This morning, a 15-year-old boy opened fire at Marshall County High School in rural western Kentucky, killing two teenagers and leaving at least 17 with gun-related injuries. Gov. Matt Bevin confirmed in a morning press conference that the suspect has been arrested and will be charged with murder. No motive has been released yet.
Both of the victims who passed away were 15 years old; a girl died on the scene and a boy died at the hospital. Additionally, five more people are being treated for other injuries, according to CNN.
This is reportedly the ninth school shooting this year, according to media reports and data curated by EverytownResearch.org. This shooting occurred just over 20 years after the deadly Heath High School shooting in 1997—a 30-minute drive from Marshall County High—in which a 14-year-old opened fire on a group of praying students; and one day after a high school shooting in Italy, Texas, where a 16-year-old opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun.
Gov. Bevin released a statement in which he commented that the tragedy was “unbelievable.”
"This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities. It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County," Bevin said in a statement. “As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out.”
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said the suspect was armed with a handgun, CNN reports. According to Kentucky state laws, it’s illegal for a minor — a person under the age of 18 — to be in possession of a handgun, yet with many exceptions including (but not limited to): attending a hunter’s safety course, engaging in an “organized competition,” or if the minor is on a property “which is under the control of an adult.”
Gov. Bevin’s office has not responded to an immediate comment request regarding how the state will move forward to combat gun violence. However, following the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, Bevin publicly condemned those who called for stricter gun control laws, saying that one couldn't “regulate evil.”
Bevin seems to be aligned with the Trump administration’s “thoughts and prayer” gun policy, which ignores the bigger structural and political issues that cause gun violence. In a meeting held last June to discuss the growing violence problem in Louisville, he suggested that “prayer walks” should take place in the city neighborhoods most affected by gun violence, according to the Courier Journal.
"I'm going to ask you to walk that block, do it at the same time every single week," Bevin said. "I'm going to ask you to stick with your block all year."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, tweeted that he was closely monitoring the events and thanked first responders.
McConnell has also deferred discussions about gun laws following tragic shootings. After the shooting in Las Vegas late last year, McConnell said it was "premature" to discuss legislative solutions.
A group of six state lawmakers from Louisville, led by state Rep. Darryl Owens, have been pushing for more gun control legislation. If approved, House Bill 101 could give Louisville the capability to enact its own local gun laws (a move that is currently prevented by state law). However, according to Louisville's NPR station WFPL, the bill would only apply to Louisville—and similar bills that have been proposed in the past received little support from rural policy makers.
According to a comprehensive FBI report, “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective,” school violence is an “epidemic” in America and the number one risk factor is “easy access to weapons.”