When New Jersey boy Joshua Bruner was given an assignment in his photography class to take a self-portrait representing self-expression, he knew right away what he wanted to portray. Joshua, 15, is hugely patriotic and it's his dream to serve in the Marines, as his great-grandfather did. The teenager is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a member of two state shooting teams.
So, to those who know him, Joshua photograph of himself with the American flag in one hand and a shotgun in the other came as no surprise. But his choice of prop caused a problem when he attempted to upload it to Hunterdon Central Regional High School's website — it was rejected for violating the school's gun policy.
It's ironic that Joshua's photograph was for an assignment on self-expression, yet he was denied the right to do that very thing. If he chooses to express himself by demonstrating his pride in his country and his desire to protect it, who has the right to tell him that's wrong?
As Joshua's mom pointed out, he wasn't doing anything illegal. He wasn't disrespecting the American flag or holding the gun in an irresponsible way. Of course, imagery featuring guns can be controversial, and in the wake of Sunday's horrific mass shooting in Orlando, this is a particularly sensitive subject.
However, there's a world of difference between a patriotic young man who observes gun laws and would never use it as a weapon to murder innocent people, and the gunman who released fire in a gay nightclub and left 49 dead and at least 50 others injured.
To take Joshua's photograph so wildly out of context isn't helpful or healthy. Whatever our personal views on guns are, we should be proud of a teenager who wants to serve his country.
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