After Palmdale School Shooting, Activists Criticize Local Congressman for Receiving Funds from NRA

After a school shooting in Palmdale injured a 15-year-old boy, residents in the area are gathering for a "vigil" intended to rally against gun violence and call out a local Republican Congressman for taking more than $15,000 in campaign donations from the National Rifle Association.

Just a day earlier, a 14-year-old boy opened fire at Highland High School and shot one other student in the arm. The victim is expected to make a full recovery, but the incident has left some frustrated with the larger issue of gun violence in schools.

A teen suspected of shooting a fellow student at a high school in Palmdale is taken into custody on May 11, 2018. (Credit: Don Luis Mesa)

A teen suspected of shooting a fellow student at a high school in Palmdale is taken into custody on May 11, 2018. (Credit: Don Luis Mesa)

The vigil took place Saturday evening just outside the office of Republican Congressman Steve Knight, who represents the 25th congressional district, which includes Palmdale. People carrying signs with messages supporting gun control chanted phrases such as "We call B.S.," the same phrase Parkland, Fla. student activist Emma Gonzalez spoke in her speech just days after 17 people were killed at her school.

An organizer of the event said Knight has been supportive of the NRA by taking money from the group.

Brandon Zavala, the organizer, said Knight's response to the shooting itself was also problematic.

"Last night, Congressman Knight called this incident at Highland High School an isolated incident," he said. "And that’s unacceptable because when you talk to kids in Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook — this isn't an isolated incident.

The NRA has given Knight an "A" rating in the past. On its website, the lobbying group endorses Knight and describes him as a "solidly pro-gun candidate." He has received $15,054 in campaign donations from the NRA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

L.A. County sheriff's deputies respond to Highland High in Palmdale, where authorities say a student shot another student on May 11, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

L.A. County sheriff's deputies respond to Highland High in Palmdale, where authorities say a student shot another student on May 11, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

"That's completely unacceptable," Zavala said of the Republican politician's NRA ties.

At the rally, a sophomore at Highland High School said she was afraid to go back to school after a 15-year-old classmate of hers was shot in the arm.

"I didn't think anything like that would ever happen even anywhere near here," said Sofia Avila.

Another protester named Myra Miranda said she was rallying against Knight's connection to the NRA since he's her local congressman.

"We want to make sure he listens to us, otherwise we're going to vote him out," she said.

Meanwhile, Knight issued a statement within hours of the shooting thanking law enforcement and school officials for their response. He did not address the broader issue of gun violence but mentioned legislation he has authored aiming to make schools safer.

He has not responded to KTLA's requests for comment.

The School Training, Equipment, and Protection (STEP) Act, or H.R. 5307, sets aside $50 million in Department of Education funds to go toward strengthening security in schools, according to Knight's website. This includes funding surveillance, active shooter training for teachers and other staff and installing "barricade technology" that would allow for strengthening doors and windows during an active shooter situation, among other means of handling a shooting once it already happens.

"For far too long, both sides of the aisle just point fingers at one another after tragedies while nothing gets done," Knight said in a statement about his proposal of the bill.

He introduced the legislation in March, just weeks after a shooting at a school in Parkland, Fla. left 17 people dead.