Monday night, 39-year-old firing range instructor Charles Vacca died after being shot in the head at point blank range by an Uzi fired by his nine-year-old student. This is horrible on every possible level: for Vacca’s family, for the child, and for her parents who were elsewhere on site at the range. And it’s horrible for every single party involved in the utter lapse of judgment necessary for someone to have handed a submachine gun to an elementary schooler. Newflash: small kids plus giant guns does not equal firearm safety.
I know people who enjoy going shooting. I know people who own weapons for personal use. I’m pretty sure none of them would have anything flattering to say about putting an Uzi in the hands of someone who spends her time off the firing range reading Beezus and Ramona and playing with her Rainbow Loom. CNN asked the operator of the firing range about how, exactly, a child of this age came to be operating a weapon that was clearly too much for her to handle.
“Well, a nine-year-old gets an Uzi in her hand, when they’re within the criteria, [which] is eight years old … They’re under the supervision of their parents and our professional range masters.”
So even younger kids than this can be firing Uzis! How reassuring.
If you have both kids and guns, by all means, teach them about gun safety. And if you have kids but don’t have guns: teach them about gun safety! Kids should know that guns can be deadly. There are some damn good reasons for kids to understand that guns are to be treated as if they’re loaded at all times, that they should never be pointed at another person, and that they shouldn’t be touched without a parent to supervise. But gun safety stops somewhere short of putting a weapon with that kind of kickback in the hands of a kid that size.
To be honest, I don’t really like guns, but I understand that for some people, guns can be fun. However, there are a lot of “toys” that adults enjoy that we would freak out about if they were offered to kids. I drink beer (in fact, I’m thinking I might need a pint after reading this story), but I wouldn’t give a nine-year-old a can of Miller High Life. I like driving my car on the expressway, but I wouldn’t hand a nine-year-old the keys and tell her to floor it. Some things just aren’t safe for little people, and operating an Uzi, even under supervision, is definitely one of those things.
So, NRA: do you want people to take you seriously when you talk about your Second Amendment rights and what responsible gun owners you are? Then act like you give a damn about gun safety, and don’t let kids play with firepower that’s way beyond what they can handle.
(Image and video: Fox 10 Phoenix / YouTube)