Guns are a hot issue in the US right now, given a recent spate of deadly mass shootings. At the same time, Americans of all ages are eagerly awaiting the Dec. 18 opening of a movie loaded with futuristic weapons and gunfights: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
These two nationwide themes clashed recently at a Texas middle school, when seventh-grader Colton Southern was asked to cover his Star Wars t-shirt. The shirt depicted a Stormtrooper taking aim with a gun-like weapon, local ABC affiliate KTRK reported. Although George Junior High School administrators asked the boy to zip up his jacket, instead of reprimanding him, they nonetheless ignited a strong reaction from his family.
“It’s political correctness run amok,” his father Joe Southern told KTRK. “You’re talking about a Star Wars t-shirt, a week before the biggest movie of the year comes out. It has nothing to do with guns or making a stand. It’s just a Star Wars shirt.”
A spokesperson for the school district said the shirt was banned because it violates the school’s dress code, which prohibits “symbols oriented toward violence.” Joe Southern said his son had worn the t-shirt before without any problem.
The incident highlights growing unease around guns in the US, after the San Bernardino, California, shootings that killed 14 people and injured 17 more on Dec. 2. That tragedy has forced gun rights back into a national conversation, and one that is perhaps especially heated in Texas.
Elsewhere in the state, pro-gun demonstrators faced off this weekend against a mass of counter protesters waving sex toys and making bathroom noises at them near the University of Texas campus. A few months earlier in Texas, a less-restrictive “campus carry” law took effect, allowing people to carry concealed guns into classrooms and other public buildings in the state’s public and private universities.
These laws wouldn’t apply to the school that Southern attends, but schools like his have sadly been at the center of gun-violence debates for another reason. According to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, there have been 161 school shootings in the US since 2013. Today, Dec. 14 also marks the three-year anniversary of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.