6-year-old's parents could be charged after Virginia first-grade teacher shot, legal analyst says

Stone: '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'
Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jan 08, 2023

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Police say a teacher is now in stable condition after she was shot by a first grader at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News Friday.

Officials have not shared the teacher's name publicly yet, but said she sustained life-threatening injuries when the first-grader, a six-year-old boy, shot her intentionally with a handgun.

The child is now in custody, but what happens next for the young boy is unknown.

"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 Todd Stone, a legal analyst for WTVR CBS 6.

Per Virginia law, the child cannot be charged as an adult for shooting the teacher and would be considered too young to go into a detention center if found guilty in court, as he is under the age of 11.

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Newport News school shooting
Todd Stone

Finding guilt in a six-year-old, Stone said, is a heavy burden for prosecutors to bear.

"You're talking about a six-year-old. You've got a very, very undeveloped mind and it's a very difficult thing for the criminal system to give any sort of accountability to a six-year-old," Stone said.

Police have not shared any information on where the weapon could have come from, or how the child was able to obtain it.

Virginia's Department of Social Services could step in to assess the child's home environment, and potentially remove the child based on what they find. Caretakers could be held legally responsible, but the worst criminal charge they could face, Stone said, is a misdemeanor.

"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.

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Newport News school shooting
A first-grader shot his teacher in a classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2022, according to authorities.

However, Virginia statute may be hard to apply to the caregivers, given the circumstances of the crime.

"It requires that you negligently allowed access to a firearm and the child hurt someone under the age of 14, so that specific statute wouldn't even apply to this situation, so you'd have to rely on more general statute like delinquency or neglect of a minor, which sometimes can be more difficult to prove," Stone said.

"The General Assembly could take a look at tightening up the rules with respect to allowing access to firearms. Because really, they don't have a lot of teeth, I don't think. I mean, we're talking about a misdemeanor at best. The General Assembly can certainly do more to put some teeth into some laws that would help keep firearms out of the hands of children."

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