Shooting by 6-year-old raises complex cultural questions

Americans are left struggling with a scenario that doesn't fit into any bucket.


National News

January 18, 2023 - 3:24 PM

Community members from around Newport News pack into the Newport News Public Schools Administration building on Jan. 17, 2023 during a public comment period. Community members from around Newport News spoke about issues and solutions to violence in schools following the shooting at Richneck Elementary by a six-year-old that left a teacher in critical condition.

He was 6, in his first-grade class in Newport News, Virginia. He pointed a handgun at his teacher, police say, and then he pulled the trigger. And across the nation, people … didn’t quite know how to react.

Even in a country where gun violence is sadly commonplace, the story of a small boy with a gun is reverberating in a big way. There has been finger-pointing. Confusion. Floundering for answers. Mass grappling with deeply uncomfortable feelings. And questions: How could something like this possibly happen? Where in the national consciousness do we put it?

“It is almost impossible to wrap our minds around the fact that a 6-year-old first-grader brought a loaded handgun to school and shot a teacher,” Mayor Phillip Jones said that day, Jan. 6. “However, this is exactly what our community is grappling with today.”

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