Richneck Elementary School Shooting


Tyler Baker, Copy Editor

On Jan. 6, in Newport News, Virginia, a first grader at Richneck Elementary shot his teacher with a handgun. After an altercation in the classroom, the 6-year-old boy drew the weapon on his teacher purposefully and shot once. 


Abby Zwerner, the teacher shot in this altercation, was left in critical condition. Shot through the hand and into the chest, she reportedly evacuated her classroom to safety before going to the school’s administrative office and receiving first aid.” Despite her injuries, the 25-year-old first grade teacher is in stable condition but remains hospitalized in Newport News.


The shooting left the students, community, and country shaken and disturbed – many with one question: How did a 6-year-old obtain a gun?


According to the BBC, the school superintendent did not clarify whether the boy hid the weapon,” but the boy used the weapon, a 6 millimeter handgun, that had been purchased legally and registered under his mother’s name. At this time, the police have yet to release whether the weapon was locked up. Under Virginia law, it is “ unlawful for any person 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 14.” Although this law exists, in Virginia, gun laws are relatively loose in comparison to other states.


With families and the community stunned, the unusual situation of the assault leaves the possibility of legal action up in the air. While it is possible that the child could be criminally charged, legal scrutiny could also fall on the child’s parents or another adult. Currently, it’s unknown what legal proceedings are set to take place after this altercation, if any. 


Recently, on Jan. 17, the Newport News school board held a meeting in which the tragedy was discussed. Many parents and community members voiced their outrage, with most insisting Richneck Elementary take steps to heighten security on their campus. Richneck will be outfitted with a metal detector, district officials announced last week. Despite this, many parents think this measure, along with the hiring of guards and discussion of requiring clear backpacks, is not enough. 


Moving forward, the community and families involved with Richneck county continue to demand action for the safety of students. This tragedy has left many students traumatized and the country grappling with grief and despair as well as concern for the safety of their children.