A normal morning walk to a northeast Bakersfield school bus stop took a dangerous turn Tuesday when four 8- and 9-year-old boys found a loaded .357-caliber handgun on the ground, and one of them fired it.

While waiting for the bus one of the boys began playing with the gun, Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.

It went off. The recoil was too powerful for the boy to handle, and the butt of the gun struck him in the forehead. Pruitt said the boy suffered a small cut.

The gun fired just as a school bus with 38 children aboard pulled up to the stop near North Inyo and Crawford streets at 8:15 a.m., Pruitt said. Deputies first received a call that a student had been shot at the bus stop, but upon arrival realized no one had been hit and the shooting was an accident.

Pruitt said deputies don't know who previously had possession of the gun, a single-shot American Arms derringer with a 4-inch barrel. The gun is not registered.

The boys attend Longfellow Elementary School.

Bakersfield City School District spokesman Steve Gabbitas described the boy's injury as "very, very minor" and said the boy was in school Tuesday. He said the boy found the gun in a flower bed while walking to the bus stop.

The bus driver saw the shooting and immediately reported it, Gabbitas said. The reports were at first much worse.

"It was a huge relief to find out it was just the recoil," he said.

Counselors were provided as a precaution, and school officials talked to students about gun safety.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 861-3110 or Secret Witness at 322-4040. Anonymous text tips can be sent to TIP411 (847411); type the keyword "KCSO" before the message.