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GRPS bans backpacks in response to another gun found at Grand Rapids elementary school

 Grand Rapids Public Schools
WGVU Photo
Grand Rapids Public Schools

The ban comes after another gun was found in a student’s backpack on Wednesday, it’s the second time a firearm was confiscated this month.

Last week, May 3, an unloaded gun was found in a 7-year-olds backpack at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary school.

On Wednesday a similar incident occurred at Stocking Elementary School. In both cases, a student alerted an adult.

There have been four incidents where a gun has been confiscated on school grounds this school year, according to the district.

At a May 10 press conference, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said the firearm, that was found at Stocking Elementary School, was a loaded semi-automatic handgun with a bullet in the chamber. The gun was brought to school by an 8-year-old.

“Any child that had picked up that bag, that manipulated the trigger, even though the bag could’ve fired that handgun, it could have easily killed someone,” he said. He added the 8-year-old who brought the gun is also a victim.

According to Larry Johnson, the GRPS Chief of Staff & Executive Director of Public Safety & School Security, the incident occurred around 8:30 to 8:39 in the morning. He said the gun was found in a bookbag.

“The bookbag was dropped in a building, another scholar realized in picking it up that it was heavier than it should have been and reported that to an instructor who took immediate action and investigated more and we discovered there was a weapon,” he said.

As for criminal charges, Winstrom anticipates the parents will likely face charges and that the investigation is still ongoing.

The investigation for the May 3 incident remains ongoing as well.

Winstrom, along with Johnson, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby all commended students for taking action but urged parents to secure their weapons.

“Children seven and eight year olds, taking an interest when they see there is something dangerous in this backpack, that could kill people in this room,” Winstom said. “I think it’s important that the parents, that the mothers and fathers and the mother-figures and the father-figures in this town take just as much of an interest, a much greater interest.

Asked about possible security upgrades to schools, including metal-detectors, Roby said metal-detectors are a deterrent but won’t solve the issue alone.

“This is not a zero sum game,” Roby said. “Parents have a responsibility, staff have a responsibility, young people have a responsibility, but most importantly those who are gun-owners they have the greatest responsibility, if they take the charge of possessing a gun they need to secure it to make sure it’s not getting in the hands of an 7-year-old, a 8-year-old, a 12-year-old,” Roby said.

Officials say the ban on backpacks will stay in place for the rest of the school year.

The district will host a community safety forum on May 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at GRPS University.