Virginia School Shooting Legal Questions

You may recall this school shooting from January. A teacher was shot by a 6-year old student who brought his mother’s firearm to school. The 6-year old was not charged in the case, as most states have legal precedent or statutes that exempt children (usually under age 10) from criminal prosecution.

Before the shooting, multiple staff members, including the teacher who was shot, told school administrators about the 6-year-old student’s conduct and raised concerns that he may have a weapon on him.

The student’s mother was charged with making a false statement while buying a gun and of using marijuana while in possession of a handgun (a search of her apartment found marijuana), child neglect, and one misdemeanor charge of allowing access to firearms by children. The shooter’s parents claimed that the shooter suffered from ADHD and had started medication, and that the shooting followed an incident where the shooter broke his teacher’s cell phone.

The teacher is suing the school district for $40 million for its negligence. The school district claims that she can either proceed with her civil suit or choose to accept workmen’s compensation as damages if the shooting is deemed to have occurred as part of the teacher’s work as a teacher. The school district’s motion to dismiss the teacher’s lawsuit was dismissed last week.

For me, this raises several legal questions:

  1. Should parents be liable (both criminally and civilly) when/if their children take their unsecured or inadequately secured firearms?

  2. Should employees injured in a workplace shooting be allowed to sue their employer for negligence or must they be limited to workmen’s compensation? Think of this in the context of videos you’ve seen of store robbery attempts that involve store employees.

  3. Should children as young as 6 be imprisoned for the crimes they commit? If not, what should be the cut-off age for criminal culpability? There have been recent posts about 12 year olds involved in car jackings. Should 12 year olds go to jail?

  4. Should firearms liability insurance – like USCCA – cover parents for criminal charges and civil liability when/if their child takes an unsecured firearm? Consider the case of Kyle Rittenhouse’s parents liability or any other minor in possession of a “family” owned firearm.

Judge rules Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old can move forward with $40M lawsuit | The Hill

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I’m not a lawyer but if I were a juror and the above questions were asked,

  1. Yes, to promote responsible gun ownership
  2. Yes, in the case of gun-free zone workplaces
  3. No
  4. No, USCCA only covers lawful self-defense

I’m going to have to go a different route on number 3. No prison, mandatory military service. Minimum 2 years.
They want to fight, let them fight the enemy!
With the correct DISCIPLINE any child can be changed.

  1. Really problematic to write down and have it make sense in application. Define “adequately secured” (or define “inadequately secured”). What do those terms mean? Be specific and write it the way you’d like the law to be written, and then we can evaluate this possibility better.

  2. Too general to answer. Generally no, it’s not the employer’s fault or liability that some random criminal committed a crime.

  3. 6? Not a chance in hell. I think we should have a hard cutoff on adult. Adult is adult, not is not. One age. So, 18. I know we sometimes prosecute under 18 as adults but I want a really, really high threshold to potentially put minors into adult prison. What age to face “culpability” even if it’s not regular prison? IDK. Perhaps this needs to be decided by a jury on a case by case basis

  4. USCCA membership is not firearms liability insurance…I don’t know if any competitors are either. These things tend to be about acts of self defense…not offering liability in case your kid does something with your firearm…very different thing.


Well, if the mother didn’t lie on the 4473, she wouldn’t have a gun, and the 6 year old wouldn’t of shot the teacher.


Thanks for a thoughtful response.

What’s “adequate” or “inadequately secured” will often be defined by a trier of fact (judge or jury), just as they define “reasonable.” Some states have enacted laws that require locked storage of firearms, and that’s also why new guns come with the cable locks that everyone throws unused in a drawer. In a trial, I suspect what’s adequate would turn on whether the firearm in question was locked up. Obviously, the firearm the 6-year-old obtained was probably not locked up with anything a 6-year-old could not defeat.

I used to store my firearms in a closet (all loaded) with a handgun in the night stand. No kids in my house, so I thought no risk of guns being taken and used in some juvenile escapades. But, my wife had a client with two young boys who wandered the house when she met with the client discussing custody and adoption matters. That made me nervous, so now all my firearms are locked a safe.

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  1. Not just yes, but heck yes.
  2. It depends. Here the school allegedly knew of a weapon present, still allowed the teacher into a dangerous environment. The school had an obligation to act, but neglected to. Allegedly.
  3. No, it would be a prophanation of legal process. On the other hand the 13 yo made multiple steps, in conjunction, with a clear criminal intent, and able to stop before each step. He knew what he was doing and should be brought to justice according to his intent, outcome, and effort - not his age.
  4. Same as any other charge, unless found guilty in court, the insurance is on hook, per their contract. Imagine eg, a home invader who breaks in, to find an 11yo armed with parents’ pistol (it did happen), who gets shot, and then sues the family.
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It’s not like that, though…the child of a parent (when parent is a USCCA member) is an additional insured for covered acts of self defense while in the home/at the residence premises.

No such situation exists for the child while at the school/etc

So, maybe perhaps interestingly, there is a covered legal liability aspect to the addition benefit of USCCA membership. A stolen safeguarded firearm…might be worth reading the policy for that language to get some insight on what might maybe could potentially be something. But leaving it unsecured would not seem to be possible there…

Thats what I meant, though my contrived example involved a defensive scenario. Here we have

  • a stolen firearm (whether poorly or well guarded
  • used by a minor child malicously
  • suppose the mother gets sued for damages.

What are the components of the complaint. and which aspect the insurer may have to cover

  • defending quality of parenting?
  • defending weapon storage safeguards?
  • parent being responsible for own child’s actions?

I dont know!

The insurer would not have to pay out, due to the fact it was illegal for her to have the firearm in the first place.

A homeowner’s general liability policy might also come into play when a child takes a family firearm and injures someone. It would obviously depend on the language of the contract. Glad I don’t have kids in my house.

The school takes the position that: (1) the injury was not due to the teacher’s acts as a teacher (e.g., falling down in a classroom), but was the result of criminal activity, therefore the school is not liable for damages; (2) if the injury was caused by the teacher in the workplace doing teaching duties, the teacher can either receive a workman’s compensation payout (without having to prove the school was liable) or choose to sue the school and prove liability. It’s a twisted legal argument, but I suspect it arises in any case where an employee is injured by a criminal. And, consider that the school district is government entity, so it has a virtually unlimited source of legal funds available to it – taxpayer dollars.