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Stockton School Shooting Survivors On Differing Sides Of Gun Debate

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Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, where a gunman opened fire and killed five schoolchildren on January 17, 1989. (CBS)

Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, where a gunman opened fire and killed five schoolchildren on January 17, 1989. (CBS)

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STOCKTON (KPIX 5) — When a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut late last year, it sent a shudder and a flashback through the people of Stockton.

Vicki Garduno and Judy Weldon were teachers at Cleveland Elementary School in 1989, when Patrick Purdy used an AK-47 to turn the playground into a killing field. Five children were killed, 29 children and a teacher were wounded, before Purdy turned the gun on himself.

“Everybody has different stories about where they were and how things went,” Garduno told KPIX 5.

It took the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut to reunite the now mostly retired instructors.

“Something needs to be done and so we’re going to do it,” said Weldon.

The teachers are seeking stricter gun control in the wake of last year’s shooting. “This is something that has to change. Too many lives are lost. Too many people are dying without being able to show their uniqueness and their value,” Weldon said.

Four of the children who died at Cleveland school are buried at the Stockton Rural Cemetery. One of the children who was wounded has made Stockton his home. He’s a police officer and he speaks out for gun owners’ rights.

Rob Young, who is an officer in the Bay Area, was in the first grade when the shooting took place.

“In my shooting 27 kids were shot, 5 were killed, the gunman was dead in a minute and a half. It happens very quickly,” Young told KPIX 5.

Young was shot in the foot, almost bled to death, and still has shrapnel in his chest and arms. But it’s not the gun he has a problem with.

“I have never blamed the gun for what happened to me. It was the choice of a sick individual who chose, unfortunately, to use a firearm to hurt a lot of people that day,” Young said.

Since then, Young has become an outspoken advocate of gun owners’ rights. The group Gun Owners of America has sent him to Washington, DC and Sacramento to speak to lawmakers about Second Amendment rights.

Like the teachers, he too was motivated by his survival at Cleveland school and what happened in Newtown.

“After the Sandy Hook shooting, that was kind of the last straw for me,” Young recalled. “I heard several politicians including the President call for stricter gun laws and gun bans. And again, I said ‘This is only going to affect the good guys. This isn’t going to affect the bad guys. They don’t care about gun laws.’”

Young has spoken in favor of a bill that would eliminate gun-free zones and said that he feels a trained, armed teacher could defend students. Meanwhile, the Stockton teachers in this story have set up a website to help in their support for gun control legislation.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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