An 11-year-old boy caught with a gun at his school said he brought it to defend himself in case of an attack similar to the Connecticut massacre.
The sixth-grade pupil is in juvenile detention on suspicion of possessing a dangerous weapon and aggravated assault after other children at the suburban Salt Lake City, Utah, primary school told police he threatened them with the handgun.
Teachers and administrators at West Kearns Elementary School confronted the boy in class on Monday after pupils reported the weapon, said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley.
The boy had an unloaded gun and ammunition in his backpack, Mr Horsley said.
The boy, who has not been named, waved the gun at others during a morning recess, school chiefs said. Other pupils, however, did not report the threat until classes were nearly finished for the day. There was no immediate explanation for the delay, authorities said.
The .22-calibre handgun had been left at the boy's home by a relative, Mr Horsley said.
The child made statements to administrators and mentioned the shooting rampage last week in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead, authorities said.
The boy told others his parents sent him to school with the gun for protection, which his parents strongly deny, Mr Horsley said. "The family is rocked by this. They have been very forthcoming," he said.
The boy is expected to be charged in juvenile court, Mr Horsley said. "This kid made a mistake and he knows it," he said. "He feels bad about it and his parents are co-operating with the investigation. He will not be coming back to this school."
No one was injured.