This sad story happens so often these days that it barely qualifies as news, but it needs to be kept in the spotlight because it’s such a perfect image depicting why the anti-gun lobby creates such a pathetic narrative in the eyes of the public. This time it happened in Pennsylvania.

First-grader Darin Simak is a little shy, a little upset and a little confused about why he can’t go back to Martin Elementary in New Kensington, but he knows it’s the result of him bringing a toy gun to school in his backpack Wednesday.

Jennifer Mathabel said her son left his usual backpack in a friend’s car the night before, so he packed another one but missed the toy gun inside.

“So I send my child to school. My child discovers a fake toy gun at about 1:30 p.m. He turns it in to the teacher and he’s sent to the office and suspended,” said Mathabel.

The updates to the story inform us that Darin’s mother sent him to school the next day anyway, rejecting the idea of a suspension. Darin was then held in “in school suspension” until his father showed up to pick him up. One option under discussion was for Darn to actually be expelled from school for the year, but that was later reduced to a two day suspension and Darin will be back in school on Monday. The incident is still on his record, though, with the school admitting no wrong-doing.

Jim Treacher formed the correct, succinct response.

Another day, another cowardly school administrator punishing kids for being kids and then hiding behind a “zero-tolerance” policy.

This got me to thinking about one aspect of these insane school policy stories which doesn’t draw as much attention, and it involves the seemingly unrelated topic of alcohol. It’s fairly common knowledge that in countries where the drinking age is lower (or not regulated) and fewer rules are applied to consumption – such as in Italy – the rates of both binge drinking and alcoholism are lower. The reasons seem obvious, at least to some. When children are allowed to indulge in and learn about supposedly “forbidden” things early in life, the subject in question loses most of its mystery and taboo appeal. But when you put something tantalizing up on a shelf and forbid access to it, the mystery deepens and it becomes irresistible.

The same applies to firearms. Families who teach their children about safe gun handling practices early in life produce better educated, safer kids who aren’t drawn to the mystery like moths to a flame. When you turn guns into forbidden fruit to the extent that they can’t even view a toy image of them, it’s just a larger magnet which settles into the youthful mind. For the kids who grow up in safe shooting and hunting families, it’s just not as big of a deal.

These school policies are self-defeating. Obviously you can’t allow children to just walk into school with an actual gun, and when that happens swift action is required. But these are toys. Kids play with toys. That shouldn’t be a puzzle for school administrators. And by creating an aura of mystery around guns, these rules simply exacerbate the problem.