9-Year-Old Accidentally Kills Gun Instructor – How Young Is Too Young to Fire An Uzi Sub-Machine Gun?
I want to start this piece be saying that I am in no way a gun control advocate, nor am I an NRA member. I believe, support and will defend the 2nd Amendment 'til my final breath. Having said this, I do believe that there are certain people, certain groups of people that should be kept away from fire arms. I also believe that there are certain classifications of firearms that are not necessary and shouldn't be available for the general public.
This story combines those two exceptions in a deadly way.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was a routine Monday at Bullets and Burgers, a gun range within the Arizona Last Stop tourist recreational complex southeast of Las Vegas. At 10 a.m., as an instructor identified as 39-year-old Charles Vacca had welcomed two adults and a child to the complex. The child, a 9-year old girl had apparently been brought to the facility to learn how to fire a specific fire arm -- an Uzi sub-machine gun.
According to the Mohave Country (Arizona) Sheriff's department, the child's parents, who were on vacation visiting Arizona from New Jersey, had completed the "proper" paperwork for their daughter's training. They had signed waivers stating they understood the rules of the range, then stood by taking video of the girl.
What they didn't know, was that they were taking video of events that would change their daughter and Vacca's lives permanently.
Video taken by the parent shows Vacca teaching the girl how to hold and fire an Uzi sub-machine gun, a weapon that is capable of firing up to 16 rounds per second. He tells the girl in the video to "adjust her feet" and then "all right, go ahead and give me one shot." He then praises his young protege and is heard saying "All right...full auto."
Words that should have never been said and that Charles Vacca, age 39, will never be able to take back. As his student pulls the trigger, she is overcome by the recoil of the automatic weapon, loosing control. Vacca was accidentally shot in the head. He was flown by Medevac helicoptor to University Medical Center in Las vegas, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
"[I] really don't know what happened," said Sam Scarmado, range owner & operator at Bullets and Burgers. "I mean, our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they're shooting." Another video does show Vacca hovering over the student, with his hand on her back, standing aside the gun, ready to push it out of the way.
Scarmardo, a former Lake Havasu City (Arizona) Council member, was distraught about Vacca's death. "It's like losing a brother," Scarmardo said. "These aren't employees or associates of ours, these are family. We're all family."
Scarmado added that Arizona law permits ranges to allow children who are 8 years and older, with parental supervision, to shoot firearms. He also stated that the parents are required to sign waivers confirming that they understood the rules of the range and are always nearby during the sessions. "We instruct kids as young as 5 on .22 rifles, and they don't get to handle high firearms, but they're under the supervision of their parents and of our professional range masters," Scarmardo said.
Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe described a video taken of the accident as “ghastly.” His office released a short video of the girl taking her first few shots. He said the girl safely and successfully fired the 9 mm weapon several times when it was set in the “single-shot” mode.
Sheriff McCabe confirmed that the weapon was put into the “fully-automatic” mode before the girl fired again with the instructor standing off to her left. The weapon recoiled and drifted left as the girl squeezed off an undetermined number of rounds as she maintained possession but lost control of the Uzi as it raised up above her head.
McCabe said no citations will be issued and no charges will be filed as the shooting range is a licensed and legal operation.
The Bullets and Burgers website markets a unique shooting experience for customers, stating, “Our guests have the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons,” the website states. “At our range, you can shoot FULL auto on our machine guns.
It closes with the phrase, “Let ‘em Rip!”
Probably a poor choice of phrases at this point.
There is no requirement in Arizona for gun range employees to be certified as firearms instructors. The National Rifle Association have stated that Charles Vacca was not an NRA certified instructor.