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Gun control, school security debated after Connecticut shooting

December 15, 2012 |  7:50 am

The rampage Friday at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school prompted memorials, beefed up security and calls for tighter gun control laws.

The Los Angeles City Council adjourned its meeting Friday in memory of those killed.

"If we could just give a moment of silence to these young people ages 5 through 10 that were killed, that's the least we can do," Council President Herb Wesson said.

According to PolitiCal, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) called the incident the most shocking in a series of shootings this year, including a rampage in July in which a gunman killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.

PHOTOS: Shooting at Connecticut elementary school

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown," Yee said in a statement. "While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder."

In the wake of the carnage, school officials and experts said they expect — and understand — that a deluge of concerns and questions from parents lies ahead. They also remained firm that despite episodes of extreme violence such as the incident in Connecticut, campuses are generally safe and remain a haven for students.

"School remains one of the safest places for children to be," said Long Beach Unified Supt. Christopher J. Steinhauser. 

Timeline: Deadliest U.S. mass shootings

In the years since the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, schools nationwide have bolstered security measures. The biggest trends have been placing more police officers — rather than security guards — on campus, installing metal detectors and adding sophisticated locking systems on buildings.

Schools have also worked on developing robust emergency plans and have trained educators on how to respond to crises on campus, said Sonayia Shepherd, an analyst at Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that advises thousands of K-12 schools on safety and security.

Elementary schools in particular have focused heavily on crisis management, Shepherd said. "They understand that they have the most vulnerable populations — they have the young kids," she said.

Cmdr. Matt Blake, who is overseeing the LAPD's response, said department officials are coordinating with their counterparts at the Los Angeles Unified School District's police force to increase police presence at the district's hundreds of campuses, as well as at private schools throughout the city.

Officers in each of the LAPD's 23 stations have been instructed to touch base with schools in their patrol areas, Blake said.

The increased visibility is meant to calm parents' fears after the Connecticut shooting, Blake said, adding there is no indication that someone might attempt a copy-cat attack.

"Our job is not only to stop crimes but to try to put nerves at rest," he said.

Officers are also contacting school officials to review their plans for how to keep students and faculty safe in the event of a shooting, Blake said. In addition, supervisors at each LAPD station and specialized units have been instructed to review response plans for active-shooter scenarios, he said.

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-- Joel Rubin, Chris Megerian and Stephen Ceasar

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