by Police Chief James Johnson
Following tragedies such as Monday’s Perry Hall High School shooting, we all search for lessons, for knowledge that can help us avoid something similar one day down the road.
Over the past week, I’ve heard many people ask how the 15-year-old suspect, Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., managed to get the shotgun – kept in his father’s home in Hawthorne – used to critically injure classmate Daniel Borowy and victimize an entire community.
It’s a logical question – but there’s an equally logical question that has been overlooked: Why didn’t Gladden use the multiple firearms in his mother and stepfather’s home in the 8500 block of Bradshaw Road?
This shooting, as devastating as it was, could have been worse. Police have evidence that Gladden was well aware of the guns in his stepfather’s home but knew he could not access them because they were locked in a safe.
One person was shot on Monday. As I see it, there could have been more victims but for two factors: The quick and heroic actions of the guidance counselor who rushed to subdue Gladden, and Gladden’s inability to obtain his stepfather’s weapons.
The shotgun Gladden used in this crime holds two rounds of ammunition. It is capable of inflicting deadly damage. Still, reloading it takes time, and it is not as easy to use as more contemporary weapons.
Now consider some of the weapons and ammunition in the Bradshaw Road home as described in the District Court statement of charges already released to the public:
- Zhongzhou 20-gauge shotgun
- Boito 12-gauge shotgun
- Sears Roebuck & Co Model 100 30-30 caliber rifle
- Marlin Model 30-30 caliber rifle
- Remington 22 caliber auto loader
- Remington shotgun
- Remington Sportsman 12 gauge shotgun
- Ruger P95 9mm semiautomatic handgun
- Loaded handgun magazine and assorted live ammunition
Some of these weapons are easier to use and have higher capacity magazines than the shotgun used in the shooting. The Ruger handgun is a semiautomatic weapon capable of rapidly firing multiple rounds. That weapon would have been particularly destructive, had Gladden been able to use it in the cafeteria.
Gladden did not take one or more of these weapons to Perry Hall High on the first day of school because he literally could not put his hands on them. Andrew Piper, Gladden’s stepfather, is legally prohibited from owning weapons. But at least he locked these guns in a safe.
Gladden took the Western Field double-barreled shotgun – unsecured in his father’s Hawthorne Road home -- and carried it to school because it was the only weapon he could get.
Maryland law requires gun owners to secure loaded firearms from children 15 and younger. The Perry Hall shooting shows that not securing unloaded weapons – while legal – is dangerous as well. As a police chief, I encourage gun owners to do more than the law requires by securing all weapons, loaded or unloaded. This is neither difficult nor expensive; there are many affordable gun-locking devices on the market.
Regardless of our opinions about guns and gun control, we ought to be able to agree on this: The consequences of not securing firearms in the home can be disastrous.
If you are a gun owner, I hope that is one of the lessons you take away from what happened at Perry Hall High this week.