Two U.S. schools were placed on lockdown Tuesday following separate incidents – one in North Carolina and one in Kentucky – with individuals carrying and firing guns on academic grounds. Altogether, two people were shot, one associated with each incident.
The occurrences mark the 85th and 86th school shootings since the December 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to a list compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Both North Carolina and Kentucky received “F” grades on gun laws in 2013 because legislators passed measures that weakened regulations of firearms, according to the state scorecard jointly released at the end of last year by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The organizations ranked all 50 states based on 30 policy approaches regulating guns and ammunition, including strengthening background checks, reporting lost or stolen firearms, and prohibiting dangerous people from purchasing weapons.
A student was shot and another one was taken into police custody after an altercation at Albemarle High School in North Carolina before the start of classes early Tuesday morning. The two male students were arguing in the courtyard at the front of the building before the suspect pulled a gun from his waistband and fired twice at the other individual, once in the lower abdomen and once in the hip, Albemarle Police Chief William Halliburton told msnbc.
By the afternoon, the victim, 17-year-old Bernard Miller, underwent surgery for critical injuries at a nearby hospital. The suspect faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill.
Officers recovered a pistol at the scene of the altercation. Halliburton wouldn’t release the name of the suspect, who is a juvenile.
The high school was placed on lockdown as emergency crews searched and eventually evacuated the building, which they deemed safe less than two hours after the 911 call reporting the shooting. Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day, but it was unclear whether administrators would close the school on Wednesday.
Halliburton said his police force receives yearly “rapid-response training.” In June, local and county police officers, school administrators, and fire and emergency personnel participated in their first drill to train for active-shooter situations.
“You always hear of it happening somewhere else, and when it happens here you have to be ready for it,” Halliburton said.
Hours later in Kentucky, police began their search for a gunman who fled the scene after officers responded to reports of shots fired at Fern Creek High School in Louisville. One victim, a student, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital, police told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Law enforcement officials found and took the suspect into custody without incident by early Tuesday evening. Authorities described the teenager as a 15- or 16-year-old boy, whom they found at an apartment complex within walking distance of the school. They would not disclose whether or not the suspect is enrolled at the high school.
Students and faculty were placed on lockdown, and authorities later escorted them out of the school to meet parents at a nearby park. Images emerged of students exiting the building with their hands on their heads.
The incident appeared to be isolated to one part of the high school, although Fern Creek Elementary School was also placed on lockdown.
Police did not immediately release details about the nature of the incident between the suspect and the victim.
“This is senseless. This is unacceptable. This cannot be happening in our schools,” Jefferson County Public Schools spokesman Ben Jackey said during a press conference. “This is not the kind of things students should be exposed to.”
A regular basis
Similar incidents occur on a regular basis throughout the country. Just last week, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, was placed on lockout for more than two hours because of a “threat.” A lockout, part of the district’s four-step standard emergency response protocol, occurs when there is a threat of hazard outside of the school building, but all schedules continue as planned.
Jacki Kelley, public information officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, previously told msnbc that similar incidents occur often at the school, which was the site of the April 1999 shooting spree that killed 12 students and one teacher. It is “probably the most targeted school in the country,” she told msnbc during a phone interview last week.
The nature of the threat posed to the school last Monday was “no different than the hundreds of similar threats we have experienced at Columbine since 1999,” Kelley added.
The national debate about gun rights remains at a standstill as shooting rampages continue across the country. A bipartisan background checks bill failed in the Senate last year, just months after the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Some states have passed new reform measures that tighten gun restrictions, while others have enacted laws that weaken regulations.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, on Tuesday signed into law an order that will allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to remove firearms from someone temporarily if they believe there is a risk to public safety. And a new reform measure in Massachusetts grants police chiefs the authority to prevent certain individuals from obtaining firearms licenses.
On the other end of the spectrum, a law took effect in Georgia during the summer that allows residents to carry weapons into bars, nightclubs, school classrooms, and certain government buildings that lack security personnel or devices. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill that would have banned large-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
But less than a week ago, the FBI confirmed in a new report that shooting incidents when a gunman kills or wounds multiple people are becoming more frequent in the United States, specifically in the workplace or at schools. The “Active-Shooter Study” analyzed 160 incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2013, including the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Aurora movie theater, and the Washington Navy Yard. An average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually during the first seven years of the study. And about 16.4 shootings happened each year during the last seven years.
Everytown for Gun Safety released a study earlier this year that revealed there were at least 110 mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2014, or about one to two shootings each month for the past six years. The pro-reform gun group used FBI and media reports to analyze mass tragedies in the country for the given time frame.
Following the incidents on Tuesday, representatives for Everytown and Moms Demand Action called on legislators to act quickly to strengthen gun laws.
“When we send our children to school, we expect to pick them up at the end of each day,” said Kaaren Haldeman, leader of the Moms Demand Action chapter in North Carolina. “We refuse to let shootings like the one at Albemarle High to become the new normal in our communities and across our country.”