In what is becoming an all-too-common occurrence in America, a gunman went on a shooting rampage yesterday in Rancho Tehama, a rural town in Northern California. Killing five innocent people, injuring 10 and creating seven crime scenes in under an hour, the perpetrator was heavily armed and seemed to acting at random.
As if that weren’t terrifying enough, one of the places he chose to open fire was an elementary school. It happened in the morning, before school had officially started, and the children were all outside playing on the playground. The staff at the school did an excellent job enacting a lockdown. As they rushed to get the children safely locked inside classrooms and behind desks, the gunman rounded the corner. He rammed his truck through the school's gates and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon.
The gunman sprayed the school with bullets. He shot into the classrooms and one child was injured, but thankfully not seriously. A mom on her way to drop off her son at school wasn’t as lucky. Completely unaware, she drove past the man while he was driving in a stolen vehicle and he opened fire on her truck. The boy is in stable condition, but the mom sustained “very life-threatening” injuries, according to Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston.
The identity of the gunman, who was ultimately killed by sheriff’s deputies in an exchange of gunfire, has not been officially released. However, both the Los Angeles Times and local Red Bluff Daily News are reporting that it was a man named Kevin Janson Neal. Neal was arrested on January 31 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. The woman he had attacked in January was a neighbor; while she was issued a restraining order, Johnston said that the ruling did not prohibit Neal from possessing firearms. That woman is among the people Neal shot and killed Tuesday morning. Neal’s sister, Sheridan Orr, told the LA Times that her brother was unstable and prone to rage.
“There are certain people that do not need guns, and my brother was clearly one of them,” she said.
Sadly, without comprehensive gun reform we will continue to find out too late that someone should not have been armed. This shooting comes only eight days after 26 people were gunned down inside a church in rural Texas, just 43 days since 58 people were murdered at a Las Vegas concert and just one month shy of the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children dead.
When you are dropping off your child at elementary school, gunfire should not be one of your concerns.
We shouldn’t have to be afraid to send our children to school. They shouldn’t have to run lockdown drills. When you are dropping off your child at elementary school, gunfire should not be one of your concerns. This latest shooting happened only three hours from my house. When my phone lit up with an alert that a gunman had opened fire at a Northern California school, panic doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I can only imagine how the parents of Rancho Tehama feel and I worry about the trauma their children have endured.
I am heartbroken for those affected by gun violence in this country. It is time for us, for mothers, to stand up and declare enough is enough. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this latest mass shooting, but my mind and voice are focused on urging our elected officials to pass common-sense gun reform before these tragedies become our new normal. Let’s all work together to make America a safe place to raise children.