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Should Police Say 'This Is Not Our Lane' In Case Of 6-Year-Old Shooter?

He was six, in his first-grade class in Newport News, Va. He pointed a handgun at his teacher, and then pulled the trigger. Across the nation, people weren't sure how to react. even in a nation of gun violence The story of a small boy with a gun is reverberating in a big way, reports the Associated Press. “It is almost impossible to wrap our minds around the fact that a six-year-old first-grader brought a loaded handgun to school and shot a teacher,” said Mayor Phillip Jones. “However, this is exactly what our community is grappling with today.” Jennifer Talarico, a psychology professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, believes the case is different in part because it violates society’s expectations for both school shootings and childhood itself. Americans are left struggling with a scenario that doesn’t fit into any bucket. As jarring as that may feel, there’s a danger in trying to force the incident into a familiar framework, says Marsha Levick, chief legal officer and co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center. She believes Americans have become “so stuck in a place of punishment” that they have lost the ability to have conversations outside those boundaries. By labeling the shooting with the loaded word “intentional,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew is inviting people to view it as a criminal act, Levick asserts.

Levick would like law enforcement to acknowledge that “this is not our lane,” as it did more than two decades ago in one of the few cases from the recent past that bears some resemblance to the Virginia shooting. When a six-year-old boy shot and killed a classmate in Michigan in 2000, Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney Arthur Busch didn’t go after the boy, but after those who provided access to the gun. Busch remembers visiting the boy at a group home and squeezing into a child-sized chair to chat. The boy proudly showed him pictures he had colored and his favorite toys. A smile revealed two missing front teeth, and they talked about the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. “He was excited because he knew he was going to get candy,” Busch said. “It was quite clear that he was not hatching any diabolical plots. He was just a typical little kid. He was a baby, pretty much.” Busch knew immediately he wouldn't bring charges. The Virginia case is sure to stir debate about gun control and school safety, but Moira O’Neill, who led New Hampshire’s Office of the Child Advocate for five years, says anyone feeling shaken by the incident can take a few simple steps. She says an abundance of research shows that the best way to support child development and promote resilience is to offer children a sense of belonging. In other words, it's important to take steps to value children in your own community.


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