Special Report

The Guns Used in the 20 Worst School Shootings in US History

Source: Althom / iStock via Getty Images

20. Golden West High School in Visalia, CA (May 5, 2020)
> Guns used: Unknown .40-caliber pistol
> Gun types: Handgun
> Gun obtained legally: Unknown
> Victims: 3 killed, 0 wounded

In the first of three California school shootings on the list, three men — 20-year-old Abraham Molina, 20-year-old Mark Aceves, and 19-year-old Cesar Lopez — were arrested and charged with the deaths of three young men, slain in the parking lot of Golden West High School. The three alleged assailants were suspected Sureno gang members.

It is not known why the victims were shot at the parking lot. Police said none were known gang members and no weapons were found in their cars.

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19. Mount Vernon Elementary School in Newark, NJ (Aug 4, 2007)
> Guns used: Unknown .357-caliber Magnum handgun
> Gun types: Revolver
> Gun obtained legally: Unknown
> Victims: 3 killed, 1 wounded

In one of the most shocking episodes in Essex County history, three Delaware State University students were executed on the grounds of Mount Vernon Elementary School in Newark by six gang members. A fourth student was wounded and survived. The four friends were listening to music in the schoolyard when they were robbed by gang members and then shot. All six of the assailants received life sentences.

18. Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, WA (Feb 2, 1996)
> Guns used: 30-30 rifle, .22 caliber revolver, .25 semi-automatic pistol
> Gun types: One rifle, one revolver, one semi-automatic handgun
> Gun obtained legally: No — stolen from father
> Victims: 3 killed, 1 wounded

Barry Dale Loukaitis, 14, killed his algebra teacher and two students and held his classmates hostage before he was subdued by a gym coach until police arrived. The assailant, dressed as a cowboy, had planned the shooting. He had made references to a Pearl Jam song about commiting suicide at school, a Stephen King book “Rage,” and the movie “Natural Born Killers.” His friends described him as smart and nerdy, but his parents were in the middle of a bitter divorce before the incident.

Loukaitis, 16 years old when his trial ended, was tried as an adult. He was convicted of murder and kidnapping and sentenced to two life terms plus 205 years with no chance of parole. On April 19, 2017, he was re-sentenced to 189 years in prison.

Source: Courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

17. Chardon High School in Chardon, OH (Feb. 27, 2012)
> Guns used: Ruger .22 caliber pistol
> Gun types: semi-automatic handgun
> Gun obtained legally: No — stolen from uncle
> Victims: 3 killed, 3 wounded

T.J. Lane, wearing a T-shirt with the word “killer” written on it, walked into the cafeteria of his former high school and began firing a handgun at random students. After the 18-year-old was apprehended, he said had no reason for picking out any of them.

At his sentencing, he wore another T-shirt with “killer” written on it, showed no remorse, and even made obscene statements and gestures to the victims’ families. Lane pled guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.

16. Heath High School in West Paducah, KY (Dec. 1, 1997)
> Guns used: Ruger MK II .22 caliber pistol
> Gun types: semi-automatic handgun
> Gun obtained legally: No — stolen from father
> Victims: 3 killed, 5 wounded

Michael Carneal was 14 years old when he wrapped up a rifle, shotgun, and .22 pistol in blankets and went to school. He stopped at a prayer circle and as students concluded their prayers, took out the pistol and fired eight shots killing three and wounding five.

Carneal claimed voices in his head told him to fire the weapon. He was sent to a mental health institution where he was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder and later paranoid schizophrenia. In 2022, the Kentucky Parole Board denied parole to the 39-year-old Carneal, who is serving a life sentence.

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