FBI agents and police are seen outside the Rancho Tehama Elementary School after a shooting on November 14, 2017

Los Angeles (AFP) - At least three people were killed and two young children suffered gunshot wounds when a shooting broke out Tuesday at a school in rural northern California, authorities said.

Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston told the KCRA news network that the assailant was killed by police following the shooting, which began around 8:00 am at a home in Tehama County and continued at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School.

Area resident Brian Flint told a local newspaper the suspected gunman was a neighbor of his, a former convict in his 50s “who has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines.”

A law enforcement officer is seen at one of many crime scenes after a shooting on November 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, California

“We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he’s been threatening us,” he told the Redding Record Searchlight.

Johnston, of the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters that three weapons – a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns – had been recovered from the scene

He said he knew of at least three deaths.

“I know that we have medevacked (airlifted) a number of students, I know that the school has been cleared, I know that we have the children that were attending school in a safe location at this time,” Johnston said.

Some 100 law enforcement officers responded to the shooting, and students at the school have been safely evacuated, he added.

The Redding Record Searchlight said among the wounded was a six-year-old who suffered two gunshot wounds and another child shot in the leg.

A Highway Patrol officer speaks to a woman at a road block after a shooting on November 14, 2017, in Rancho Tehama, California

It said initial reports indicated the shooter had barricaded himself inside a building before being shot by police.

Katrina Gierman, who lives near the school, told the paper that she heard the gunshots and had barricaded herself in her home with her newborn son.

“I have the right to bear arms, and I will protect my son if I have to,” she said.

The elementary school is located on the outskirts of Corning, an olive oil-producing town of around 8,000 people about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the state capital Sacramento.

The shooting coincides with a new flare-up of the long-running debate on America’s epidemic of gun violence and the ready accessibility of high-powered weapons, less than 10 days after a gunman shot dead 26 people in a church in Texas.

More than 33,000 people die annually in the United States from gun-related deaths – two thirds of them suicides – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.