Up in the northwest corner of the state, about fifty miles as the crow flies from Las Vegas, is the town of White Hills. There, on a stretch of Highway 93 that runs about ruler-straight between Kingman and Boulder City is the Bullets and Burgers open air shooting range. Proudly displayed on this enterprise's website is the variety of some 40 different types of weapons available for use by mayhem-minded thrill-seekers, including various Browning .50 caliber machine guns, a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.
As evidenced by TripAdvisor online reviews, this quaint, but aptly name spot is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. And it was here this past Monday that a nine-year old girl, on vacation from New Jersey with her parents, accidentally shot and killed an instructor who was teaching her to shoot an Uzi submachine gun.
Where to start with this tragedy?
No laws or regulations were broken. Instead of nine, the child could, under Arizona law, been even a year younger. Nothing mandated letting her first try something less powerful than an Uzi, which fires 10 rounds per second at a muzzle velocity up to 400 meters per second. Reportedly, it was the resulting recoil, or “kick” that caused her to lose control of the weapon.
And who in anything resembling their right mind puts that kind of firepower in the hands of a nine-year old in the first place? For what conceivable purpose? The range owner says that as a result of this unfortunate incident, he was considering requiring his customers to be over five feet tall and twelve or older. (Parents consequently thwarted in their desire to give their younger offspring a fun day at a range can head to Texas where the legal age is a mind-numbing six.) Show of hands, all those thinking an elementary school kid has the physical, mental or emotional wherewithal to be entrusted with this potentially lethal responsibility.
And what could the parents possibly have been thinking? “I have an idea, honey. We’ve pretty much done Las Vegas, so before we head home, let’s head out to a shooting range and give our little girl a treat. You know how she’s always saying she wants to pull off some rounds with a semi-automatic.” One of the parents recorded the initially happy event on a cellphone, presumably as a memento of the occasion. In the tragic event, they turned it over to the Sheriff’s office.
In 2011, there were 851 unintentional gun deaths in the U.S. Per capita, that’s a rate almost four times Canada’s, six times Australia’s, and thirty times Japan’s. (Honors to the U.K., where with no such killings the rate was nil.) Small wonder that reporting of the event and the lamentable posting of the parent’s video have occasioned stupefied dismay among our friends and glee among our adversaries around the world.
It’ll be interesting, but probably sadly predictable to see how the NRA and its spawn of enablers in and out of government spin this. Blame will be spewed in all directions except the absence of meaningful measures to control gun usage in a country where self-defense against all enemies real and imagined completely trumps common sense. And so the killings continue.
In the meantime, sympathies for the friends of the range instructor, and for a nine-year old girl who for the rest of her life will carry a burden she neither requested nor expected.