On Monday, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who fatally shot his teacher in Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court to violating U.S. law by possessing marijuana as well as a firearm. As more and more states legalize the substance, federal authorities are paying more attention to the crime.
However, Virginia federal prosecutors argued on Monday that these kinds of regulations are necessary to keep people safe. When Deja Taylor acquired the gun her son used to kill Abby Zwerner in her Newport News classroom, she is suspected of lying about her pot usage on the background check form.
The first-grade teacher was severely hurt and has undergone a number of operations. A plea bargain between Taylor’s lawyers and the prosecution settled on a sentence range of 18 to 24 months in jail. The sentencing date has been set for October 18.
Gene Rossi, the attorney representing the victims, called the incident “a perfect storm of horrible consequences” in which a “brave courageous teacher almost lost her life.” “Miss Taylor’s role in this tragedy is a complete accident and a complete mistake,” he said.
The below tweet verifies the news:
Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher pleads guilty to using marijuana while having a firearm https://t.co/UcpZm9AH3N
— FOX 5 DC (@fox5dc) June 13, 2023
“She takes full responsibility for her son’s actions and will feel guilt for the rest of her life.” Taylor is facing criminal child neglect and reckless storage of a firearm charges at the state level in addition to the federal prosecution. In August, the trial will begin on those charges.
Both incidents can be traced back to the January shooting that rocked Newport News, Virginia, a city on the Atlantic coast. Taylor, 25 years old, is facing what appear to be uncommon federal accusations. Furthermore, this case arises at a time when recreational marijuana use is legal in numerous places across the United places.
In the United States, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug. It is illegal to possess a firearm in the United States under federal law if you have been convicted of a felony, committed to a mental institution, or are an unlawful user of a prohibited substance.
ATF officers examined Taylor’s house in the days after the 6-year-old shot his teacher and found marijuana, federal prosecutors said in a statement on Monday. When agents looked through Taylor’s mother’s belongings, they discovered 24.5 grams of marijuana.
“A search of Taylor’s phone revealed numerous text messages illustrating the pervasive scope of Taylor’s marijuana use,” prosecutors said. In 2021, when police stopped Taylor for speeding, they allegedly found “several marijuana edibles that looked like rice treats” next to her son.
Taylor said he had no idea there were narcotics in the car. In 2022, when Taylor was buying the 9mm handgun, she lied on a background check form and said she never used marijuana. Federal gun laws “exist to protect owners, their family members, and the communities in which they live,” U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber said in a statement released Monday.
“Failing to abide by those requirements … can have far-reaching consequences,” Aber said. The use of resources to aggressively pursue people who supply false information on background check forms has been the subject of debate in recent years.
According to a report published in 2018 by the United States Government Accountability Office, only “a small percentage of individuals” who falsify information on a form and are subsequently rejected a purchase face criminal prosecution.
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Pro-legalization group Marijuana Policy Project’s director of state policies, Karen O’Keefe, expressed worry about the racial makeup of individuals who face prosecution. According to O’Keefe, 56% of the approximately 7,500 people convicted of a crime in fiscal year 2021 were Black, a statistic he derived from data provided by the United States Sentencing Commission.
She did not provide a breakdown for drug-related convictions. “About 18% of Americans admitted to using cannabis in the last year and about 40% owned guns,” O’Keefe added. “And so there’s an enormous pool of people that are presumably breaking this law every day and face up to 15 years in prison if they were caught.”
Recent rulings by federal judges in Oklahoma and Texas have deemed the federal gun restriction on cannabis users to be unlawful. They reduced the mandate in some of those states.
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