Teacher Pleads No Contest to Toilet-Shooting Charge

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Yes, the story is "kind of funny," the prosecutor admitted, but "it is also serious." He was referring to the September 11 incident in which an elementary-school teacher ended the life of a school toilet with her 9mm handgun. He was right both times, but more right the first time.

Under Utah law, it was perfectly legal for the teacher to have a handgun at school. While the law prohibits firearms on school premises (actually, it says "on or about" and then defines that to mean "on," which is ridiculous but let's proceed), that doesn't apply if the person has a concealed-weapon permit or the school administrator approves. The teacher had a permit, so no problem. I assume hollow-point bullets are also legal there, because that's what her gun was loaded with, but I haven't checked that.

As the State Office of Education notes very sensibly in this handout, the gun owner must keep the weapon with them at all times, specifically including any time spent in a bathroom stall:

This means carrying a firearm in your purse, then leaving your purse in the classroom while you use the restroom is NOT okay. Even taking your purse to the bathroom but not in the stall with you is also NOT okay.

Again, therefore, the teacher was following the rules.

Exactly how the toilet died is still unclear. Early reports did not mention it at all, instead saying that the teacher had "somehow shot herself in the leg" while using the faculty restroom. But it now appears that the toilet was the main casualty and that the teacher was injured by bullet or porcelain fragments. The extent of the damage is not clear, but the teacher has paid for a new toilet, so it appears that the hollow-point round had no trouble dispatching its target.

The teacher's story has also changed. She first told police the gun had gone off after it fell out of its holster, but later admitted it went off after she took it out of the holster and set it on top of the toilet-paper dispenser. "The defendant stated that she did not remember pulling the trigger," a police report said, "but conceded that is what likely happened." The story is still a bit hazy, though, given that "a blast pattern from the shooting indicated the weapon had been fired from above the toilet and from right to left, as if the person had been facing toward the bathroom stall's door."

So if I understand correctly, the ballistics report on the toilet shooting does not match the rest of the evidence. Did the bullet hit its target after ricocheting off the door? Or was there a second shooter? We may never know the truth.

Also, they did a ballistics report on a toilet shooting.

The teacher was charged with discharging a firearm in a prohibited area, a misdemeanor. Today she pleaded no contest as part of a plea deal that will not require her to do jail time, but will require her to complete a firearm-safety course. "There's a lot of debate about guns and where they are appropriate," the prosecutor continued. "But they can't be going off at school—we can all agree on that." See, we can find common ground after all.