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Threat was no joke

A teenager who posted a picture of himself on social media holding a gun and threatening school violence should consider himself fortunate to wind up in juvenile detention facing only a charge of disorderly conduct.

The incident took place Monday evening when a selfie appeared on Instagram of the 14-year-old boy holding a gun with the text, “Don’t go to school tomorrow.” At least two people forwarded the image to Ashland police.

Police determined the gun was a BB gun, and that the teenager did not have access to firearms. They arrested him on a charge of disorderly conduct and lodged him in the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center.

The FBI estimates there are thousands of hoax threats made nationally every year, and police must investigate every one.

The FBI reminds the public that hoax threats are a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. In one case, a Texas student issued telephone and social media threats against schools in Minnesota, as well as calling in fake hostage situations, known as “swatting.” He was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison at the age of 19.

The local suspect should take that to heart. The fact he’s a juvenile and issued just one threat may allow him to walk away with only a disorderly conduct conviction.

Any other young people contemplating such a stunt should think twice.

Parents should make clear to their children that making threats, even as a joke, carries real consequences.