Who gives 9-year-old an Uzi?

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Sometimes you read a sentence and you think to yourself: only here, only us.

Here’s one such sentence I read recently in the New York Times this past week: “A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her.”

That’s from the Times’ account of the bizarre death 39-year-old Charles Vacca, who worked for the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Ariz. He died when his preteen student lost control of the Uzi. Apparently, the gun was in “repeat fire” mode, the recoil lifted the muzzle, the little girl couldn’t master it and Vacca was struck in the head.

The Times wrote in an editorial: “Some of us would argue that horrible wrong began, not when the child lost control of the gun, but when adults first placed this powerful piece of military hardware into her small hands. That act raises questions that are as blunt and indecorous as they are necessary and unavoidable: What kind of shooting range allows a prepubescent girl to fire an Uzi? What kind of instructor does not guard against recoil when a child is handling such a powerful weapon? What kind of parents think it’s a good idea to put a submachine gun in their 9-year-old’s hands?”

That story prompted me to search for some facts and figures about guns in the United States. Here’s what I found:

· The estimated number of guns held by the civilian population, both legal and illegal in our country, is estimated by Congressional research to have been about 310,000,000 in 2012. That number included 110,000,000 rifles, 86,000,000 shotguns and 114,000,000 handguns.

· As these numbers indicate without too much guessing the U. S. ranks No. 1 in a comparison with 178 other countries.

· And in the rate of privately-owned firearms per 100-population, we also rank No. 1 in a comparison with the same 178 countries.

· In the United States, the percentage of households with one or more guns stood at 34.4 percent in 2013, up two percentage points from 2010. The proportion with rifles was 20.5 percent, with shotguns, 21.5 percent and the proportion with handguns, 21.9 percent.

So with all these guns floating around in the hands of those God only knows, it is little wonder that the actual number of gun deaths in 2011 in the United States was 32,163, the highest on record at that time and up from 28,663 in 2000, according to the information from the website GunPolicy.org.

I make these comments not as a gun apologist because I own several guns, but to make the point that while real guns are under our control, we must ensure those who use them are responsible and to suggest parents and grandparents ought to individually consider very carefully whether or not the use of toy guns are appropriate as a child’s toy.

As a columnist in The Arizona Republic wrote about the shooting last week: “It is time we asked ourselves: Why would a shooting range allow a kid to even handle an automatic weapon? Why would a parent? And most importantly, why would a state? Arizona law allows a minor to possess a weapon if accompanied by a parent, guardian or an instructor, but not this type of weapon.”

What is prevailing law in Alabama on handguns? Our State Constitution provides that every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the State. The State, however, preempts local regulation of handguns from local authorities and turns that over entirely to the legislature. Our handgun preemption statute reads “the entire subject matter of handguns is reserved to the State Legislature.”

With regards to firearms other than handguns, localities in Alabama may regulate the discharge of firearms and levy taxes. The only firearms known to be prohibited are those disguised as walking canes. Although there may be one, I have not been able to find any restrictions on the age of who may be allowed to handle and fire a handgun. Perhaps that may need some further discussion.


Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com