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Girl's uzi shooting range instructor: 'Uzi too much for her,' sparks gun debate

A girl's fatal shooting of a gun range instructor with an uzi is touching off debate this week over the girl's use of the powerful weapon. A sheriff’s report said a 9-year-old girl stated that the uzi she was shooting was “too much for her,” something many are saying the parents and shooting instructor of the young girl should have known. Investigators in Arizona looking into the accidental shooting death of the gun range instructor say the girl lost control of the Uzi sub-machine gun, shooting and killing instructor Charles Vacca at the Last Stop range in White Hills, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas.

Uzi
Wikimedia Commons

According to The Associated Press, the girl, whose name was not released, visited the gun range on Aug. 25 along with her parents, Alex Gen and Alison MacLachlan, and two other siblings. Police reports showed that after the uzi recoiled, the girl ran over to her parents because she had hurt her shoulder, telling her mom that the weapon was too much for her to handle.

Seconds later, they realized that Vacca had dropped to the ground – a single bullet hit him in the head. He died within hours after being flown to a Los Angeles hospital.

Writes the AP report:

The shooting set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun. However, neither the reports nor the statement by [the family’s New Jersey-based lawyer Kevin] Walsh explains why the parents let the girl take the Uzi.

Cell phone video taken by the girl’s parents, seen above, shows Vacca assisting the girl with her stance. The girl has the uzi's stock tucked into her arm. Vacca, using his hand to keep her posture correct, allows her to squeeze off one shot. He then switches the gun to full auto, which shoots 600 rounds per minute, and the uzi wretches up and to the left, hitting the 39-year-old instructor in the head. The video cuts out at just before Vacca is hit.

“All right, go ahead and give me one shot,” Vacca first tells the girl, congratulating her after she fires a round at the target. “All right full auto,” he then says.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office said no charges will be filed in the incident, though Arizona's workplace safety agency is currently investigating.

The AP reports cites county prosecutors as placing the blame on the instructor, who “was probably the most criminally negligent person involved in the accident for having allowed the child to hold the gun without enough training. They also said the parents and child weren't criminally culpable,” writes the AP.

Sam Scarmardo, the range's operator, has said the parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules. He also said he never had a safety problem before at the range and his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and an instructor's watchful eye is standard industry practice, though he noted his policies are under review. -- The Associated Press

Vacca’s family stepped forward and called the shooting “a tragic accident” in an interview with the “Today” show, reaching out to the girl’s family with sympathy and ensuring them that they place no blame on the 9-year-old’s actions. “We don’t want their life to revolve around this,” Vacca’s daughter Ashley said in the interview.

An article carried by the Washington Post says the uzi death at the hands of a 9-year-old reopens debate about children and guns. USA Today said the same: "News of Vacca's death sparked a national discussion on gun safety and whether there are ever enough safety precautions in place when an automatic weapon is in the hands of a child."

Writes the Post:

The incident, captured in part on a grainy video released by police, drew immediate rebukes from gun-control advocates, who said it highlighted the dangers of children having access to firearms. In a rare moment of agreement, some gun rights advocates also took the incident as a warning that perhaps such young children should not be allowed to handle such a notoriously difficult and deadly weapon. But the pro-gun advocates added that, when done safely, there are benefits to teaching even very young children to shoot certain guns.

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