The 6-year-old who intentionally shot his teacher in Newport News, Virginia earlier this year will not face any criminal charges, the city prosecutor said. However the office is still looking into whether to charge any adults in the case.
The prosecutor told NBC that charging a 6-year-old would be “problematic” since the child would not be competent to understand the legal system.
The news that a first grader could commit such an act made international headlines when the shooting occurred in January, but guns found in U.S. elementary schools are not as rare as one might think.
Since 2019 there have been 181 incidents of children between the ages of 0-11 bringing a gun to school that did not result in death or injury, according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive analyzed by CGTN America.
During the same time period, an additional 56 elementary school incidents involving a school shooting were reported, including 30 children killed and wounded by a mass shooter in Uvalde, Texas in 2022.
Three months into 2023, 21 non-injury gun incidents were reported in elementary schools – including at least three involving 6-year-olds, and 1 involving a 5-year-old.
The Gun Violence Archive examines thousands of sources from police, media, and government and verifies each to compile its database. The incidents include descriptions such as:
“Gun found in student’s bag.” (Age 5)
“gun, ammo clip found at school” (Age 11)
“1 gun involved” (kindergartner had a gun in backpack)
“Child brought (loaded) gun to school in backpack.” (Fourth grade)
As students get older, the number of incidents only increase. Since 2019, there have been 335 school shooting incidents involving children ages 12-17 and 1,823 non-injury incidents involving older students bringing a gun to school.
A 2018 survey of 1,444 gun owners in the United States found that 54 percent do not safety store all their guns, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found.
While federal law requires gun makers, importers, and dealers make gun locks available at sale, there’s no requirement that people use them.
Democratic lawmakers have continuously introduced bills in Congress requiring gun owners to store guns safely, but Republicans have blocked attempts at such legislation.
Currently only 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have some kind of law on child access prevention to guns and the safe storage of firearms, but that number is expected to grow.
The New Mexico legislature on Thursday, March 9, approved a bill that would criminalize negligent storage of a firearm and allowing a child to misuse the weapon. It now heads to Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for approval.
Minnesota and Michigan, two states that flipped Democratic in the last election, could also be set to join the list of states with gun storage laws.
The states have each fast tracked bills that would strengthen gun safety – including storage requirements — which could become law within weeks, the Washington Post reported.