Death on the range: A fatal lapse


First Posted: 8/30/2014

AUG. 30, 2014 — Common sense took a holiday Monday last at an outdoor shooting range in White Hills, Ariz. A man is dead and a little girl will have to live with the scar of this preventable tragedy for the rest of her life.

Instructor Charles Vacca was teaching the child, all of 9, how to shoot, of all things, an Uzi submachine gun. A cellphone video recorded by one of her parents shows her squeeze off a round in single-shot mode. No problem. But when the mode is switched to automatic and as the little girl pulls the trigger, she cannot control the gun’s recoil. It pulls up and to her left and Mr. Vacca is mortally wounded in the head.

We have no issue with, under adult supervision, instructing children in the safe and proper use of firearms. And that, of course, must include firing them. Such education inculcates respect for guns and teaches practical skills that could save lives.

But we do take great issue with allowing a child to handle a firearm that most gun users would agree was too powerful for a child of this age and build.

Indeed, this shooting range had an exemplary record. Fourteen years, 100,000 shooters (up to 2,000 of them children) and 5 million rounds shot without a Band-Aid or even a scratch, owner Sam Scarmardo said.

But all it takes is one lapse in judgment. And this lapse proved fatal.