If 9-year-old children aren’t old enough to drive, drink alcohol, vote, marry or hold a job, where’s the logic in allowing them to fire an Uzi submachine gun?
There isn’t any.
By now, the video of Monday’s terrible accident in Arizona has made the rounds on cable news and the Internet. It shows a young girl in pink shorts being taught how to fire an Uzi by an instructor at a recreational shooting range. After firing a single round, the girl prepares to fire again — after the instructor flips the control that changes the Uzi to automatic fire.
That’s where the video stops. The Mohave County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released the rest of the video that purportedly shows the girl losing control of the recoiling Uzi and accidentally killing her instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca.
The instructor “just dropped” when he was shot, Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe told The New York Times.
One fatal accident doesn’t warrant sweeping changes in America’s gun laws. But the details of this one are brutal: a child, a questionable policy of allowing a 9-year-old to fire an automatic weapon, and a death — all caught on video.
Today, America is gun-crazy. It’s amazing to watch. Gun-rights advocates, aided by the National Rifle Association’s political might, constantly tussle with gun-control advocates, who want swift legislative change. Across the nation, gun sales have surged as Americans have bought into the laughable notion that President Obama will try to confiscate their guns or limit the lawful sales of weapons traditionally used for hunting and sport. And the names of places forever altered by gun violence — Columbine, Newtown, Tucson, Aurora — are cemented in our lexicon like far-flung battlefields in Europe.
On this, America’s needs remain unfulfilled. At stake isn’t lawful gun ownership; that’s protected. Instead, it’s the overwhelming need for smart ownership laws that close gun-show loopholes and prevent legal gun purchases and the accumulation of hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds of ammunition by those who shouldn’t have them due to mental-health reasons. Likewise, common-sense discussions about the legality of selling or owning rapid-fire weapons designed for the military and law enforcement must take place.
None of that changes two realities: (1.) Strengthened legislation won’t stop black-market sales or confiscate guns from bad guys; and (2.) nothing will return the lives of the 9-year-old girl or the instructor to their previous states. Death is permanent. And gut-wrenching it is to think of a child living the rest of her life with the memory from a fateful day in Arizona.
We consider this terrible accident yet another sign that America’s gun culture must change, this love affair with weapons. Guns aren’t toys. At least 45 children have died this year in accidental shootings from guns found in their homes, according to The Times. Forty-five children in eight months. And now this in Arizona. We want to believe that down deep, underneath the bluster, we as a nation are better than this.