We were deeply disturbed to learn of the death of firearms instructor Charles Vacca, who was killed Monday by a 9 year-old girl who accidentally shot him in the head with an Uzi at the shooting range Bullets and Burgers in White Hills, Arizona. Vacca was instructing the girl and had given her the weapon to fire on full-automatic.
Like the overwhelming number of gun-related tragedies that we experience in this country, this one was entirely preventable. No parent with a shred of common sense would have allowed a 9 year-old girl to handle and fire a fully automatic submachine gun, but sadly, Arizona has no law against it. It is also hard to imagine why this girl’s parents allowed her to be “instructed” by Vacca, when even a cursory search of information he made publicly available on the Internet would have revealed he had an unbelievably cavalier attitude toward firearms. Clearly, so did his employer, Bullets and Burgers, which urges customers to “skip the hardcore military training” and fire battlefield weapons with limited instruction. “No need for gun skills here,” they boast, “just fire at will and have a blast!!!”
It is staggering that this incident could happen six years after the death of 8 year-old Christopher Bizilj in Westfield, Massachusetts. Christopher’s parents also allowed him to fire a fully automatic Uzi, and he shot himself in the head with it. The pro-gun movement in this country has obviously learned nothing from that tragedy. Nor have parents who subject their children to tremendous risk by embracing a radical gun culture that seems to pride itself on recklessness. In the NRA’s America, responsibility is strictly optional, and never required.
There are certainly safe and proven methods to properly instruct children (of a certain age) in the use of firearms, but reasonable gun owners are being squelched by the NRA’s radical base, which brooks no dissent to their absolutist vision for America. That’s unfortunate, and the main reason why seven children and teens are lost to gunfire every day in this country.
We can be shocked by this incident, but no one should claim they are surprised. Until our elected officials prioritize protecting our children over seeking the largesse of conspiracy theorists like Wayne LaPierre and racists like Ted Nugent, tragedies like the one that occurred Monday will continue to be the norm.