12-year-old girl brings handgun to junior high school in Tooele

Police do not believe she had plans to use the weapon

A 12-year-old girl who brought a loaded handgun to a school in Tooele is now facing potential criminal charges in juvenile court.

But Tooele police say there is no evidence to suggest that the girl intended to use the gun.

The incident started Thursday after school as the girl was walking home from Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High, 2152 N. 400 West. The girl took a handgun out of her backpack and showed it to friends, said Tooele Police Lt. Jeremy Hansen.

Another student told her mother what she saw. There was no school on Friday. But on Monday morning, the student and her mother went to the principal's office to report what had happened, Hansen said. A school resource officer was called to investigate and the 12-year-old was called to the office.

When questioned, the girl still had the gun in her backpack, Hansen said. Police learned that she had taken the gun from the top of her parents' closet, where the gun was loaded and unsecured, and put it in her backpack. The parents were unaware that their daughter had taken the gun, he said.

When asked why she took the firearm, the girl said "she felt she needed it for protection," according to the lieutenant. But when pressed to elaborate, the girl wouldn't say why she felt she needed protection or if she had been threatened.

Hansen said the school has never had problems with the girl before and based on the evidence, police do not believe she had plans to use the weapon. Still, she now faces potential gun charges in juvenile court as well as disciplinary action from the school, he said.

Hansen said the message from the incident is for parents to secure their firearms. If parents don't have a way to do that, he said the Tooele Police Department has hundreds of firearm locks that they give away for free. Hansen also encouraged parents to talk to their children about the consequences of bringing a gun to school, not just from a criminal standpoint but also what can happen from a school administration standpoint.