A bill making its way through the Michigan House seeks to tighten the state’s definition of terrorism after a Lake Superior State University student was charged for posting a picture of his AR-15 on Snapchat.
Lucas Gerhard was charged with making a terrorist threat and faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
“Taking this bad boy up, this outta [sic] make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow,” Gerhard wrote on Snapchat along with a picture of his rifle in August, the day before he planned to return to school.
According to the Associated Press, the university allows guns on campus but they must be registered and stored in the public safety department, a requirement Gerhard complied with.
Republican lawmakers joined Mark Gerhard, the student’s father, for a press conference last week and announced a bill to tighten the state’s definition of a terrorist threat.
“I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe the prosecutor had actually decided to press charges,” said Gerhard, noting that the picture was reported to campus security by a student who had some political disagreements with his son.
State Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Township) is sponsoring the bill along with Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain).
“I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined for telling a joke among friends,” Reilly said during the press 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.”
Under his bill, a terrorist threat would be redefined such that a “reasonable person” would conclude “that it was meant to threaten the person who heard the statement, or another person close in physical proximity to the person who heard the statement.”
“This is a gross miscarriage of justice,” LaFave said during the press conference. “This shouldn’t happen to you, Lucas. You’re a nice guy. You didn’t do anything wrong for exercising your Second Amendment right and talking about it with your First Amendment right.”
Gerhard was released on bond after spending 83 days in jail and his trial is scheduled for March.
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