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‘A Red Flag’: US Legal System Is Really Not Designed Or Positioned To Deal With Such Shocking Cases

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A six-year-old child is being held by authorities after allegedly shooting a teacher in the stomach and causing life-threatening injuries during a classroom altercation in Newport News, Virginia.

According to the city’s Police Chief, Steve Drew, the shooting was intentional and not “accidental”.

On Friday, a six-year-old child shot and seriously injured 25-year-old teacher Abigail Zwerner at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. Zwerner is currently in stable condition.

It is not yet known how the child obtained the gun. Authorities are working around the clock to investigate the incident, which is being treated as intentional and not accidental.

School shootings in the US are unfortunately common, but incidents involving perpetrators under the age of 10 are rare, with only 16 recorded instances since 1970.

Mayor Phillip Jones called the shooting “a red flag for the country.”

“I do think that after this event, there is going to be a nationwide discussion on how these sorts of things can be prevented.”

According to Virginia law, a child under the age of six cannot be charged as an adult, regardless of the severity of the offense. Even if the child were to be charged in a juvenile court, the minimum age for juvenile detention in the state is 11.

“The juvenile justice system is not really equipped to deal with really young kids,” professor Andrew Block from the University of Virginia told New York Times, “who commit criminal offences and is probably the wrong place to deal with a situation like this.”

This incident marks the third shooting at a school in the Newport News school system in the past 17 months. In September 2021, two 17-year-olds were injured in a shooting carried out by a 16-year-old during a school lunch break. Just three months later, 17-year-old Justice Dunham was killed by Demari Batten, 18, in the parking lot of Menchville High School.

There are few details available about the shooting at Richneck school, which occurred at 2pm. According to local reports, even after being shot, Ms. Zwerner shouted at the children to run to safety.

One parent, Sebastian Gonzalez-Hernandez, whose child was in the classroom at the time, told Mail Online that his son heard the gunshot and saw Ms. Zwerner lying on the floor. Gonzalez-Hernandez described Ms. Zwerner as an “amazing teacher” who is “so dedicated”.

According to the grandmother of another student at the school, the child who carried out the shooting had brought bullets to school in the week leading up to the incident and had threatened to bring a gun.

She claimed that the school had been made aware of this threat but took no action. The shooting has caused widespread shock in Newport News, a city of 180,000 that is home to a major shipyard and naval base.

“It’s scary,” Mr Gonzalez-Hernandez said. “I’m just here trying to keep my son occupied so he’s not thinking about everything,”

“We’re a quiet neighbourhood,” Daniel Smith, a local resident, told the New York Times.

“Nobody bothers anybody, and they look out for each other.”

The shooting has reignited calls for stricter gun laws to prevent children from accessing weapons. Virginia law prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded gun in a way that endangers the life or limb of a child under the age of 14. However, advocates argue that the state’s legislation is not sufficient.

According to Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Virginia’s gun laws are relatively weak compared to those in other states. However, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, has stated that the state’s laws are among the toughest in the country. It is estimated that 4.6 million children in the US live in homes with at least one unlocked firearm.

In many cases, children who use guns in school shootings, suicides, or accidental shootings obtain them from the homes of relatives or friends, and often know where the guns are kept. Studies have shown that between 70 and 90 percent of guns used in such incidents come from these sources.

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