It was the kind of story that was hard to miss yesterday. A 9-year-old girl, on vacation with her family, was given an Uzi to fire at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Ariz. When the child couldn’t control the submachine gun’s recoil, she accidentally killed her instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca.
It’s generating some overdue conversation.
In the aftermath of the tragic death of a gun-range instructor killed by a 9-year-old girl who wasn’t able to control an Uzi 9mm submachine gun, many are raising questions about whether it is safe – or even legal – for young children to handle powerful firearms.Arizona, where the incident happened on Monday, is one of 21 states that has no laws restricting the access of guns to minors under 18, as long as there is adult supervision.Twenty-nine states have child access prevention laws. Fourteen prohibit someone from “intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly providing some or all firearms to children,” according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Arizona Republic’s E.J. Montini ran a compelling piece with a notable headline: “Why do we allow a child to handle an Uzi?”
The columnist wrote, “Arizona law allows a minor to possess a weapon if accompanied by a parent, guardian or an instructor. But this type of weapon? It’s time we asked ourselves: Why would a shooting range allow a kid to handle an automatic weapon? Why would a parent? And, most importantly, why would a state?”
A New York Times report added that these ranges have become popular tourist attractions. People can “fire the weapons of their dreams: automatic machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers. A hamburger lunch is included; a helicopter tour of the nearby Grand Canyon is optional.”
And while the public comes to terms with the propriety of these activities, we might also want to ask a related question: who’s in charge of the NRA’s social-media operation?
Yesterday afternoon, with much of the country stunned by the images out of Arizona, an official NRA twitter feed published a link to “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range.” This isn’t a joke. In fact, I took a screen grab of the message.
It’s worth noting that the gun group eventually unpublished the tweet, but not before many wondered aloud what in the world the NRA could have been thinking.
MSNBC’s Nick Ramsey added yesterday, “ ‘Think before tweeting’ is advice everyone on social media can use, but particularly those behind the Twitter handle @NRAWomen.”
Truer words were never spoken.