Parenting and Firearms

On Friday, January 6th, 2023, a six-year-old male child shot his first-grade teacher. The “properly secured” firearm owned by the child’s mother was smuggled into the school in the morning. At around 2 pm, the child shot the teacher without warning. The bullet traveled through her hand and into her chest. The teacher was able to escort the other children in the classroom to safety before seeking medical aid herself. 

Last week I mentioned the child’s mother had reached a felony plea agreement to serve 18-24 months in prison on the federal charge of lying on the ATF Form 4473 about her current or prior drug use. 

As a reminder, lying on a 4473 is now punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But as has become painfully obvious lately, this crime is either not a priority for the ATF and US Attorney’s or is eligible to be sent to diversion if you are well enough connected. 

The federal plea deal has nothing to do with the state charges surrounding the shooting. There she has been charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child.

At first glance this sounds like another stereotypical child-gets-hold-of-a-gun story the gun-control zealots love to put out as an example of why guns are bad and more gun-control is needed. That is not the case here. 

As for the firearm itself, the child’s mother has maintained that the legally purchased firearm was secured on a top shelf in her closet and had a trigger lock.

“Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children. The firearm our son accessed was secured.”

Under Virginia law, it’s a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way it could endanger a child under the age of 14. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.

Then there was the lack of concern and action at the school.  According to the family, the child suffers from “acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.” Yet on this day, the mother dropped the child off and did not attend with him, yet the school took no action. The child had a history of random violence, including attacking students and teachers alike.

The school administration was warned three different times by teachers and staff members over several hours starting at 11:15 am that day the child may have a weapon at school but failed to take it seriously. His backpack was searched once, but no firearm was found. Neither security nor law enforcement were contacted. One administrator said to “wait the situation out because the school day was almost over”. The incident was downplayed by the school administration as the boy had “little pockets”. 

Since the incident, two administrators have been terminated and the teacher who was shot has filed a lawsuit against the school, the administrators, and the school board. The response from the school to the lawsuit? While acknowledging the teacher was “clearly injured while at work, at her place of employment, by a student in the classroom,” it should be covered by worker compensation instead of a lawsuit. The board rejected the teacher’s claim she could reasonably expect to work with young children who pose no danger, pointing to numerous incidents of violence against teachers across the U.S. and in Newport News.

A good friend of mine asked how many jobs do you know where there is a reasonable likelihood of being shot as part of the job AND you are not allowed to carry a firearm for self-defense? 

The clear negligence of the parent’s firearm storage and the school’s lack of response aside, there is a question of parenting. This 6-year-old child did not have a random, violent temper tantrum, this was a premeditated attack. The child knew his mother was not going to be attending school that day, was able to access and enable the “properly secured” firearm, hide it while the mother drove him to school, during the first part of the day, then without provocation, aim and shoot his teacher. 

Was the child never taught the difference between right and wrong? 
Why did the child feel it was okay for him to steal a firearm from the parent?
Who taught the child that shooting another human being was acceptable?
Where did the child learn this was an acceptable response to a disagreement with their teacher?

I’ve known lots of six-year-old kids in my life (including my own), most with firearms in the home. NONE of them would ever have considered a) touching a firearm without permission or b) using it in an act of violence. The difference is being an actual parent. There are FREE programs available for children of different ages to help parents talk to their children about firearms and safety, you must only care enough to ask. 

This incident wasn’t a gun-control failure, it was a parenting failure, clear and simple. Someone taught this child about this level of violence. Someone taught that child it was acceptable to shoot someone if you felt had wronged you. The child acted the way they were taught. 

Personally, I don’t think the mother can get enough time in prison. I just hope the child winds up with someone who can undo the damage. 


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