After Virginia Teacher Is Shot, Many Questions and a Murky Legal Path

Among them: How did a 6-year-old child obtain access to a gun? The authorities have not publicly identified the child or the teacher, detailed the nature of the altercation or offered information about whether the gun was taken from home, school or elsewhere.

The boy was in police custody Friday evening, the authorities said, but the unusual nature of the situation leaves the path forward far from clear. While it is possible that the child could be criminally charged, legal scrutiny could also fall on the child’s parents or another adult. Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to children under the age of 14.

On Saturday, some families were left in a stunned grief.

“It’s scary,” said Ramon Gonzalez-Hernandez, who said his son was in the classroom where the teacher was shot.

“I’m just here trying to keep my son occupied so he’s not thinking about everything,” Mr. Gonzalez-Hernandez added, speaking briefly from his porch. He said he was waiting to hear from detectives to set up counseling sessions and was considering whether to home-school his son.

Tucked on a quiet street where parents and children can often be seen walking in the neighborhood, Richneck Elementary serves a diverse student body of more than 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Newport News, a city of about 185,000 in southeast Virginia, is home to a large military community and is known for its shipyard, which builds aircraft carriers and other vessels for the U.S. Navy.

Daniel Smith, 51, who lives near the elementary school, said he was surprised by the shooting because the surrounding neighborhood is generally safe. “We’re a quiet neighborhood,” he said. “Nobody bothers anybody and they look out for each other.”

The shooting renewed calls from teachers’ unions and gun control groups for tougher laws to keep guns out of schools, including laws requiring safe storage. “When will the shock of gunshots in school be enough to inspire the action necessary to prevent guns in schools and the shattering of lives it causes?” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.


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