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Boy who posed with guns convicted

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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An Evergreen high school student who posted Internet photos of himself posing with guns was convicted Tuesday on a charge of possession of a handgun by a juvenile.

The conviction came despite his parents' testimony that they gave him permission to handle guns in their home without their supervision.

Colorado law prohibits possession of a handgun by a juvenile, but permits parents to give them permission to possess guns in their homes, even without supervision.

"This is a very difficult case," defense attorney Barrett Weisz said in his closing argument after a trial that began Friday.

"We have pictures that raise images of the Columbine massacre. But if we set the specter of Columbine aside," he argued, the boy should be acquitted and sent home.

The photos were posted on the popular teen web site myspace.com. The photos showed him posing with a number of rifles and three handguns — a .45 caliber pistol, and .22 and .357 revolvers.

The 16-year-old boy, who has been held in detention since his arrest in February, will be sentenced June 1. He was acquitted on two additional charges of handgun possession.

The judge set a $5,000 bond, but ordered that the boy must be evaluated and a safety plan drawn up before he can be released.

The boy's parents testified that they were upset and disappointed with their son when they discovered the photos, but said he had permission to handle the weapons.

"I was not pleased and told him to take (the photos) down," his father testified. "I told him, 'what were you thinking when you took these pictures?' I was upset."

The father, a gun collector and enthusiast who is an airline pilot and retired Air Force pilot, said he gave the boy and his brother extensive training in the safe handling of weapons.

He said he gave his sons permission to handle the guns in the home even when he wasn't there, and the boys had access to keys to trigger locks.

"It was due to their experience and my trust in them" to safely handle the weapons, he said. They often cleaned the guns after they had gone shooting and he was out of town for his job, he said. They also built guns from kits, he said.

But Jefferson County District Judge Brian Boatright said that permission had limits.

"That doesn't mean juveniles could run around the house and do whatever he wanted with the gun," Boatright said, noting that the father testified that the boys were not allowed to load or fire the weapons unless he was present.

Boatright acquitted the boy on two charges in which he posed with the handguns but did not have his finger on the trigger. One of the charges stemmed from a photo entitled "angel of death" in which he posed on the floor with guns surrounding his body.

He also stated in the myspace.com posting that people "deserve to die."


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