Ana Veciana-Suarez: A 9-year-old with an Uzi? That’s crazy

08/28/2014 3:11 PM

09/01/2014 7:34 PM

There is nothing, absolutely nothing logical or sensible or worthwhile in having a 9-year-old learn to use an Uzi. No reason, none whatsoever, for a child to handle a fully automatic gun.

Powerful and deadly, the Uzi was designed to be fired by trained adult soldiers in war-like situations. It is not a .22 or some other sport gun that children can — and do — learn to shoot safely. So why, oh why, was a fourth-grader at a shooting range with an Uzi?

In case you missed it: Last week a girl from New Jersey on a family vacation accidentally killed her instructor with an Uzi at a gun range. Apparently the child was unable to deal with the gun’s recoil. And for good reason. This Uzi spits out 10 bullets a second, and the resulting kickback is hard enough for an adult to handle, let alone a little girl.

A cellphone video that her parents turned over to the sheriff’s department shows the girl, in pink shorts and braided ponytail, with her hands clutched around the grip of the submachine gun. After her first shot, the instructor congratulates her and shifts the gun to fully automatic mode. The child again pulls the trigger but cannot hold the gun straight and the Uzi rises and jerks to the left.

Charles Vacca, 39, a veteran at the Last Stop gun range in White Hills, Arizona, was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he died 11 hours later — another avoidable, senseless death due to our misdirected love affair with firearms.

I don’t own a gun and doubt I ever will. What’s more, I would never consider packing my children or grandchildren into the family van for an afternoon outing of target practice, but I know people who do. People who have taught their children the responsible way of handling a gun from an early age. One family friend, for example, has hunted with his son since the child was in elementary school. An excellent shot now, the teen has a healthy respect for the power of a bullet.

It isn’t uncommon for children to fire guns at ranges under adult supervision. And as proof that there’s a flavor for every taste, some ranges in gun-friendly states, including Arizona, have even carved out a lucrative machine-gun tourism business.

But putting an Uzi in the hands of a child? No way, no how. An automatic weapon isn’t a toy. It’s a killing machine.

In fact, last week’s accidental killing isn’t the first one involving a child and an Uzi. In 2008, Christopher Bizilj, 8, shot himself in the head at a gun fair in Massachusetts. The boy’s father was supporting his son from behind when the shooting happened.

What were the parents of these children thinking? Shouldn’t instructors have known better? Aren’t there age and size restrictions for users of such potent firearms?

Turns out we have regulations to limit driving, rules to curtail drinking, even elaborate signage at fairs that warn caregivers when carnival rides aren’t safe for children who don’t meet certain height requirements. Laws governing the use of automatic weapons by children, on the other hand, are few.

I believe, however, legislation can do only so much. Even with laws, even with a growing safety awareness that has led to a dramatic drop in unintentional gun-related fatalities among kids (according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation), there is no substitute for common sense. None whatsoever.

A 9-year-old with an Uzi? Crazy. Fatally crazy.

About Ana Veciana Suarez

Ana Veciana Suarez

@AnaVeciana

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes a column about family, women's and social issues. She is the author of Flight to Freedom and The Chin Kiss King.

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