Richneck Elementary serves more than 550 students; more than half of them are Black and Hispanic, and about a quarter are white. It listed a security officer on its website.
Several experts pointed to counseling and mental health support as a better investment for schools, and said officials must also look outside of schools to prevent violence.
Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University who has studied school violence, pointed to research that found that children under 10 were as likely as older children to know where guns were stored in the home. Another study found that 70 percent of 5- to 6-year olds, and 90 percent of 7- to 8-year-olds had enough finger strength to pull the trigger.
“The children know where the guns are and how they are stored,” he said.
There were still many unknowns in the Virginia case, including how exactly the gun had gotten into the hands of the child, or how it had been stored.
Dan Semenza, the director of interpersonal violence research at the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University, said that the safest way to prevent children from using guns “is to not have a firearm in the home of a child.”
Still, he said, there were ways to limit access even with guns in the home. “You are talking about a gun locker or a gun safe, where the firearm is separate from the ammunition,” he said. “Even more safe would be having some kind of lock that is biometric,” he added, so that only a particular individual could access it, similar to using face or finger technology to log into a cellphone.
One effective, trusted place to provide education on these safety measures are pediatricians’ offices, which nearly all families visit, he said. “If the pediatrician feels comfortable asking: ‘Do you have a firearm in the house? Do you have access to a safe storage mechanism?’” he said, adding, “It’s more preventative.”