Republican lawmakers are stepping in to call for changes to Michigan’s anti-terrorism law after a student at Lake Superior State University was arrested and jailed for nearly three months over a constitutionally protected Snapchat post.
Lucas spent 83 days in jail, his dad said.
Here’s a print out of the photo Lucas posted on Snapchat.
Lucas is scheduled to go to trial in Chippewa County on March 18. pic.twitter.com/CISv4lSlWz
— Mikenzie Frost (@MikenzieFrost) February 11, 2020
State Reps. John Reilly and Beau LaFave held a press conference Tuesday with Michigan Open Carry President Tom Lambert and the student involved, 20-year-old Lucas Gerhard, who now stands accused of making a terrorist threat over the August 2019 post, WWMT reports.
The lawmakers are promoting legislation to narrow the scope of Michigan’s criminal code to hone in on actual terrorist threats by considering the context of conversations.
“We can’t rely on common sense anymore,” Reilly said.
Gerhard’s ordeal started with a post to a private Snapchat group ahead of his return to LSSU for his junior year. The post included an image of Gerhard’s newly purchased AR-15 with a bayonet attached to the barrel.
“Taking this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye?” he wrote in the post. “And I mean snowflakes as in snow.”
Guns are permitted on the LSSU campus and are required to be registered and stored in the public safety department. Gerhard complied with those requirements on his first day back to school when he checked the rifle and 240 rounds of ammunition on Aug. 23, WDIV reports.
The day prior, one of Gerhard’s friends showed the Snapchat post to another student with whom Gerhard had previously had “political arguments” with and the woman “took offense,” Gerhard’s father, retired Col. Mark Gerhard, said at the press conference.
Campus police interviewed Gerhard about his weapon and the student was emphatic that he did not intend to harm anyone or himself, but complaining students insisted Gerhard has “extreme political views” and told police they feared for their safety.
Gerhard told an officer that the term “snowflake” referred to people whose political ideology is liberal or Democratic, and making the snowflakes melt meant their “minds melting” when they found out he had brought an AR-15 to school. He said he did not want to harm anyone or himself, and wanted to be a police officer to protect people.
The next day, police arrested Gerhard on a felony charge that carries a potential 20 years in prison.
“I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined for telling a joke among friends,” Reilly said at the news conference. “It’s a travesty that the county prosecutor charged him with any crime, for something that is clearly and undeniably protected speech under the First Amendment.”
Mark Gerhard echoed the same sentiment, noting that while his son is a conservative who is “very vocal about” his beliefs, the LSSU junior is “never vindictive about anything, never antagonistic.”
Gerhard was jailed in the Chippewa County Jail for a total of 83 days before he was eventually released.
He’s now awaiting a trial scheduled for March 18.
The bill to revise the state’s terrorism law was referred to the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security. LaFave is the chairman of that committee.
The Upper Peninsula lawmaker toted an AR-style pistol to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address last month, WLUC reports.
“I open carried in the capitol today to protest Governor Whitmer’s proposed unconstitutional gun laws,” he posted to Facebook. “If she wants to disarm law-abiding Michiganders, she can start with me.”