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School Official Searched 6-Year-Old Before Teacher's Shooting and Missed the Pistol - But There's One Problem That Nobody's Addressing

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On Jan. 6, first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner was shot and critically wounded by a 6-year-old who brought a gun to class.

After the incident at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, administrators came clean with parents: Yes, there was an indication the young suspect may have had a weapon on him, but administrators only checked his backpack, according to WAVY-TV.

As it turns out, the gun was on his person — and hours later, he shot Zwerner.

The solution, administrators told Richneck parents at a virtual town hall last Thursday: clear backpacks for all students and metal detectors at schools.

In other words, they still don’t get it.

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First, the details about what happened that fateful morning, as per WAVY: “Superintendent Dr. George Parker revealed that there was a report that the boy might have had a weapon on him when he got to school Friday morning.

“His backpack was searched, but nothing was found. Two and a half hours later, police were storming the school after that boy shot his first-grade teacher.”

“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” Parker told parents.

“The book bag for the student was searched after it was reported that he potentially had a weapon. An administrator was notified.”

Do parents with firearms have a responsibility to ensure children don’t have access to them?

But don’t worry, Parker said — they’re taking proactive steps. First among them was contacting officials in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students were killed in an attack last year.

“After three school shootings in three years, Newport News Public Schools is changing the way the district handles security. Dr. Parker told parents he’s considering requiring clear plastic backpacks for Richneck students that would be purchased by the district,” WAVY reported.

“Richneck Elementary is also in the process of adding a separation wall and doors to the 2nd-grade hallway and will install permanent metal detectors. Dr. Parker also shared plans to reconstruct the school’s front entrance creating a working buzzer system and double entranceway, so staff can see who is trying to enter the building.”

It’s hard to make some of this up. Administrators apparently knew the child might have had a weapon. His backpack was searched. The weapon wasn’t found because it wasn’t in the backpack. So, one way officials may attempt to stop this from happening again? Clear backpacks.

Oh, but there will be more security measures — buzzers, metal detectors, double entranceways. Yet, if there was a proactive plan put forth to deal with the moral decay in which 6-year-olds know how to access a firearm, get it past administrators and shoot a teacher with it, it went unreported by WAVY or other outlets.

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And therein lies the problem. School security is a fine thing — I would also note that trained, armed guards and/or teachers also tend to be effective deterrents — but when kids who are barely at reading age are becoming school shooters, there’s a problem all the gun laws and target-hardening in the world won’t solve.

Instead, community leaders need to step up and promote responsible gun ownership — especially gun safety. We have the right to bear arms under the constitutions, but we also have the duty to ensure others — particularly children — don’t have unauthorized access to them. Period.

While we’re on the issue of responsibility, it’s time to ask parents to step up, too. This was no doubt a troubled young man, but at some level, this kind of malice in someone so young requires a profound moral vacuum at the familial level. Given the district apparently has an issue with shootings outside of this one, I’d imagine this young man isn’t the only one not receiving guidance and nurturing at home.

Evil finds its way around clear backpacks and double entranceways. It can’t be neutralized by buzzers and metal detectors. However, evil can be prevented by stopping it from entering the human heart in the first place. The answers are simple to list: responsibility, good parenting, faith, community, morals, standards, accountability.

While they may be simple to list, however, they’re difficult to put into practice. We’re a society that’s spent the last half-century scoffing at those values. And yet, we’re shocked when we reap the poisonous fruit from the tree we planted long ago. No metal detector, alas, will save us from the mephitic harvest we’re reaping — both in Newport News and the innumerable other communities suffering from their own unique tragedies.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture