Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (learning to shoot an Uzi)

This is back to school week for a lot of kids, and in some schools, students will be asked to report on how they spent their summer vacation.

For one nine-year old from New Jersey, it won’t be a very easy question to answer, thanks to parents who thought it was a cute idea to let their daughter have the experience of shooting off an Uzi – now isn’t that every little girl’s dream? – and a gun range instructor who screwed up and ended up dead.

If any one has missed this story, which would be difficult to believe, a family vacationing in Las Vegas decided to take a side-trip to an Arizona “tourist attraction, where the little girl, in her pink shorts, sneakers, and ponytail, lost control of the Uzi she was firing and killed the shooting instructor. We know, of course, that the little girl was wearing pink shorts, etc., because her parents were shooting (sorry, that really was unintentional) a cellphone video of the incident, which has been shown all over the place – just up to the point where an actual bullet went into instructor Charles Vacca’s head, killing him.

The “tourist attraction”:

The Bullets and Burgers Adventure is a private outdoor range set in a stunning outdoor desert landscape. We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique 'Desert Storm' atmosphere and military style bunkers. (Source: Bullets and Burgers)

“Desert Storm atmosphere and military style bunkers?” Doesn’t that just scream family fun.

And we used to think that the height of adventure was a day spent at Nantasket Beach, where the only danger was that you might pull your fillings out on the LeHage’s ‘Oh, so good’ salt water taffy, or an outing to Sturbridge Village, where, if you were lucky, the re-enactor in ye olde blacksmith shop  would give you a nail he’d just forged.

But these days people need their excitement to be a bit more exciting.

Had the best day of my life shooting machine guns and had the best burger ever. Thanks for the awesome experience!

Gosh, with reviews like that, who wouldn’t want to take a day off from staring at the Bellagio fountains and trying to convince yourself that Las Vegas is actually a fine place to take the family.

There is nothing illegal about a girl handling an Uzi. In Arizona, there are no age limits for firing guns, and while federal law prohibits people under 18 from possessing a handgun, there are exceptions for shooting ranges, said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a legal nonprofit that works to strengthen gun laws. (source: New York Times)

Of course, just because something in illegal doesn’t make it sensible, prudent, necessary, wise.

I am by no means an anti-gun extremist.

Yes, I think we have too many in this country.

No, I have no desire to possess one.

Yes, I think that firearms should be registered, that there should be waiting (cooling off) periods before purchase, that there should be mental health and criminal past checks.

No, I don’t think they should be outlawed.

Yes, I think that the NRA is a lobbying group that works hand in shooting glove with the gun industry and has far less interest in responsible gun ownership than it does in revving up gun sales.

No, I can’t for the life of me see why anyone other than the military would need to have in their possession machine guns.

The bottom line for me is not for me.

But if you’re a hunter, hunt away. It’s not like I don’t eat meat or wear leather  boots.

If you want to keep one in the drawer next to your bed so you can blow that intruder away, have at it. Me, I think that you’re far more likely to shoot a wandering family member, your daughter’s sneaking-out boyfriend, or the family dog than you are to take down an armed intruder, but if happiness for you is a gun, warm or otherwise…

And I appreciate that there are plenty of people whose hobby is marksmanship. This actually sounds mildly interesting to me, but it’s not as if there’s a gun range in downtown Boston I could go to. Plus I already have blogging and sudoku.

But on what planet does it make sense to put an Uzi in the hands of a nine-year old?

Unless she’s going to join the Israeli Army some day, why would she need to know how to operate one? What’s the purpose of giving her this experience?

Burgers and Bullets/Last Stop owner Sam Scaramardo had this to say:

“It is pretty standard in the industry to let children shoot on the range,” Mr. Scarmardo said in an interview. “We are working with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, and we’ll make a decision if we’ll make any changes after we review all the facts.”

Mr. Scarmardo said that the girl’s parents “were very familiar with weapons” and that Mr. Vacca and a tour guide had driven the family to the shooting range from their hotel in Las Vegas.

A family from New Jersey “very familiar with weapons”? Hmmmm. Sounds like the Sopranos, only I can’t see Tony and Carmen encouraging Meadow to arm up. Tony wanted Meadow out of the family biz, not in it.

An Uzi…

Some shooting range owners keep them out of the hands of kids, considering them too volatile, with a “recoil tricky to handle even for adults.” Good for the raid on Entebbe, maybe, when in the hands of skilled commandos. A bit sketchier for a nine-year old in pink shorts.

“We allow children to shoot, but not a fully automatic Uzi,” said Genghis Cohen, owner of an indoor shooting range, Machine Guns Vegas. He called the shooting on Monday tragic, but added, “It was completely and utterly avoidable.”

“It was just a result of a lapse of attention,” Mr. Cohen said, “but I would never let a girl of that size shoot a fully automatic gun of that size — never.”

So, entirely avoidable on two fronts: a) the instructor goofed up, fatally so; and b) a ‘girl of that size” shouldn’t be allowed to shoot off an Uzi.

A few years back, a child of just about this age killed himself at a gun range in Massachusetts when the Uzi he was firing recoiled.

Well, better a dead adult than a dead kid, but how utterly tragic both situations are.

This isn’t about gun control.

It’s about a warped culture, so inured to violent movies and video games, where dead isn’t really dead, that we lose all sense of just what a weapon on non-mass destruction can do to someone.

It’s about the pro-gunners so bent on establishing the primacy of guns that they promote pink Hello Kitty rifles, and other idiotic marketing gimmicks, that blur the distinction between gun and toy.

But mostly it’s about common sense.

And common sense suggests – make that dictates – that really little kids should be allowed to play with automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, we’ve got four kids in Arizona who are spending the last day of their summer vacation burying their father. And a little girl in New Jersey who’ll have this entirely avoidable monkey on her back for the rest of her life.

God help us.

No comments: