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Shooting Instructor Dies After Nine Year-Old Student Loses Control of Weapon

At a shooting range, a nine year-old girl (who has thankfully not been named) lost control of the Uzi she had been given and her instructor, 39 year-old Charles Vacca, was shot. According to the Associated Press, Vacca “died Monday shortly after being airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Mohave County sheriff’s officials said.” The outdoor shooting range, the morbidly congruously-named “Last Stop,” has refused to comment on the incident.

If the internet comments for the video and other news stories are any indication, this is going to be another tragic story involving accidental death that serves only as the center of a debate about gun control that has been stuck in loop for more than a decade. Explaining their philosophy about guns simply by pointing to a scene of human tragedy and barking, “See what happens?

If this story doesn’t fade from the headlines quickly – and I, for one, hope it does – eventually the parents of this little girl will either have to come forward to “defend” their actions or come forward as new converts to the idea of gun control. Either option, however, will shine a brighter spotlight on an innocent child whose life has forever changed for the worse.

Like any other victim of childhood trauma, this young girl will presumably be haunted by a violent, tragic event that was not her fault. The recoil on the weapon she was firing is such that grown adults have trouble controlling it. This girl neither deserves nor should be made a part of the viral news machine.

The issues at-hand – instructing children in the safe use of firearms and gun control vis-à-vis automatic weapons – can be discussed without parsing this specific incident and blaming the girl, her parents, or even Vacca himself.

If a family has guns in the house, children should absolutely be given instruction in their use and how to be safe around them. Yet, there are specially-designed weapons for children to use and other weapons – such as large-caliber pistols, rifles, or some shotguns – should not be put in their hands loaded. Someone who has just learned how to ride a bicycle should not be expected to immediately jump on a racing motorcycle and be able to handle it.



Photo by Laineema via Flickr

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.

  • Thom Lee

    Please don’t let this become political. It is so tragic that ONLY the families and the girl should matter. Please join me in praying they all get what they need to get through this very sad time in all their lives.

    • crabbyj

      Translation: “Please don’t let it become political, because politics may be the only way to prevent this from happening in the future, but it may mean I can’t have the weapons that are the most fun.”

      Have you ever noticed that, tragedy after tragedy, someone is always giving us a heartfelt plea to not do the one thing that could reduce or eliminate these tragedies? I guess when you get down to it, it’s less concern about the child, and more concern about maintaining access to the weapons.

      They have no shame anymore.

      • Joshua M. Patton

        Thanks both for reading and commenting. I would argue that by politicizing this event (or others like it) is cheap and exploitative. Put another way, the argument for or against should stand on its own merits without the need to hang the names of the dead on their particular approach to gun control. Especially in this case, the person who accidentally shot another person should get to maintain her anonymity at least until she’s 18. Then if she wants to come forward one way or another, it’s all fair game.

      • Thom Lee

        I should have been more precise and concise in my post. I agree with everything you said.

        What I meant to say was please don’t make this a Republican vs Democrat issue. The conservative party and it’s followers seem to be more gun friendly. Although the more liberal party have guns too, they would likely be on the side of safety and stricter regulation, IMO.

        Simple common sense could/would have prevented this from happening. This little girl now has to live with this the rest of her life.

        The other family has to live with their loss the rest of their lives. Turning it into an us “vs” them situation will just get ugly. UGLY has already happened to them and they don’t need more.

        Hope this makes my post more understandable or expresses my feeling about it.