John wrote earlier about the 9-year-old girl in Las Vegas whose parents thought it would be a good idea to let her shoot an Uzi submachine gun.
Not surprisingly, the gun, set on automatic — a setting at which it fires 600 rounds per minute — went wildly out of control in the little girl’s hands. As she lost control of the weapon, it shot her instructor in the head, killing him.
Simplifying somewhat, there are basically three ways a gun or rifle can fire. (Not going to get into single-action vs double-action.)
One: The gun fires. and then you need to do something to chamber another round, like a pump-action shotgun or a lever-action rifle for example. Or a breach-loading shotgun.
Then there are semi-automatics. These fire one shot for every time you pull the trigger. If you’ve seen a 9mm handgun with a magazine and a slide-action, that’ll be a semi-auto. Most of the assault rifles out there carried by civilians are semi-auto. Even these ones require a bit of training to use responsibly.
To own a fully-automatic gun requires a special federal firearms license (FFL). If you do not have this license, you could technically still own an Uzi, for example, but only if it has been disabled for fully automatic operation.
There is a gigantic loophole in this law (actually several loopholes.). Yes, you need the FFL, which isn’t cheap. However, you as the owner of said fully-automatic firearm can grant permission to just about anybody to fire it in your presence, even a tiny child.
I’ll tell you something else about fully-automatic firearms: Have you ever fired a gun? Ever watched someone actually shoot a gun? (And Hollywood movies don’t count.) They kick. The barrel invariably wants to go up. The peculiarity of Uzis and other rapid-fire full-automatics is they not only go up, they also push the barrel to the left (part of this is the effect of the rifling inside the barrel and part is due to the ejection of the spent rounds). Hold down the trigger for more than a couple seconds and, unless you are strong and well-braced, that sub-machine gun will literally try to make you spin around in place.
That “instructor” made a whole series of stupid mistakes. But the first mistake? Letting what appears to be a 70lb 9-year-old child fire a fully-automatic sub-machine gun. No child that size can control a weapon like that. Disaster was all but guaranteed.
The second mistake was standing exactly where the barrel was all but guaranteed to go the instant she put her finger down on the trigger.
But really, mistake #1 outweighs everything else. Nobody should be surprised that this happened.
Hell, even if he hadn’t been standing where he was, that little girl still would have lost control of that submachine gun. If not him, it could’ve just as easily been the person who was filming the event, or other bystanders.
Grown adults (unless trained), who are physically capable and knowing exactly what to expect, will have trouble controlling an Uzi. (In fact, it’s also why Uzis are actually pretty crappy guns to begin with. They’re the archetype of ‘spray and pray’ firearms whose military value was based more on fear and intimidation than in actually being able to hit anything reliably… but I digress.)
This wasn’t just an accident and a tragedy. In my opinion, this was an act of gross negligence on the part of the “instructor” and the girl’s parents.
The detail that boggles me, even among the gun aficionados who acknowledge it was criminally stupid to let a 9-year-old fire an Uzi on automatic, is how many insist that children need to be taught how to handle and shoot a gun safely. I’m sorry, but as a gun owner myself, and even given the family I grew up in, this is a bs statement. Very young children do not need to be taught how to ‘handle and shoot’ guns. Their first lesson with firearms should be: “Do not touch or go near a gun. If you see a gun, find an adult because these things are dangerous.”
When a minor is old enough to qualify for a hunting license, that’s another matter. (In many states, the age is 12 years and up.) Even then, questions of physical ability and mental fitness of the kid, and appropriateness of the specific firearm need to be addressed. I remember a time when my kid brother was demoted by our father to pack-carrier, because he carelessly wouldn’t pay attention to where the barrel of his 20ga was pointed. That’s how you teach a kid to use a gun.
We do not let children drive cars or motorcycles because we have deemed that they lack the emotional maturity and physical prowess to do so without endangering others.
We do not let children drink alcohol or buy cigarettes, because we’ve deemed they lack the maturity to do so responsibly.
We do not give children the right to vote for the same reason.
And yet there’s almost no restriction on letting a child use a device that, when used as intended, is fully capable of maiming or killing.