As police investigated a shooting at a Westlake middle school on Thursday, parents and local officials questioned how a 12-year-old girl apparently was able to get a semi-automatic pistol and smuggle it into a classroom.
Four students were injured in the shooting at Sal Castro Middle School, and two of them remain in the hospital. A 15-year-old boy was in stable condition with a gunshot wound to his temple and a 15-year-old girl is in fair condition with a gunshot wound to her left wrist.
The shooting suspect, a 12-year-old girl, has been taken into custody.
“We do not know yet ... how our young person on this campus ended up having the ability to have access to a firearm and bring it onto campus,” said Los Angeles School Police Chief Steve Zipperman. “Or for that matter, any young person having access to a weapon and bringing it anywhere. We have laws that mandate that parents who own guns, any adult who owns a gun, any gun owner, has an obligation to ensure that gun is locked inside a home.”
Zipperman said the majority of weapons young people get their hands on come from a family member’s home.
“One of the main missions we will have and we will continue to enforce is the issue of finding out how a young person had access to a weapon, and I assure you, if we find out it came from an adult from a home, that the proper prosecutorial procedures will occur,” Zipperman said.
L.A. Unified board member George McKenna said the shooting underscores the importance of the district’s policy to conduct random searches on a daily basis. He said it’s also important that the policy be carried out consistently and fairly.
“I think it’s a tragedy, but it also reflects the ease with which students can access guns and the ease with which they can get them on campus despite our efforts to prevent it,” McKenna said.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the only district its size that requires every middle and high school campus to conduct daily random searches for weapons using metal-detecting wands.
McKenna said he expects that critics of random searches will remain unpersuaded: “Some people are anti-police. They’re anti any kind of law enforcement, whether armed or not. They just think it’s discriminatory and that it’s only done in certain schools, but they offer no solution. They just say we need more counselors. These are unusual circumstances, but they are deadly.”
L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer said that while it is still unclear how the shooter obtained the gun, people should be following laws on storing weapons.
“This is a very important call to action to every adult in our community who has a gun,” Feuer said. “You must store it safely and keep it out of access for any child to reach. It could result in a tragedy.”
The shooting also prompted calls for gun safety legislation from officials throughout the state.
“Our schools should be safe spaces for our children to grow, learn and play,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Today, this innocence was ripped from them as a result of a minor who had access to a gun.”
Solis called on federal representatives to “implement responsible gun safety laws that protect people instead of putting them in danger.”
“No parent should ever have to fear sending their child to school,” she said. It’s far past time for Congress to pass responsible gun safety laws.”
Nick Melvoin, L.A. Unified board vice president, thanked first responders and school site leadership for the immediate response.
“We will reflect on our district policies — and continue to demand action locally and nationally — in the coming days to ensure our kids and families are safe in school,” Melvoin said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) took to Twitter to remark on the shooting, stating that he is “horrified and heartbroken to hear of yet another school shooting — this one close home at Sal Castro Middle School in Los Angeles.”
“I’m determined as ever to fight for gun safety legislation to protect our schools and communities,” he said.