The parents of the 6-year-old Virginia student who allegedly shot his teacher could face charges if authorities find the weapon he used wasn’t properly secured, legal experts say.
The first-grade student is accused of blasting teacher Abby Zwerner, 25, on Friday afternoon during a fight at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va.
On Monday, Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew said the child took the gun from his home and put it in his backpack to bring to school Friday.
The gun was legally purchased by the child’s mother, Drew said.
Since the child took the weapon from his home, his parents, who have not been identified, could face criminal liability – since under state law guns must be secured from kids under 14, according to legal experts.
Meanwhile, it’s highly unlikely the boy would face charges.
“You can’t charge a 6-year-old criminally, that’s pretty well established,” Virginia criminal defense attorney Steve Duckett told The Post.
Drew didn’t rule out the possibility of charges against the parents but he said it was too soon to say as the department is still investigating.
“The test should come down to whether or not appropriate steps were taken to safeguard the weapon,” Duckett said.
“If they kept [the gun] out in the wide open where anybody could grab it and do something untoward with it, that does expose them potentially to some liability.”
Duckett said the parents may not be charged criminally “if it was locked in a safe and they were not careless about keeping either the keys or the code to the safe out where anybody could find it and the kid broke in without their knowledge.”
Experts are in agreement that the case is unusual legally given the age of the accused shooter.
“It’s really shocking. You just don’t see this happen in the legal system where you’ve got someone so young intentionally using a firearm against another person,” said legal analyst Todd Stone, according to a report by local outlet WTVR CBS 6.
“The parents could be charged with a misdemeanor, which would be the maximum of 12 months in jail, and realistically, it’s very fact-dependent.” Stone said.
The parents could face charges such as delinquency or neglect of a minor – charges “which sometimes can be more difficult to prove,” Stone said.
Researcher David Riedman who founded a database tracking US school shootings said he was only aware of three other school shootings by 6-year-olds and one other by a 5-year-old, according to a report by the Guardian.
“It’s very rare and it’s not something the legal system is really designed or positioned to deal with,” Riedman said.
Zwerner – who is in serious but stable condition – warned the other students to run as the shooting erupted. No students were injured.
Officials at the scene recovered the 9mm weapon and one shell casing, Drew said.
Written by: TNT Radio