Koochiching County (population 13,907) is located at the center of the northern end of Minnesota, bordering the wilderness of Northern Ontario. Its principal claim to fame is probably that county’s leading metropolis International Falls (population 6703) having been fictionalized in 1959 on television as “Frostbite Falls,” home of cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Indus Elementary & Secondary School, located 30 miles west of International Falls, has 194 pupils (79 elementary – 115 secondary) attending grades K through 12 from families residing in western Koochiching County.
I mention all this just to make clear the rural character of the setting of today’s headline news item.
A school principal has resigned and could face felony firearm charges after he shot and killed two orphaned kittens on school property last month.
That sounds absolutely terrible, of course. But the reality was rather different.
Principal Wade Pilloud, who resided weekdays in a mobile home on school property, had placed one or more traps underneath the trailer “to catch pests,” WCCO‘s version of the story reports.
Since the trap was large enough to kill an adult cat, Principal Pillaud was almost certainly using a conibear trap, rather than a leghold trap. Conibear traps are designed to kill the animal. A conibear trap large enough to kill a cat would have to have been set for something larger than a rat or a squirrel. Chances are that a skunk took up residence under Mr. Pillaud’s trailer, and he was taking action to remove a rather drastic problem.
Unfortunately, Mr. Pillaud discovered he had trapped a (presumably feral) female cat, whose death left orphaned a pair of young kittens. A cat-owner himself, Mr. Pillaud did not want the kittens to starve to death; so, after school, one night last month when all this happened, he took his shotgun, and “put them out of their misery,” as people say in the country.
But several children on the schoolgrounds for after hours activities heard the shooting, and went home and told their parents all about it.
This being the day and age it is, even in rural Northern Minnesota, you have nincompoops.
There were parents who felt, apparently some rather strongly, that there were concerns about the safety of their children,” said Joseph Flynn, an attorney for the South Koochiching/Rainy River School District. “The district’s position is that safety was not compromised.”
John Mastin, acting sheriff in Koochiching County, said Pilloud could be charged with felony possession of a firearm on school property and reckless discharge of a firearm, a misdemeanor.
County Attorney Jennifer Hasbargen said Friday that the case was under review.
Mastin said the shooting put no one in danger but said Pilloud used “poor discretion and poor timing,” especially amid the growing fear of gun violence in schools.
The district put Pilloud on administrative leave after the incident. Flynn said Pilloud agreed to an undisclosed settlement and resigned.
This type of incident demonstrates that nowhere in America is non-suburban enough today to assure the safety of gun-owners from the ritualized hoplophobia of journalists, politicians, and anti-weapons bigots. The NRA and other gun rights litigation centers need to intervene and contest every such case of the marginalizing of gun ownership and the stigmatization of the legitimate use of firearms. Otherwise, ultimately, a gun ban British and Australian-style is inevitable.