his class.” said McPherson who pledged to help make sure this is not repeated in other Missouri schools. McPherson said he will be working with Missouri State Rep. Mike Kelly to introduce amendments to the state’s Safe Schools Act to bring it in line with federal law.
Upon getting the news that he could return to school, Sawyer headed to the school baseball field to reunite with his team. He started back to school on Thursday, April 30th. For the record, Missouri’s turkey season doesn’t end until May 10th.