Unlawful Possession of a Weapon on School Property: What the Law Says, and What to Do if You’re Charged

The number of shootings in American schools worries every parent. Kids are on edge, too. Some decide to bring a weapon to school to protect themselves. Students who are bullied are especially tempted to carry a gun at school.   

Although adults legally carry weapons in Missouri, neither adults nor students may have a weapon on school property. Students and adults who get caught carrying a gun at school face a charge of unlawful possession of a weapon. The punishment for students under age 18 is severe. Adults, including students aged 18 and above, may go to prison for unlawful possession of a weapon.

Communities Guard Against Weapons on School Property

The deadly mass shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis in 2022 horrified the nation. The shooting was too close to home for Missourians—a tragic reminder of what has happened far too many times in recent years.  

Two days later, a student brought a BB gun to school at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City. The student did not fire the gun, but school administrators took the incident seriously and expelled the student. 

The Jefferson City case is a good example of what can happen when a student brings a gun to school. If the student had been age 18 or older, he may have been charged with a class E felony and expelled. The maximum sentence for a class E felony is four years in prison, or one year in jail, and a $10,000 fine. 

Should a young adult student who brandishes a BB gun in a school be sentenced to four years in prison? A judge will decide that based on the facts at hand. Those accused of unlawful possession of a weapon on school property need an expert defense attorney to help them explain what happened and get a fair ruling from the judge. 

What is Unlawful Possession of a Weapon in Missouri? 

In 2022, there were 304 incidents involving guns at schools across the country, the highest number ever, according to the K-12 School Shooting database.  

The state of Missouri tries to reduce incidents involving guns at schools through a ban on weapons on school property. The Revised Statute for Unlawful Use of a Weapon, § 571.030, prohibits the using of a weapon in 12 situations including: 

  1. Carrying a gun or any other deadly weapon in a school, on a school bus, at a school function, or in the district office. Firearms that are both loaded and unloaded are prohibited from school facilities and activities. 
  2. Firing a lethal weapon within 100 yards of an occupied school. 

Note that using a weapon can mean carrying a weapon, not just firing it, and using a weapon for protection on school property is still illegal.

What is the Punishment for a Student Having a Gun at School? 

The consequences of having a gun at school will change a student’s life forever. Missouri law requires school districts to discipline students who bring weapons to school in one of two ways:  

  1. Suspend the student for not less than one year. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education discipline guidelines state the school superintendent may decide the length of a suspension on a case-by-case basis.  
  2. Expel the student indefinitely. In some cases, the local board of education allows a student to return to school later.  

Students and their parents or guardians have a right to due process (a system for ensuring fair treatment) before the school superintendent decides the length of their suspension. Most schools have discipline hearings where students have a chance to speak. Every school district has its own discipline policies, so check with yours to see what it says about weapons on school property.  

Missouri Revised Statute §167.161 allows families to go outside the school system for a ruling on how long their child will be suspended. Circuit court judges will hear suspension cases. Parents who want to go to court need a criminal defense attorney on their side. Jefferson City lawyers Kirsch & Kirsch are defense attorneys who want what is best for the children they fight for.   

Penalties for Adults Convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon 

Bringing a loaded weapon onto school property in Missouri is a class E felony. Penalties for a class E felony include up to four years in prison or one year in jail and a fine up to $10,000.  

Carrying an unloaded gun at school is a class A misdemeanor crime. Penalties can include a jail sentence of up to a year; a fine of up to $2,000; and both jail time and a fine.  

Unlawful possession of a weapon while carrying a controlled substance (sufficient for a felony charge) is a class D felony. Anyone caught with drugs and a gun at school will face two felony charges. It does not matter if the gun is loaded or unloaded.  

What To Do When Accused of Carrying a Weapon on School Property 

When you or your child are accused of carrying a gun at school, you might feel hopeless. Gun possession attorneys are here to help. Criminal defenders work to get charges dropped or reduced using proven strategies, as is appropriate for the facts of the case. 

We begin by conducting our own investigation. Sometimes we find out the school did not follow its own disciplinary code and include that in the defense. Other common defenses include saying the person accused: 

  • Accidentally brought the gun to school. 
  • Did not have a deadly weapon at school.  
  • Was a victim of mistaken identity.  
  • Carried a gun to school for self-defense.  

In summary, unlawful possession of a weapon at a school is a serious crime for both adults and children. Students under age 18 may be expelled and at minimum will be suspended for a year. Adults who have a gun at school face a class E felony charge. If convicted, a judge may sentence them to up to four years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. 

The day you or your child are accused of having a weapon on school property, contact a firearms lawyer. Or do it as soon as possible. At Kirsch & Kirsch, we give advice on what to say and what  not to say to the authorities, whether to pursue the case in circuit court, and put everything in motion to defend our clients. 

The first step in defending yourself or your child is a conversation with a lawyer at Kirsch & Kirsch. Call us today at 573-261-5867.