A gun-carrying 6-year-old boy shot a Virginia schoolteacher, shocking many Americans.
Authorities are not able to describe the circumstances of the shooting or how the boy acquired the weapon. They also don’t know who the weapon belongs to. Authorities may not be able to determine what actions can be taken against someone as young as the one currently in custody.
Phillip Jones, Newport News mayor, stated Saturday that they are working to ensure he has all of the services he needs now.
Mayor Jones stated that he views the incident, which was the first documented US school shooting in 2023, as a “red flag” for the country. Jones said: “I think there will be a national discussion after this incident on how to prevent these kinds of things.”
The condition of the teacher, Abby Zwerner, 25, is now “trending in a positive direction”, Jones said over the weekend after she entered the hospital in a critical condition.
Authorities have said it was “not an accidental shooting” and part of an altercation when the unnamed first grader in a class at Richneck elementary in Virginia town took out a handgun and shot Zwerner in the abdomen causing life-threatening injuries. Zwerner reportedly warned her students to flee as she lay bleeding on the classroom floor.
Briana Foster Newton, Richneck’s Principal, stated in a statement that she was deeply concerned for the school community. “We were all deeply affected by Friday’s tragic incident.”
Although school shootings by students so young in the US are not common, they do occur. Gun violence experts claim that there have been only three shootings by six-year-old students in the 16 incidents involving shooters younger than 10 years since 1970. These incidents were usually not related to educators but to other students.
David Riedman, founder and chief researcher of the K-12 School Shooting Database, stated to the Associated Press that it is very rare.
Virginia law prohibits six-year-olds from being tried as adults. They also cannot be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice custody if they are found guilty in juvenile court. Authorities would be able to remove parental custody rights.
According to Daniel Webster, a Johns Hopkins University gun violence expert, incidents of children shooting others or themselves in their homes or other places are increasing.
Webster said that six-year-olds are not uncommon in gaining access and then shoot themselves or others with a loaded firearm.
Education Week reports that there have been 145 school shooters in the US, resulting in injuries or deaths. There were 51 school shootings last year, up from 35 in 2021 or 10 in 2020. In the two previous years, there were 24.
Richneck has seen three incidents of gun violence on district property within the past 17 months. This includes an incident in September 2021 in which a 16-year-old fired multiple shots in a busy hallway during lunch break, causing injuries to two 17-year-olds. Wavy reports that two months later, an 18-year-old shot and killed a younger student following a football match.
Parents of students in the district claimed that metal detectors, more staff, mental counselors, and stricter school visitor policies could reduce the risk.
Molly Hunter, a mother of three, said that the district’s response has made it seem like violence isn’t being addressed.
“I believe the district is doing a great job – it has been difficult to staff our schools,” Hunter stated, “They seem stretched thin and violence is out of control.”
According to the Virginia Department of Education’s website, there will not be classes at the school where the shooting took place on Monday and Tuesday.
“Our students learned a lesson about gun violence,” stated George Parker, schools superintendent. “And what guns can do, not just an educational environment but also to a family and a community.”