Virginia prosecutors have largely decided it would be too “problematic” to criminally charge the Virginia first-grader who blasted his teacher in front of his classmates earlier this year — but have yet to decide whether they will hold his parents criminally liable.

There is likely no legal basis to charge the 6-year-old because he wouldn’t have the competency to understand the legal system or the magnitude of the charges, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News.

The “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic,” the city prosecutor said.

The boy’s parents, however, could find themselves facing charges if the evidence proves the 9mm handgun was not secured when their son brought it to Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6 and fired on 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner.

One Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to a child under 14, a misdemeanor crime punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence and a $2,500 fine.

The parents — who have not been legally charged — have maintained that the legally purchased weapon was secured on a top shelf in the mother’s closet and had a trigger lock.

Abby Zwerner was shot by her student while she sat at her classroom’s reading table.

It is not clear how the boy was able to grab the firearm, hide it in his backpack and shoot Zwerner as she sat at a reading table.

In a similar Virginia case that occurred just a month after the Newport News shooting, a Norfolk mother was slapped with several charges just one day after her 6-year-old brought her handgun into class — an incident that left no injuries.

“In our case, the police decided to turn the file over to us to make a decision,” Gwynn said. “And we have to make our decision based on our ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a crime occurred.”

Students return to Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Va., on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.
The 6-year-old Richneck Elementary student would likely not face criminal charges because he wouldn’t have the understanding of the legal system, officials said.

“Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible. Once we analyze all the facts, we will charge any person or persons that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt committed a crime.”

If charges are made in the case, it would either be through a grand jury or in consultation with police, Gwynn said.

Zwerner survived the shooting and is now pursuing legal action against the school district for not taking her concerns about the student seriously enough in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Va., on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.
The boy’s parents could face charges if officials can prove the gun was unsecured and easily accessible.

The 25-year-old teacher claims the student has a history of behavioral issues that was repeatedly reported to administrators.

Just two days before the shooting, the boy had an angry interaction with Zwerner in which he “slammed” down her cellphone and broke it.

He was given a one-day suspension — but returned to class the following day with his mother’s handgun.

The young shooter was moved to another class in another school in the district, officials said.

Katherine Donlevy

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