Armed and Dangerous: Two Incidents Frighten Parents, Renew Calls for Gun Control
By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 8/23/2013, 6 a.m.
Loaded guns made their way onto two metro Atlanta school campuses this week in incidents that have some parents calling for stricter laws to control access to firearms.
On Tuesday, a lone gunman terrorized more than 800 elementary school students and faculty at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur when he slipped onto campus carrying an AK-47 assault weapon, police said. The suspect, Michael Brandon Hill, 20, barricaded himself in the school’s front office with staff and a stash of back-up firearms. He fired six shots at DeKalb County Police before he was arrested.
A few miles away in Atlanta on that same day, a 15-year-old female student at New Schools at Carver High sat quietly in class hiding a secret. Police said she was carrying a .22 caliber handgun in her purse – a weapon she had somehow smuggled on campus despite the presence of metal detectors and security officers. She was arrested when school resource officers with the Atlanta Police Department received an anonymous tip about the loaded gun she possessed.
The rapid response of police, and the preparedness of educators who remained calm under pressure, kept students and staff safe in both cases. Nevertheless, scores of parents are worried about the close calls their kids had with loaded weapons.
“I don’t know how this could happen,” said Jackie Zamora, 61, of Decatur, who has a 6-year-old grandson at McNair. “There’s so much security.”
In both incidents, guns penetrated security barriers made necessary by mass school shootings like the massacre last year in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary and six educators dead.
The McNair shooting has brought national attention to Georgia. Some politicians and activists are using it as an impetus to push for federal laws to restrict the sale of assault weapons.
Georgia has a history of preserving the rights of gun owners. The state does not require the registration of handguns, restrict the use of high-powered magazines on guns or require a waiting period to purchase firearms.
Hill, who opened fire on police as they swarmed the McNair school, has not been associated with any motive for his crime. He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Shannon Watts, founder of the Indiana-based organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the incident at McNair could happen practically anywhere assault weapons are sold or possessed.
“We are devastated that, once again, a gunman with an assault weapon chose an elementary school as his target,” said Watts. “For a mother, there is nothing more frightening than the fear that your child is in danger. This happens too often in America, where gun violence claims nearly eight children every day … We demand that our members of Congress get back to work immediately on new and stronger gun laws to prevent senseless acts like these from continuing to occur in the future.”
Meanwhile, police are investigating both gun incidents to determine why guns were brought on school grounds and how the security breaches occurred.