F**k School Shootings. F**k Guns. F**k Rand Paul.
Virginia teacher Abigail Zwerner is the victim of a yet another school shooting, and the shooter was a six-year-old student at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. He pulled a handgun from his desk, pointed it at Zwerner, and fired a single bullet through her hand and into her chest. When she fell to the floor, her first response was to tell her first-grade students to run for their lives. This is America.
Zwerner was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries — her lung had collapsed — and although she survived the assault, her recovery is ongoing.
During an interview Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show, Zwerner said, “I remember him pointing the gun at me. I remember the look on his face. I remember the gun going off.” She added that she’ll “never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me.”
The look, she said, “changed me. It’s changed my life.” That doesn’t sound the look of a child who was playing around and didn’t realize guns aren't toys. It sounds horrifying.
PREVIOUSLY: Well-Regulated Six-Year-Old Shoots Virginia Schoolteacher
According to the Newport News Police Department, the shooting wasn't an accident. The boy took the gun that his mother had legally purchased but apparently ineptly stored, placed it in his backpack, and took it with him to school. Why he wanted to shoot Zwerner remains unclear. He's a child, so he won't be charged, but the Commonwealth attorney, Howard E. Gwynn, is reportedly considering whether others would face criminal charges. I'd start with the mother. Her lives saved to lives ruined by gun ratio is not great.
From the New York Times:
That morning, Ms. Zwerner said, “felt like just a regular school day, but I started hearing things, and things started happening that made my fear grow.”
“As the day went on,” she said, “it grew more. My fear grew more.”
There were warnings that the gun-slinging six-year-old was a potential threat. The school was warned three times that the kid had a gun but did nothing, which is unconventional and perhaps criminally negligent. In a "well, duh" response, the Newport News school board voted to terminate superintendent George Parker III's contract.
There’s no soft-selling this. Zwerner's in bad shape. As she told "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, she has good days and bad days, and the good days are when she can get out of bed for exhausting occupational therapy sessions. She’s 25. She’s younger than the Macarena, but she’s been permanently scarred, physically and emotionally. She’s endured multiple operations, and her left hand remains in a bandage.
If I could work my will, Sen. Rand Paul would watch this interview in its entirety. He recently tweeted a photo of himself with a young boy whose school had rightly sent him home for wearing a T-shirt decorated with hand guns and assault rifles, neither of which he is legally able to own.
AFTER A LETTER FROM THE BOY'S LAWYER IN MAY, we have decided to take down the picture and remove his name, despite the fact that we have the right to comment on what a United States senator publicly posted.
“Can you believe [a child named and pictured by US Sen. Rand Paul] was disciplined for wearing this shirt in Utah?“ Paul asked. It's unclear why this strains his credulity. Most school dress codes prohibit wearing attire that depicts weapons, drugs, alcohol, and sex.
No, Rand Paul should do more than watch the Abigail Zwerner interview. He should have to face her and see the impact of gun violence firsthand.
And if that young boy isn’t on a collision path with a school shooting, if he’s just the victim of a sick culture that glorifies guns, he should spend some time with Zwerner, who while bleeding on her classroom floor could think only about keeping her “babies safe.” Then perhaps he’d know what "real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."