The 6-year-old boy who is accused of shooting his Virginia teacher on Friday with a gun he took from home is unlikely to be charged, but his parents could be criminally responsible, depending on how well they locked up the gun, experts said.
Newport News police say that the student’s mother legally bought the gun that was used in the shooting, but officials haven’t said how the boy got hold of it or if it was safe.
According to Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Regulation Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Virginia does not have a law that defines how to secure firearms in a home, unlike Massachusetts and Oregon.
Anderman said that it does have a misdemeanor law that keeps kids under 14 from getting guns. Authorities say that the boy, who hasn’t been named because he’s so young, shot first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner while she was teaching about 20 students at Richneck Elementary School.
Zwerner was hurt when the bullet went through her hand and into her upper chest. She lived, though, and has been called a hero. Police Chief Steve Drew said Monday that even though she was hurt, she was able to get students out of the classroom safely.
A 6 year old shot a teacher inside Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia…
6 YEAR OLD SHOOTER 👈🏼👈🏼👈🏼pic.twitter.com/pR88hLo5BI
— The Astute Galoot (@TheAstuteGaloot) January 7, 2023
Drew said that the boy shot Zwerner with a 9mm Taurus gun that he got from his house. He said that finding out how or if the gun was locked up inside the house will be “key” for investigators.
On Tuesday, Drew told CNN that the mother might be charged under Virginia law, but he also noted that there are numerous facets to the inquiry. Drew said Monday that once all the facts are in, any decision about charges will be made in consultation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
At the news conference on Monday, Drew only talked about the boy’s mother. He didn’t say anything about any charges that could be made against the child. Drew said again on Monday that he thought the boy shot his teacher on purpose and that there were more than one bullets in the gun.
“This shooting was not accidental. It was intentional,” he said. The child was being treated at a medical facility as part of a court-ordered temporary detention. Drew said that he has 96 hours to go before a judge who will decide if he will continue treatment and what will happen next in the case.
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Drew, the police, and the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. The juvenile court officials wouldn’t say if the child’s case was being handled by the court. Danny Cevallos, a legal expert for NBC News, said it’s very unlikely that the boy will be charged, even in juvenile court.
“They could charge him with a crime in theory, but they’d have to prove that a 6-year-old could have the intent to try to kill,” Cevallos said. He also said that the boy probably won’t be charged because he isn’t smart enough to stand trial because “he can’t help his lawyer and doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Cevallos said that the child’s parents could be charged with reckless endangerment or neglect. In Virginia, several adults have been charged after a child fired a gun that was left unlocked.
A 6-year-old child shot his teacher at a Virginia elementary school on Friday, police say.
Now authorities face an uncomfortable question: How should they prosecute a crime committed by a first-grader?https://t.co/sRS5r2JOqw
— NPR (@NPR) January 10, 2023
Police said that a mother was charged with child neglect in February after her 10-year-old son was found alone in a Virginia Beach hotel room with a gunshot wound to the leg. The child was thought to be fine.
Also in February, a Newport News police officer was charged with a misdemeanor for letting a minor have access to firearms. This happened about four months after a toddler accidentally shot and killed himself with his father’s handgun.
In October 2013, the Virginian-Pilot said that the parents of a Norfolk elementary school student who brought a gun to school were charged with child neglect.
The teacher took the child to the principal’s office when he showed her an empty handgun magazine. The gun was found in the child’s book bag, but there was no ammunition. This was written in the newspaper. Follow us on Journalistpr.com for more news like this.