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What happens to a six-year-old who shoots someone?

Less than a week into 2023, America reckoned with yet another school shooting.

This time, a six-year-old student allegedly shot his teacher with a handgun at a Virginia elementary school, in what police described as an “intentional” shooting.

The alleged perpetrator’s young age has added a gut-punch twist to an already tragic scenario. The case has forced local leaders, police, and gun violence experts to confront a horrific question: What happens when a first grader shoots someone?

Four days later, the community of Newport News is still searching for the answer.

Legally, authorities are in uncharted territory. Virginia law prohibits charging a six-year-old child as an adult. The student could be charged in juvenile court, but the minimum age for a juvenile prison sentence is 11.

The child is currently at a medical facility, and police chief Steve Drew said authorities had consulted state child service and law enforcement agencies for guidance on the case.

Parents could be held responsible

It is possible the child’s parents could face consequences.

In a Monday press conference, authorities confirmed the gun was legally purchased by his mother, and the child took it from the family home. His mother drove him to Richneck Elementary School on Friday while the weapon hid in his backpack.

Authorities did not say on Monday whether the child’s parents would face charges or clarify how they stored their gun. Mr Drew called the gun’s security a “key element” of their investigation.

Virginia law makes it a misdemeanour crime to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen.”

While the statute is intended to protect a child from harm, not prevent children from using firearms for violence, authorities may try to apply it in this case, said Robert Leider, a law professor at George Mason University.

In another scenario, the state of Virginia “may argue that it was the parents’ actions that directly led to the teacher’s shooting, and that the child was too young to attribute any independent wrongdoing to him,” Mr Leider said.


Source: BBC

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