Unarmed staff prevent another school massacre in the USA

By staff writers
11 Jan 2013

An unarmed teacher at a California high school has thwarted a serious shooting incident, by talking a gunman into putting down his weapon.

The courageous, peaceful intervention by the teacher, Ryan Heber, accompanied by a campus counselling supervisor, Kim Lee Fields, came after the 16-year-old gunman had shot and injured one pupil at Taft Union High School.

Acccording to the police, the youngster had enough ammunition on him to kill a great many people. Some 900 pupils attend the school in Taft.

The injured student remains in a critical condition, and is being operated on today.

The student gunman arrived in the late morning, carrying a shotgun, at the school in the small town of Taft, in California's central valley, the authorities there said yesterday.

Reportedly, students and staff telephoned the police, but before they could arrive the man had shot at two people in a science classroom, hitting one and missing the other. Others hid in a closet.

Mr Heber, who had received a grazing head wound himself, intervened. Accompanied by the other school official, he calmly but firmly and told the gunman: "There will be no shooting in my class."

Unnerved, the gunman put down his weapon and police officers came in to arrest him.

"They talked him into putting that shotgun down. He in fact told the teacher, 'I don't want to shoot you,' and named the person that he wanted to shoot," said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

"This teacher and this counsellor stood there face-to-face not knowing if he was going to shoot them," he added.

Parents and local official said the teacher had acted bravely and sensibly.

The shooting in California comes just four weeks after a gunman killed 26 pupils and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Since then there have been a number of other shootings, but this is the first one in a school again.

It comes after the National Rifle Association and gun advocates called for teachers to be armed and for more guns to be put into circulation in the country - a proposal which supporters of gun control say is "madness".

The Taft school has recently announced new safety procedures following last month's deadly shooting, and employs an armed security guard.

Critics of gun proliferation and lax controls say that arming teachers is not the way to stop shootings. They want to restrict access to deadly weapons and change the macho gun culture that abounds in many parts of the USA.

Advocates of gun control say that the courageous, nonviolent actions of the teacher and supervisor point to another way of dealing with the threat of violence, rather than retaliation and increased gun ownership and use.

[Ekk/3]

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