“Gun tourism”? How about gun idiocy with an Uzi?

Why would anyone think it was a good idea to teach a 9-year-old girl how to shoot an Uzi?

“Gun tourism” is apparently a growth industry to let those with itchy trigger fingers feel what it’s like to hold and operate a high-powered weapon. Dozens of such ranges, many in the Las Vegas area, have opened around the country in recent years, letting foreign and American tourists feel like Rambo.

In case you missed this story, a young girl was at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Ariz., when her instructor handed her an Uzi to shoot. He first fixed the setting so it would fire only single shots. But then instructor Charles Vacca, 39, altered the setting so it reverted to automatic — even though a 9-year-old girl obviously wouldn’t be able to handle the kickback. Vacca was standing next to the girl when she squeezed the trigger. The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and Vacca was shot in the head and later died.

The parents were recording the “lesson.” I doubt that’s one video they’ll show at Christmas.

The identity of the girl and her family has not been released, and police said no charges would be filed. Of course. You can’t charge someone with idiocy. Although imagine how that poor 9-year-old feels, knowing she took someone’s life because her parents wanted an Uzi video.

And in the case of “worst timing EVER,” two days after the incident, the National Rifle Association tweeted “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range.” Sure — have fun and shoot your instructor! The tweet was deleted an hour later; but the damage had been done — one more way that the NRA looked insensitive. And that’s putting it mildly.

According to an online story at Talking Points Memo, written with help from the Associated Press, these ranges give visitors from other countries a chance to experience “American culture.” What — apple pie, hot dogs, and country music aren’t enough?

“The businesses cast a lighthearted spin on their shooting experiences, staging weddings in their ranges and selling souvenir T-shirts full of bullet holes,” the story says. There’s a real souvenir from a bachelor party: “I went to Vegas and all I got was this holey T-shirt.”

The “training” at this particular range is part of its “Bullets and Burgers Adventure.” Presumably, the kiddies work up an appetite while punching out a few rounds with a machine gun. I can think of better things to pass out with Happy Meals.

This is not the first time for this kind of incident. In 2008, according to the TPM story, an 8-year-old boy died after accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun expo near Springfield, Mass. He was firing at pumpkins when the gun kicked back and killed him. A former Massachusetts police chief whose company co-sponsored the gun show was later acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

This is not meant to be an attack on the Second Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has declared — going against legal precedent, but the court is the final say — that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own a gun, although it still held that such ownership can be regulated. Many communities ban the ownership of automatic weapons — not exactly what you need to shoot deer or pheasant.

Some in my extended family are hunters, and I have eaten venison at their tables. I am not advocating removal of anyone’s gun, despite the rash of accidental killings with firearms each year. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 100,000 Americans are the victims of gun violence every year. And lest anyone trot out the “good guy with a gun” line, only about one-tenth of those gun-related violence incidents were gun-related homicides, which make up only 35% of all gun-related deaths.

An Uzi is a submachine gun designed for warfare, not a shooting range. It can hold up to a 70-round magazine. It’s been used in wars since 1954, starting with the Israeli Defense Forces. It has spread to 90 countries, and it’s also used in law enforcement. It’s not a toy to hand to someone who’s not yet 10.

Every time lawmakers come up with a common-sense approach to gun regulation, they’re shot down by the NRA, which drives pro-gun voters into a lather, repeating the lies that “they’re out to take your guns.” Actually, no one has proposed any law to take away anyone’s gun — it’s future purchases they’re talking about, asking for things most of the public backs, like background checks and closing loopholes at gun shows.

“We have better safety standards for who gets to ride a roller coaster at an amusement park,” said Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, a group seeking to reduce gun violence, again according to the TPM story. Referring to the girl’s parents, Hills said: “I just don’t see any reason in the world why you would allow a 9-year-old to put her hands on an Uzi.”

So how about it? How about a common-sense law that says a 9-year-old shouldn’t be able to fire an Uzi?

Lawmakers, we’re waiting.

1 Comments on ““Gun tourism”? How about gun idiocy with an Uzi?”

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