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Marshall County Community Copes With School Shooting

Nicole Erwin

Marshall County Kentucky is still reeling from the school shooting that left two students dead and another 18 injured. As with so many communities around the country, people are searching for answers, including how the shooter got the gun. 27 states have laws requiring safe storage of firearms to prevent child access. Kentucky does not.

 “Oh wait this is the elementary school can I pause? ‘Our students and staff are safe all information regarding the shooting at Marshall County High school will…’

It’s a message no parent wants to receive. A shooting at your child’s school. Heather Adams is in line with more than a hundred cars on Kentucky Route 95 just a mile from North Marshall Middle School, where students were bused from Marshall County High.

Adams has a 15-year-old at the high school and a 10-year-old at the elementary school. Both are safe. Earlier, she says, she was at the high school with frantic parents looking for answers about their children.

“I noticed a lady that was distraught couldn’t find her child and was texting with my son and said, do you know where this child is, is this child safe? And stayed with her while we waited and ...that was the shooter’s mother I held her hair while she threw up.”

Adams says the mother was in shock.

“The shooter took the gun out of her closet and called her and said there was a shooting and that he was scared.”

Kentucky State Police have not confirmed how the shooter obtained the handgun used at the school. But if Adams’ account proves accurate, it fits a strong pattern. A report by the US Secret Service and the Dept. of Education found that over two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative.

That’s partly why 27 states have have some sort of child access prevention law to encourage the safe storage of firearms and make adults liable if children get access to guns.

“We know that those laws work. There is research that states that have child access prevention laws have successfully reduced unintentional gun injuries among children and also child suicides.”

That’s Hannah Shearer, staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The legal and policy organization formed after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head in Tucson.

Florida was the first state in the country to pass one. And you know so it's worked in Florida. I think they have a pretty strong gun culture but this law has kind of been been around for quite some time and I think it's been proven to work there. And so it shows that people know that a that a gun owning culture can coexist with a law like this that's really designed to protect children and punish truly criminally negligent adults.

Kentucky Ohio and West Virginia do not have such a law. Kentucky state Senator Gerald Neal, from Louisville, introduced a child access law in the last legislative session.

“Young people are losing lives to carelessly stored firearms // and what i wanted to do was lift up discussion it is intolerable for us not to be proactive about doing something about that.”

Neal says his bill is not about gun control but about gun safety. Still, It went nowhere. In Ohio, a similar bill met a similar fate in last three sessions.

The Ohio Valley region has a high percentage of state lawmakers who get a positive rating from the National Rifle Association. An analysis of the NRA’s recent ratings show Kentucky has the nation’s highest percentage of legislators who got at least an A minus grade from the NRA.

The NRA declined to comment. Heather Adams says people have to speak up about gun owner responsibility.

“You have to keep your guns locked. They need to be locked, the ammunition needs to be locked and they need be locked up in separate places.”

This is not the first school shooting in west Kentucky. Twenty years ago a student opened fire on a prayer group at Heath High School, just 30 miles from Marshall County. The shooter got the guns from a neighbor’s garage.

“I don’t care if you have raised your kids to not know how to touch the guns, it doesn’t matter. Children are impulsive. Their brains are not fully developed and they will act accordingly, and this is what happens when you don’t do the right things with your weapons.”

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