This gun owner thinks it’s nuts to hand a 9 y.o. an Uzi

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.

The 9-year-old girl moments before she lost control of the Uzi and shot her instructor in the head, killing him.

The 9-year-old girl moments before she lost control of the Uzi and shot her instructor in the head, killing him.

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.

An Uzi submachine gun, via Shutterstock.

An Uzi submachine gun, via Shutterstock.

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.

It’s nuts.


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    That’s a given. It’s the choices they make that are sometimes stupefying. I’m sure there are some interesting psychological studies in there somewhere.

  • 1Greensix

    tis a pity she didn’t also shoot whichever parent(s) allowed it to happen

  • janklow

    “I’ve never fired an assault rifle, and I have absolutely no desire to do
    so. I can’t imagine why anyone would, outside of pure necessity.”

    it’s almost like people enjoy different things and have different interests.

  • janklow

    “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.””

    …which will surely teach kids not to mess around with those FORBIDDEN OBJECTS.
    something tells me that children below the age of “being legally allowed to hunt” (since we’re based this on government regulation, and not the actual children in question) have been able to go near and even touch guns in a responsible way.

  • GrantS

    Letting a 9 year old shoot a gun places the “well regulated military” on scorching red flag notice.

  • Silver_Witch

    Who knew 9 year old’s had bucket lists!!! Idiots one and all.

  • Silver_Witch

    I heard somewhere that the parents said “she will just have to learn to live with what she did”. So it is all her fault – of course.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Hey, the facility has a height requirement! You must be 4′ tall to go on this ride.

  • Hue-Man

    Your comment sent me off to the timeline for Minimata Disease. It all fits; the world started learning about it in the early 1970s, despite it having been first recognized in the mid-1950s and acknowledged by the Japanese government in the 1960s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease#Media

    Of course, “mad as a hatter” predates Minimata by nearly two centuries.

  • gratuitous

    So, when are all those responsible gun owners I hear so much about going to get behind legislation that regulates these free-fire, fun-for-the-entire-family firearm emporiums? And I’m talking about well-regulated regulations that fully cover death and dismemberment, keep automatic weapons out of the hands of children, and include heavy criminal penalties for violators?

    As an aside, nine-year-olds do not have bucket lists. The proprietor of Bullets and Burgers should be in the stocks of the nearest town square for an extended period of time for the local citizenry to pelt him with overripe and rotting produce for saying something that goddammed stupid.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Even then, I’m sure the government would have frowned on anyone who decided that the Second Amendment gave them the right to start amassing a whole arsenal, or cannons. Especially with the expressed intent of opposing the authority of law, or threatening violence every time you disagree with the actions of elected officials.

    The problem is, we’ve just come to accept threats of violence and violence itself as completely normal and acceptable. When it is anything but.

  • Richard_thunderbay

    Part of the insanity in this case is that the dead instructor was an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,a person who most certainly should have known better.

  • VegasDave58

    Just remember, when the Second Amendment was written, guns consisted of single shot black powder weapons. To load a weapon took about a minute and then you only had ONE shot. Followed by another minute to reload. The founding Fathers never even envisioned a six shot revolver let alone a semi-automatic. We now have the NRA that believes ANY weapon should be legal and allowed on the street. The Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves.

  • jomicur

    My high school chemistry and biology teachers both got a big boot out of playing with mercury for the amusement of their classes. They would pour out a handful of the stuff, pour it from hand to hand and do various other simple-minded tricks with it, then pour it back into its bottle. And they encouraged volunteer students to do the same. None of us actually knew how toxic the stuff was, but I could never quite shake the suspicion it wasn’t really a very good idea. I assume both of them are on display in bell jars somewhere.

  • nicho

    Hell, I remember when they had x-ray machines in shoe stores. You would try on a pair of shoes and then stick your feet in this machine that would x-ray your feet. There were three viewing pieces at the top so that the salesman, your mother, and you could watch as the lethal rays penetrated your shoes — and feet — so you could see how well they fit. An afternoon of shoe shopping could probably expose you to more x-rays than a lifetime of dental exams. And there were no lead shields for anyone.

    http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/gadgetlab/2010/11/shoe.ray_.jpg

  • therling

    I own a car, a motorcycle and a gun. There is no way I would allow a 9 year old to operate any of those three.

  • nicho

    Apparently, it was on the “instructor’s” bucket list too — last item.

  • nicho

    Lest we forget, a mother recently went to jail for letting her nine-year-old daughter play alone in a park.

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119255/girl-kills-az-shooting-range-instructor-parenting-america

    And please stop calling this guy an “instructor.” He was an amusement attendant in a redneck theme park.

  • lynchie

    the owner of the gun range said it was on the girls bucket list (sure blame the kid). What a way to justify this mess. I have punching a bunch of repubs in the face on my bucket list but i don’t do it. Her bucket list and no one , owner of gun shop, parents, accepts responsibility.

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    I was taught to fire guns, starting with a .22 rifle, when I was twelve. It wasn’t until I was about 14 or 15 that I was allowed to fire a shotgun, and it knocked me on my ass (I wasn’t a very big kid). I did hit the target, though.

    We were out in the hills with no one around, and my dad stood behind me.

    I’ve never fired an assault rifle, and I have absolutely no desire to do so. I can’t imagine why anyone would, outside of pure necessity.

    It seems as though everyone knows it’s nuts to allow a small 9-year-old girl fire an Uzi — except the gun nuts.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    You know that this will probably haunt her for life. With parents as stupid as hers, I doubt she will get help. I really try to stay out of gun discussions, but this is just too much.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    On update: It would appear that ‘Bullets and Burgers’ is closed, for now. The words used on Chris Hayes’ show were “closed indefinitely.”

    http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/burgers-and-bullets-shutters-323020355921

    Their website however remains up, making it look like the business is still open.

  • Silver_Witch

    I had a creepy crawler maker….I loved that thing – and you are right it could get so hot that the goop would pull you skin off….but man that thing rocked.

  • Silver_Witch

    I hope the little girl is okay. I am so worried about how she will feel about what happened and if anyone is getting her help.

    You are 100% right Becca – we do not let children drive cars, or vote – why in the name of the Goddess would any Mother in her right mind see this as an fun afternoon.

    I weep…..

  • Myrddin Wyllt

    If the logic applied to banning pot was applied to guns they would all be banned.

    And that is taking into account the fact that if pot was considered logically then it would not be banned.

    Guns kill tens of thousands of people every year. Thats a lot of deaths for a hobby. Legalizing pot has caused no deaths so far and seems to have saved a few lives by reducing opiate abuse.

    Just saying…

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    That does sound appropriate, but I was held at gunpoint when I was three. All guns scare the hell out of me.

  • http://wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm Colin

    Also got my first gun when I was 9. It was called a Daisy BB Gun.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Oh I have no doubt whatsoever they’ll do this. The line they’ll take is the same they’ve taken after every other negligent gun death or mass murder: “Buy now before the Feds make them illegal!!!11!!!!#WTF!!”

    Even though the likelihood of any kind of gun control legislation now is virtually nil.

    Look for sales of Uzis to skyrocket. As well as legal and illegal sales of full-auto conversion kits.

  • Hue-Man

    My high school chemistry teacher claimed that his years of working in the school’s lab had exposed him to toxic levels of mercury (from decades of experiments that involved mercury as well as students constantly breaking thermometers). I didn’t challenge his claim and never returned after graduation!

    I assume today’s high school students never have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with mercury. Too bad the USA doesn’t have the same sensitivity towards another dangerous metal in its most lethal form – “lead”.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Me neither, Dave.

  • FLL

    I’m honestly flabbergasted. I would never have guessed that. Well, Americablog does have a reputation for starting national conversations that spill over into the mainstream media. ;)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    As far as I know, there is no age limitation. I’m pretty sure you could legally put that Uzi in the hands of an infant and it not be illegal in any way.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    There was another ‘toy’ where you’d make these rubber/plastic creatures out of probably toxic goop — by baking them in an electric mold that in terms of heat would put the Bluth family’s “Corn Baller” to shame. Eventually these also were pulled off the market after hundreds of kids burned themselves badly.

    Even better though, would you believe that in 1951, A.C. Gilbert, the inventor of the Erector Set put out a kit called the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab. Yes, it contained real atomic materials, so that budding young atomic scientists could witness the mist trails from ionizing radiation. It was quite pricey — $50 at the time — and recalled after less than a year over fears kids might ingest the included uranium or isotopes of lead, polonium, ruthenium, and/or zinc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_U-238_Atomic_Energy_Laboratory

  • Ty Morgan

    Very well said! As anyone who has had military weapons training knows, you spend weeks, if not months learning and training in the proper use of weapons. To give any child or adult for that matter a gun a tell them to just shoot is nuts.

  • FLL

    When I suggested 12 years old, I guess I was thinking about my friend’s AK-47 or the Uzi that the young girl’s foolish parents allowed her to fire. As I said on the other thread, my lesbian friend took me to her family’s farm in Illinois and taught me how to shoot a .22. Perhaps a 9-year-old (but no younger) could be trained to operate a .22 safely. But maybe it’s better to err on the side of caution and make the age limit 12 years old for all firearms. This story from Nevada makes it sound like the nation has no age limitations at all, which is just plain insanity.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    You’re welcome. And although I said in the other thread about my thinking maybe a 9 year old could shoot a .22 at a paper target, I’d actually be open to the notion of “too young for a hunting license = too young to be allowed to handle firearms, period.”

  • FLL

    First, thank you for explaining the distinction between semi-automatic and fully automatic. On the last thread, I mentioned my friend in northwest Montana with the AK-47. He described it as semi-automatic, and yes, you have to pull the trigger for every shot fired, although the mag holds 30 bullets. I have two thoughts regarding the all-or-nothing gun rights crowd. The first is that I just don’t think that children under the age of 12 have the physical ability to control firearms. Until I read this story from Nevada, I didn’t realize that there are few or no legal limitations on young children using firearms. This story shows that the supervision of adults can often amount to the supervision of blithering idiots, which is to say, no supervision at all. This really needs to change. Children too young to control firearms should not be legally allowed to operate them.

    My second thought regards the mentality of a fringe in the gun rights crowd. I’ll tell you what I told my friend in Montana, whose house I stayed at for a week in mid-August. This is something that we are in agreement on. In America’s tradition of democracy, you don’t dispute the results of an election with firearms. Don’t even dream about it. And don’t compare a modern-day American gun owner with an 18th-century American colonists. The colonists were disenfranchised and had no right to vote for the government that ruled them. The fringe gun-rights crowd vote in every election. They are not disenfranchised. Many of them are just sore losers. If people stated this loudly and clearly and more often, I think the gun hysteria would subside to a large degree.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    BTW, although ‘Bullets and Burgers’ says their off-site shooting facilities are off near the Lake Mead Recreation area, I continue to be struck by the shoddy construction and arrangement of their shooting bunkers. It’s like they just took an excavator and dug some crude trenches.

    Nothing but what looks like a couple of barrels and a tabletop or something between the shooter and the target — and lots and lots of rocks that could easily splinter into shards and shred the bare legs of someone like that 9 year old wearing shorts and nothing but ear and eye protection.

    Then there’s the distance to the target, in a bowl-like depression that could easily direct ricochets upward. And finally, just look at all that inviting empty sky, where an errant round could easily travel a mile or more before coming down. When that girl fired that Uzi on full-auto, the bullets that didn’t travel down-range and into the dirt and which didn’t hit the guy she killed would’ve flown up and out, posing a potentially lethal danger to anyone in those directions.

  • drdick52

    I am another gun owner who thinks this is insane. I cannot even imagine who would think this was appropriate. My hillbilly mother, who grew up around guns and hunting during the depression, would not even let me have a BB gun until I was 12,

  • FLL

    Which should clue everyone into the fact that the NRA is not a lobby that represents gun owners, but rather a lobby that represents gun manufacturers. People should mention that distinction more often.

  • bkmn

    I’ve got $10 that the NRA finds a way to spin the story so more guns sell.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    The absence of judgment here is simply stunning. I can’t believe it.

  • Hue-Man

    “If you were born before 1980, you may remember lawn darts. A backyard hybrid of regular darts and horseshoes, the game involved throwing large plastic darts with weighted, sharp metal tips into plastic rings on the ground.If you think that sounds dangerous, the US government agrees with you. Following three lawn dart-related deaths between 1970 and 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned sale of the game in the United States.” http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2012/1212/Top-5-most-important-product-recalls-in-US-history/Jarts-lawn-darts

    ‘Nuff sed.

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