Student’s React to Six-Year-Old Shooting Teacher


Joseph Abrahantes

On Jan. 6, 2023 a first grader brought his mother’s handgun to school and shot his teacher in the middle of instructions. This situation poses questions of who is at fault and what should be done.

Most six-year-olds are expected to do tasks like build small structures from Legos, begin learning the alphabet or even make sandcastles. Many would not expect a toddler to sneak a gun into a school and shoot their teacher in the middle of class. Nevertheless, this situation took place on Jan. 6, 2023, at Richneck Elementary school in Newport News, Va.

A six-year-old, whose name has yet to be released, took his mother’s legally purchased handgun and brought it to school the morning of the incident. During class instructions, the boy took out the weapon and fired one round at his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, striking her through the hand and into her chest. Zwerner’s immediate reaction was to bring the rest of her class to safety, instructing them to evacuate the room and head to the school’s gymnasium. She headed to the office to call for help and fell to the ground moments later.  

On Friday afternoon, the boy was taken into police custody, after the community’s Police Chief, Steve Drew, contacted their commonwealth attorney amongst other entities, in hopes of reaching the best decision for such a young child’s future. Ms. Zwerner has been reported in stable condition as of Saturday’s statement and the police will move forward with the investigation, providing services and support to the unidentified young boy.

The reactions and opinions of Coral Gables Senior High Cavaliers on controversies surrounding this incident varied, and many questions arose. Receiving answers from the student body, each and every opinion proved to be noteworthy in its own way.

I think considering he’s six-year-old, his actions are the responsibility of the parents.  So, I’m assuming it was a lower caliber gun. Regardless, the parents should be prosecuted, not the child, for allowing the child to have his gun. And if he knew how to use it, then the parents are obviously using it around him and teaching him how to use it. There is no way to prevent this. I mean, this is just a tragedy,

— Mr. Garcia

Across the country, incidents of youth violence and underage gun usage have impacted schools and their communities. Since 1970, the United States of America has suffered through 1,924 incidents involving the discharge of a firearm on school property, killing 637 people. In this case, a six year old was able to attain a loaded gun from within his own home. The question pertains: Who is at fault?

“The parents are definitely at fault here for allowing their kid to get the gun so easily. The kid should go to therapy, but again, he’s six, he doesn’t know guns. He didn’t know what he was doing, so ultimately the parents should face the consequences,” senior Audrey Simon said.

“I think it can be both actually; the parents are at blame, not for just having a weapon because it’s their right to have the weapon but having it so easily accessible for the child. I think the child can also be blamed  because he knew what he was doing, right? But, I guess, I hope he didn’t know the severity of using a gun. I also think the government can be to blame because they let somebody have access to that with children and not controlling their own weapon,” sophomore Nathalie Schwart said.

“I feel, obviously, it’s a human’s right to have something to protect themselves; it’s the Second Amendment. But it’s the fact that she had a gun, and she had a six-year-old child, who obviously had access to it. It wasn’t as protected as it should’ve been. Obviously, people should have protection, but I feel like people should be more careful about how they get guns,” freshman Yara Korse said.

Following the incident, many wonder whether or not educators or school staff should come to their work places armed. Gathering Cavaliers to answer this question, some were in support, while others disagreed, arguing that a gun should be safely kept at home.

“I think that teachers should never be armed in school. I think it’s important to have mutual trust in that environment. And although there are dangers, I feel like teachers could possibly cause some harm if they do have access to guns in school,” freshman Beatrice Stampino-Strain said.

“I think teachers should have guns in cases of emergency like this issue, even in first grade classes. Of course, only certain teachers, because of the dangers of using a gun, and there should be a long process to acquire one,” freshman Andres Amador said.

While communities still struggle to understand the situation and move forward, governments and leaders think about how to prevent another similar incident. This could mean safety measures inside and outside school or even when allowing licenses.

“I think there should be restriction on giving out guns, period. And then once people have them, they should have control about where they put them or like having a safe room for them. Just to make sure that they don’t get into the hands of people who don’t have them legally,” sophomore Nathalie Schwart said.

“I think when it comes to gun control a lot of times we try to mask it with saying things like ,’It’s our free will; it’s our right to arms.’ But ultimately, it’s more important that everyone is safe than our right to guns. Nobody would need a gun in the first place if you couldn’t get them that easily. The fact that a six year old was able to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher shows that we need to take more preemptive measures against that. It’s easier to get a gun at age 18 than it is to get your driver’s license at age 16, and I just think that’s insane,” junior Ava Cosgrove said.