Anytime a news-worthy shooting event occurs, the anti-gun crowd is positively orgasmic over the chance to have yet another national conversation nobody wants to have with them. Tragically, as you have heard by now, a 9-year-old girl in Arizona shot and killed a shooting instructor when she lost control over an automatic weapon.
The anti-gun extreme minority was quick to leap on this story, claiming that children should not be allowed to have any access to firearms under any circumstances. This knee-jerk reflex reaction has nothing knee-jerk about it: gun control whackjobs have always kept that claim at the top of their strategic angles because keeping kids away from guns is one of the best forms of gun control overall: if kids have no experience with firearms, they have no interest in shooting as adults. Keep the kids away, and you make it much easier to outlaw guns in a couple of decades.
Fortunately, this isn’t working for them. Membership in shooting sports is up across the board, and the demographic group showing the greatest enthusiasm in taking up shooting are women. Allegedly, the number of women involved in recreational shootingbased on hunting licenses, gun purchases, memberships at ranges, registrations in skeet, trap, or other eventsis up anywhere from 25% to 33%. And among women, the age group showing the fastest increase are women over 40.
No kidding: at the Czar’s local gun rangeto pull an anecdote from only one locationthere are definitely more women there. In fact, there appears to be at least one or two women every time the Czar has gone. The store even has women (plural!) employed there to meet demand. The Czar has heard identical anecdotes from acquaintances, and doubtless our readers will write in with similar observations.
Unlike most of the media types reporting on this story, the Czar has two aspects that make him far more qualified to comment on what happened: he has taught kids younger than the now traumatized girl to shoot responsibly, and he has fired automatic weapons of various kinds.
The youngest person the Czar has taught to fire a weapon was his then-6-year-old Царевич, who has since fired a variety of different things. The Czar has also introduced countless other youngsters well into their teens to careful, sensible safe shooting.
A lot of people have. And they have generally criticized the video of the shooting for what, ultimately, was poor safety. The criticismsand the Czar’s thoughtsrun along these lines:
- He should not have been standing next to her, but behind her.Agreed. When the Czar introduces youngsters to that first trigger pull, he stands behind the kid and holds and steadies the arms to ensure they are pointing safely and can control the recoil. He was standing much like he would behind an adult. This was error number one.
- He shouldn’t have given her an Uzi.Hmm. Not sure about that: the Uzi can be an easy weapon to fire for most people. The Czar agrees that you never start a brand-new shooter off with an Uzi, but we don’t know from the video whether this girls has had a lot of shooting experience. From some of his reminders to her, though, the Czar suspects she didn’t have a lot of experience with different weapons; if so, the Uzi was a bad choice.
- She shouldn’t have been firing fully automatic.Maybe not. There is no technical reason a 9-year-old couldn’t fire an automatic weapon, but the Czar will assure you that automatic weapons require very good understanding of how to grip, hold, and tuck into the weapon to steady it as it fires. It’s pretty clearwhether she has a lot of experience or not with gunsthat firing fully automatic was new to her. And test firing one round first, as he did with her, does not equate to sufficient fundamental training. This is error number two in our book.
- Kids that young shouldn’t be given firearms.Children have their constitutional rights. And she wasn’t given an Uzi: she was issued one by a qualified instructor.
- These types of tourist ranges do not stress adequate safety.The Czar is not at all familiar with the location in question, but too often this claim is seen elsewhere. The tourist range is designed to give ordinary folksthose without ready access to legal firearms, perhapsthe chance to shoot automatic weapons. As a result, these highly profitable ranges see waves of tourists in from all over the world, including Americans who just want to shoot a lot of bullets really fast. Even Piers Morgan has done it. And yes, sometimes, these ranges are more interested in getting you up, shooting your ammunition empty, and then out the door. Again, we have no idea what sort of range this is: perhaps they are extremely strict on safety. But
So what we see is a sweet New Jersey girl, on vacation, who will probably never go near a firearm again. Whether the victimMr. Vaccawas a brilliant instructor is beside the point: his role was to bring a youngster into the world of safe, responsible shooting, and he failed to do that. That’s as much as the Czar will blame the victim.Like all horrifying tragedies, a lot more than one thing went wrong here. It took a sequence of mistakes to result in the tragedy. And look at what the picture shows, a split-second before the gun fires:
- A right-handed shooter firing a top-heavy automatic weapon will usually experience the gun climbing up and to the left. Look where he put his head. As stated above, he should be behind her.
- His left hand is on her right forearm, and his right hand is on her back. He’s basically pulling her upper body toward himself. Again, he should be behind her, with one hand on her left shoulder and a right hand on her right elbow. This way he can steer her back on target.
- Her stance is fine for a rifle: left foot forward, weight slightly back, and butt stock into the right shoulder. But this is an automatic weapon: although usage varies, there are two common approaches for firing a short-barreled weapon on full auto: right foot forward and tilting the right shoulder into the stock to push the weapon forward as it shoots. This compensates for the stuttering shock of the weapon and keeps it pointing downrange. The second approach is to tilt the upper body forward (not backward as shown) to balance the recoil. What you see here is basically a baseball batting stance. And which way would a batter swing the bat?
These are the errors that added together to create the tragedy. Now what would the Czar have done?
- Demonstrate by doing: you take a full magazine, load it in, and fire the whole thing off while she watches. Let her see how much smoke and noise comes out of it, and how fast it chews through ammunition.
- Position her correctly for the recoil. When pulling the trigger, the weapon is going to shake violently. Get her ready for that.
- Simulate what she’s going to experience on an empty weapon. Have her grip the weapon as if shooting it, and then shake the weapon realistically to reveal how much recoil she can expect. It ain’t like the movies. And if there are weaknesses in her stance, she’ll move her foot to reveal what they are. Any weaknesses in her grip will appear when she fumbles the weapon, and so on. It might not be as adrenaline-inducing fun, but it’ll inform her as to what to expect.
- Put three rounds in the magazine. Those three bullets will leave the barrel before her upper body even feels the recoil. If she’s going to swing the weapon your way, it will be empty when it happens.
- Stay behind her, and stay in control of her elbows and shoulders. Giver her a full magazine. If she starts to go off axis, you can twist her back on line. Obviously, Mr. Vacca intended to that from where he was standing, but even he evidently was not prepared for how fast an Uzi shoots.
This isn’t new. The military has been showing people how to fire weapons, and they’re often nowhere as smart as this 9-year-old New Jersey girl. And one thing the military usually does in its weapons instruction that’s very different than a commercial range? They don’t get casual about safety. Alas, Mr. Vacca got a little casual based on what’s evident in these pictures. And while you can usually tolerate one slip here and there about safety, tolerating three or four slips like this proved instantly fatal.