Only by the favorable exactitudes of trajectory and ballistics was first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner not murdered in her classroom by a 6-year-old extracting a gun from his backpack — and maybe that’s why this particular news story got such poor traction in a media culture consumed by Prince Harry, Kevin McCarthy and the all-important re-jiggering of the NFL playoff format.
Nobody died at Richneck Elementary. It was the first school shooting of the year. If trends continue, we’ll get 50 or 60 more.
If there’s a red flag still flappable in all of this, it might be the psychological compromise we demand from America’s children to appease the craven political culture that contorts itself to the Second Amendment. Some days, many days, the saddest news story anywhere is that 6-year-olds go to school fearful of being shot so that someone’s desire to own an assault rifle shall not be infringed. Some days, many days, it’s hard to tell who the real 6-year-olds are.
“I was scared,” a fifth-grader told one of the cable channels in Newport News. “It was like my first lockdown and I didn’t know what to do, so I just hid under my desk like everybody else.”
That’s a terrible way to count your blessings. You made it to 10 before your first lockdown.
Ninety-five percent of public schools in America have some kind of active shooter drills, but the youngest kids, the most fragile, still aren’t going to know what to do when someone walks in with a legally purchased AR-15. The burden on those kids is preposterous, unconscionable.
The most sickening quote I’ve ever seen was something an elementary school kid told his parents about active shooter drills; he hates them because “the good hiding places are always taken first. There’s nothing to hide behind. He’ll be able to see me.”
In America, in 2022, gun violence surpassed car cashes as the No. 1 killer of young people. Schools, a supposed safe space, have been the stage for nearly 150 shootings since 2018.
A law professor who runs the Children’s Defense Clinic at the University of Richmond weighed in on the matter of what to do with the 6-year-old shooter. “Obviously this is a tragedy on every level,” she said. “As a 6-year-old, he just doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to even understand how to form the intent to commit a crime like this.”
No, he doesn’t. But a gun — yeah, that he’s got.
One day the sound an elementary school makes before you see it will be different, no longer pulsating with its total color and richness, not exactly full with its accustomed joy. There will be no mystery as to why.