Sometimes Guns Do Kill People, Actually

This story is a genuine tragedy, but it also must be filed under WTF was this guy thinking?

A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her side, trying to guide her. A video of the shooting, which her parents recorded by cellphone, suggests that the girl, in pink shorts and with a braided ponytail, was unable to control the gun’s recoil; the instructor, Charles Vacca, 39, was rushed to a hospital in Las Vegas, where he died Monday night.

The parents turned the cellphone video over to the sheriff’s department, which released it publicly. As they spread online and on television, the images of a small girl losing control of a powerful war weapon during a family vacation created a worldwide spectacle, prompting some commentators to castigate parents who would put a submachine gun in the hands of a child.

The Times has the video, if you want to watch, and the 9-year-old girl is quite small, as one would expect. I assume the weapons instructor could have refused to allow the child to fire an Uzi, although the article said that the parents were knowledgeable about guns. Anyone with any knowledge of firearms ought to have realized that the recoil on an automatic submachine gun would have been too much recoil for a 9-year-old girl to control.

In the video, the girl, whose name has not been released, positioned herself before the target at an outdoor shooting range in this outpost in the Mojave Desert — one leg in front of the other, torso turned to the left, hands clutched around the grip of the Uzi, which appeared compact and light enough for her age and small build. When the girl fired her first shot, a puff of dust rose as the bullet hit the knoll behind the target. Mr. Vacca let out a celebratory “all right,” and then shifted the gun to fully automatic mode. She again pulled the trigger, but could not hold the gun straight as bullets came flying out at a rate of 600 rounds per minute.

A man is dead, and that poor child has to live with that memory.

News flash: 9-year-old girls are not famous for their upper body strength. I remember probably being about 12 and at Girl Scout camp, and being taught to shoot a .22 caliber rifle, which I guess is about as tame as rifles get. Even then we girls were all taught to shoot in a supported prone position so that we we were not trying to bear all the weight of the rifle and control the recoil at the same time. And it wasn’t that hard, but it was a flippin’ .22. And we took turns firing just one round.

The thing is, gun “enthusiasts” are always trying to say they know what they are doing around firearms and we should trust them, but then something like this happens. And then they wonder why we’re so nervous about seeing men with assault weapons standing in line for fast food. Because time and time again we see that at least some of these guys don’t have the sense to put the sock on before the shoe. Seriously.

30 thoughts on “Sometimes Guns Do Kill People, Actually

  1. It is instructive to go to the local news websites when these tragedies occur, not to read the news story, but to read the comments. Many comments did deplore the gun culture, but were countered by attacks upon “liberal retards” who want to take everyone’s guns away. The exchanges of views are not cordial.

  2. Of all the things kids do on family vacations, swimming at the beach, horseback riding, at the amusement park, I can’t imagine giving a 9 year old a sub machine gun to shoot is in the same vein. And if the parents knew about guns, they should have known a child that small could not handle a fully automatic machine gun.

    A day hardly goes by without the weapon of some “responsible gun owner” ending up in the hands of a child or otherwise “accidentally” killing someone. Just owning a gun doesn’t make one responsible.

  3. Did the parent’s let the 9 year-old girl drive there?
    Or drive away?


    It boggles the mind.

    I’m sorry, but this is a case of just dessert, in the desert.

  4. I pity the poor child, having killed a man.
    I blame her parents, and the “Instructor’s” own stupidity.
    The “Instructor” was a gun nut, who insulted people who didn’t like guns.

    And now, a 9 year-old girl and her stupid parents have to live with the fact that she killed a man.
    A very stupid man.
    But, a human being, nonetheless…

  5. I’d say this is a case of temporary insanity, except that there doesn’t seem to be anything “temporary” about it. I suppose to the parents, this was a kind of initiation rite. I haven’t a clue what the instructor’s excuse was, but the motivation was probably similar, to involve a young innocent person in the holy struggle and against the godless and gunless infidels. As for the gun, it’s symbolic meaning and role as a shibboleth obscured what it really was. But, what it really was came back with a vengeance.

    I wrote before about my friend and neighbor, who was shot twice in one day, the second time by the gun that he had for self defense. He is a good ol’ southern boy, who grew up around guns. But, if “familiarity breeds contempt” as the old saying goes, sometimes “familiarity” can be enough of problem on its own.

    That’s the problem with the “Walmart Warriors” who open carry military grade weapons. For me, carrying a loaded weapon unnecessarily, especially in a public place, would be unthinkable. But, judging from the number of accidental discharges, some people who are “responsible” and “knowledgeable” about guns, don’t share this view or this respect for others. When someone is carrying a weapon they present a number of unanswered questions, mostly about intent and competence. Unfortunately, the answers can come in the form of a tragedy, which we all struggle to make sense of.

  6. Joan,
    Though we’re showing our age, one can never go wrong quoting the great Walt Kelly, and “Pogo!”

  7. “nervous about seeing men with assault weapons standing in line for fast food”

    Oh it’s Ok as long as those men are white, if they are black then call the police they will take them out! As far as I’m concerned this fool got what he had coming, and the parents of this girl should be locked up for child abuse. It seems that if your white and you screw up with a firearm in this country all is forgiven because freedom!

  8. I’m afraid people are missing the obvious: guns don’t kill people, accidents kill people.
    (or maybe psychopathic 9-year-old girls kill people).

    • There are accidents, and there are other accidents. I’m willing to believe that it sometimes happens there are firearms accidents not caused by carelessness or bad judgment and were really truly accidents, and no one is to blame. However this is not one of those circumstances. This was just plain damnfool stupidity. The only innocent party IMO is the little girl.

  9. Dan,
    I don’t think that’s fair to the girl.
    Her parent’s might very well be gun-loving socio/psycho-paths, but as for her…
    Well, I hope she can find the room, support, and forgiveness, to heal.

    The instructor’s dead.
    Sadly, the parents are still her parents, despite their own stupidity.
    Until we start locking-up the parents for the kid’s gun “accidents” – aka, CRIMES! – these types of killings will continue.

  10. Yes, I would think one of the most basic precepts for responsible gun ownership would be that you don’t carry around assault weapons if you aren’t in a combat zone. But what do I know, I’ve never owned a gun. How could I possibly understand whether or not guns are extremely dangerous?

  11. I just saw this death referred to as “tragic,” which I have to dispute. Unless every death is tragic because someone is dead, this one does not qualify. It was stupid and pointless and grotesque and completely unnecessary, but that does not add up to a tragedy.

  12. @Dan

    …or maybe people who were never bright enough to NOT give their kids sub-machine guns kill people.

  13. But, what it really was came back with a vengeance.

    Yeah, maybe Stephen King might write a story about it along the lines of Christine. He might even title it ..The purpose driven Uzi. You never know, it might be the same Uzi that killed that 10 year old in Tennessee (?) that kicked back on him and blew him away. In any event, the gun fulfilled its purpose.

    It’s kinda sad to make light of such a tragedy, but its so senseless a tragedy how else can it be approached.. Solemnity? I don’t think so.

  14. The range operator on TV defended his operation. He said that shooting an Uzi was on this 9-year old girl’s “bucket list.”

    Bucket list??????

  15. Ed,
    Yeah, her 9 year-old “bucket list:”
    Grow breast’s.
    Get laid.
    And kill a man with an automatic. machine-gun.

    Somehow, if you ask her, I’m pretty damn sure that has nothing to do with what any real 9 year-old female would want.
    But, who am I to say, being a 56 year-old male?

  16. Oh, I have a “Bucket-list,” folks!

    The thing is, if I gave you my list, you’d know what kind of a repulsive and sexist drunken, drug-seeking, pig I am.

  17. The same site operator said, “Well, we grow some pretty big eight-year olds out here in Arizona.” Putting aside that the girl is from New Jersey, it is only fair for me to say, “Well, we grow some pretty stupid idiots here out West.”

  18. “I’m pretty damn sure that has nothing to do with what any real 9 year-old female would want”

    Of course not this poor girl was being exploited for her parent’s enjoyment. Why do you think they were taking a cell phone video of it, they were gonna post it on their facepage and add some stupid pro-gun patriot bullshit tag-line guaranteed. I say the instructor got what he got, and those parents should be charged with abuse. Then the kid should be sent to a fema camp for deprogramming!

  19. I shudder to imagine what the home environment is for this young girl. It seems unlikely that a nine year old girl would have an overwhelming desire to shoot a fully automatic weapon without some very strange influences. If she was prodded into it, that’s just a different type of abuse.

  20. I’d like to know what caliber this thing was. When I was in the army we had these mini-auto’s we called grease guns, they shot the same .45 cal ammo as the officers .45 side arm semi-auto pistols. Those things had a hell of a recoil, a grown man could easily lose control if you’re not concentrating. I have a .44 magnum revolver that if not fired correctly will recoil and break your face, it aint no toy, unfortunately the NRA has turned guns into toys in this country; they are marketed to kids and immature men alike.

  21. Uncledad, at the risk of showing my ignorance, I am pretty sure I read that it was a 9mm.

    I probably wrote about this before, but, when I was a kid, I lost two friends in hunting accidents. We lived in rural New Jersey and it was pretty common for kids to start hunting, under their parents supervision, at about eight or nine years old. My friends weren’t much older than that when they got killed. It just seems insane to me now.

    I don’t really have a bucket list, and even when I do, it probably won’t be very interesting. I am too old for “interesting stuff.” But, I think that I might like to watch this kind of craziness from a lot farther away, and I’d like to be able to play Tchan Tchou Vidal’s “La Gitane” without making a complete dog’s breakfast of it. That’s about it, really.

  22. “I am pretty sure I read that it was a 9mm”

    That is no toy, most likely a 115 grain round, those are the cheapest and most available. That is basically the same round we had in the army and a similar weapon as well. If one was to pull the trigger on full auto with no control of the weapon it will do exactly what it did, the rotation of the rounds as they leave the barrel will push the gun to the left until the trigger is released. Those fucking idiots that are running that range should be shut down immediately. You have to have a special license to own a fully automatic gun, why the hell these numbskulls are allowed to let any idiot with a credit card fire them is beyond belief, like I said to the NRA and all it’s members guns are a toy!

  23. Yeah, the native Uzi is 9mm – which is not that heavy (compared to an AK-47), BUT in full auto, you are burping 10 rounds per second, which makes for a brutal recoil. I’m not inclined to speak ill of the dead but – the instructor should have known better. Probably, that was his last thought so we are in agreement.

  24. Every week, Daily Kos runs a roundup of the gun “accidents” that have occurred in the previous week. It is sad, ironic, pitiful, and disgustingly repetitious. It should be reprinted on the front pages of responsible newspapers. Don’t hold your breath till that happens, though.

  25. “the rotation of the rounds as they leave the barrel will push the gun to the left until the trigger is released.”

    This is the kind of insight of which I would be totally ignorant, and why I choose to forego the “fully automatic experience.” Thanks uncledad.

Comments are closed.