The investigation into the shooting at Saugus High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita has “become more complicated,” according to KNBC, the local NBC affiliate, as authorities continue searching for a motive.
According to the Los Angeles Times, school will resume at Saugus on Dec. 2. Between now and then, authorities will be trying to figure out how 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow obtained the .45-caliber pistol he used in the Nov. 14 shooting that claimed the lives of 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell. Three other students were wounded.
KNBC reported that the handgun recovered at the scene “scene appears to have been modified from its original form,” citing apparent statements from unidentified law enforcement sources. There is no elaboration on what those modifications might entail.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department firearms experts are reportedly examining the gun.
KNBC also reported that “numerous other firearms were found” during a search of the home. In another twist, NBC News reported that the gunman’s father, Mark Berhow, had once been arrested “during a domestic dispute” with the boy’s mother, identified as Mami Matsuura. In connection with that arrest, during the “midst of a custody battle,” Berhow was “detained for a mental health evaluation…and following the evaluation, deputies seized firearms from the house,” the report said.
A year later, Berhow died of a heart attack, the report noted.
But the disposition of the firearms was not detailed in the story and it is not known how the teen obtained the handgun, or why he decided to commit the shooting on his birthday.
KNBC said six other firearms were found during the search of the teen’s home, along with firearms parts.
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and gun ownership is highly regulated. Yet this shooting occurred and almost immediately gun control advocates began demanding even more restrictions, including so-called “universal background checks,” which California already requires, and a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” which were not involved in the Santa Clarita shooting.
What the Saugus High School shooting may underscore, according to gun rights activists, is the failure of strict Golden State gun control laws. It’s against the law to have a gun on a school campus, illegal for a teen to be carrying a concealed handgun, illegal for a minor to have a handgun and for anyone to obtain a firearm without a background check in California. It’s also against the law to shoot people and commit murder.
None of these restrictions prevented the Santa Clarita tragedy.