Putting the elementary school on lockdown stopped the California gunman from killing dozens of children

  • A school lockdown may have prevented many more deaths as a gunman tried to enter Rancho Tehama Elementary School on Tuesday.
  • At least four people were killed and 10 others were wounded near the school in northern California.
  • School lockdowns have become as common as fire drills. They became widespread after the Columbine High School massacre and reinforced after Sandy Hook.

A gunman opened fire near an elementary school in northern California on Tuesday morning, killing four and wounding 10 others. During the rampage, he tried to gain access to the Rancho Tehama Elementary School, but a school lockdown prevented him from entering the building.

No children were killed. Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said that was no coincidence.

“This incident, as tragic and as bad as it is, could have been so much worse if it wasn’t for the quick thinking and staff at our elementary school,” Johnston said during a press conference on Tuesday. “The quick action of those school officials — there is no doubt in my mind based on the video that I saw — saved countless lives and children.”

At least three children, however, were among the wounded, including a 6-year-old with two gunshot wounds who was airlifted to a hospital and another child who was shot alongside his mother in a car, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.

School was about to start as the gunman opened fire. Coy Ferreira, father of a kindergartener the school, told KRCR News Channel 7 that he heard shots as he was dropping his daughter off at class.

A school official shouted for children to get inside classrooms, he said. The school district praised the staff for their actions, ABC News reported.

“The school was able to go on lockdown very quickly and effectively, which prevented any further injury or violence,” the school district said in a statement.

The sad history of lockdowns

School lockdowns became widespread in the aftermath of the 1999 high school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, that left 12 students and a teacher dead.

At the time, the massacre was the deadliest school shooting in American history, and it ushered in new security measures in schools across the country.

Those efforts were reinforced after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six staff members dead in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, shot his way into the school, bypassing a security system that allowed visitors to enter if they were buzzed in.

Teachers and staff members followed safety procedures. They swept their students into storage closets and behind bookcases where they wouldn’t be seen.

“At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets,” the New York Times described in a story about lockdown procedures in 2014. “School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.”

School lockdown drills have since become as common as the fire drill.

Heidi Wysocki, the owner of a company that helps schools train for shootings, told 9 News Colorado in 2016 that the better prepared schools are, the better they can protect their students.

“You want to be able to tell [students] that this is much like a fire drill, something we do for safety,” she said.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.