California Shooting Comes Amid National Debate on Gun Violence

A student is in critical but stable condition after a shooting at a high school in California on Thursday. The incident comes as the United States is engaged in an intense debate over gun violence.
 
The shooting occurred in the town of Taft, some 200 kilometers north of Los Angeles, after a 16-year-old student entered a classroom with a shotgun.
 
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood explains what happened next. "He shot someone.  He tried to shoot someone else, and the teacher was trying to get the students to evacuate through the back door," Youngblood said.

Paramedics transport student wounded during shooting on Jan. 10, 2013 at San Joaquin Valley high school in Taft, California. / AP Paramedics transport student wounded during shooting on Jan. 10, 2013 at San Joaquin Valley high school in Taft, California. / AP

Police say that both the victim and a second student who escaped injury were intentionally targeted, and that the teacher and a campus supervisor engaged the shooter in conversation, allowing more than two dozen students to leave the room safely. Police say that the teacher and campus employee persuaded the gunman to put down his weapon, and that their actions prevented the situation from worsening.

The critically wounded student, who is also 16 years old, was flown by helicopter to a medical center in nearby Bakersfield. The teacher suffered a minor wound to the head from a shotgun pellet.

The shooting comes less than one month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The mass killing has sparked a national debate, and President Barack Obama has made curbing gun violence a priority. Vice President Joe Biden has met with victims of gun violence, along with hunters and supporters of gun rights.

The vice president says he plans to release his recommendations next week, and that they might include provisions for stricter background checks for gun buyers and a ban on high capacity ammunition clips. Some gun critics want more, including a renewal of a ban on high-powered assault weapons, which Congress enacted in 1994. Congress allowed the law to expire in 2004, and several attempts to renew it have failed.

VOA News / Jan. 12, 2013 08:42 KST