More information on the 6 year old who shot a teacher


Over the weekend, we discussed the bizarre case of a 6-year-old first-grade student in Newport News, Virginia who brought a loaded handgun to school and shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner. 

The police didn’t initially release many details, leaving many questions hanging in the air. Where did the gun come from and how did the student get his hands on it? Was it stolen or did he grab a weapon belonging to his parents? And how did he get it into the school undetected? 

NBC News had some new updates on the story last night and the picture has become at least a bit clearer. 

First of all, the gun, a 9mm Taurus, belonged to his mother and had been legally purchased and registered. The local police are reportedly saying that the boy won’t (and probably can’t) be prosecuted, but the parents might be.

We also learned that Abby Zwerner was struck by a single round that went through her hand and then into her chest. And yet she still managed to escort all of the students out of the classroom and away from the firearm before collapsing from her wounds. She is being hailed as a hero for this and it was certainly an impressive feat.

Still unknown is how the child managed to obtain the gun and if it had been safely stored in the home. The local police chief said the answers to those questions will be “a key element” in the investigation. But is it really that much of a mystery? If a six-year-old was able to grab a loaded 9mm, put it in his backpack, and carry it into a school classroom, it was obviously not safely secured.

As to finding someone to prosecute, it seems to already have been determined that the boy can’t legally be prosecuted even if the desire to do so existed. NBC News leads off its article by suggesting that the parents might be prosecuted instead. But that’s not at all a sure thing either, at least if you’re thinking of any sort of serious charge. Virginia doesn’t have a law mandating the safe storage of firearms in the home. They do have a law intended to protect children 14 and younger from access to firearms, but it’s only a misdemeanor.

One other possibility suggested by the Police Chief was that the parents might be charged with reckless endangerment or child neglect. I suppose I could see a reckless endangerment charge as a possibility, but I also wouldn’t consider a conviction to be a slam dunk, either.

Repeating one of my suggestions from when the story first broke, there is probably one action that could be taken here immediately. 

Regular readers know that I am basically 100% against gun confiscation from law-abiding citizens and I’m really not even a fan of red flag laws. But some situations simply present a “bridge too far” situation. 

Unless it can be shown that this boy is some sort of prodigy who is a mastermind at picking the lock on a gun safe at the age of six, the mother clearly kept her gun in an unsafe manner with a child in the house. That level of irresponsibility is (or at least should be) criminal. The authorities may not be able to stick a serious charge on her, but she should definitely have her firearm(s) removed, in my opinion.

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