Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arizona/Nevada: Firearms Instructor at AZ Range Shot, Killed by 9-Year-Old Firing Uzi SMG

According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal, a firearms instructor, 39, working at The Bullets and Burgers outdoor shooting range (http://bulletsandburgers.com) in Kingman, AZ (25 miles south of Las Vegas) was accidentally shot and killed on Monday (August 25) by a 9-year-old girl from New Jersey.

The fatal victim died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The young girl fired the 9mm Uzi at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along US Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the accidental shooting occurred at 1000 hours.  Spokeswoman Trish Carter said the girl, who was vacationing from New Jersey with her parents, was standing next to the instructor at the time of the fatal shooting.

Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe described a video taken of the accident as “ghastly.” 

Sheriff McCabe said the young girl safely and successfully fired the 9mm Uzi several times when it was set in the “single-shot” mode, but when the submachine gun was changed to "full-automatic," the girl fired again while the instructor was standing to her left.

COMMENT:  Not being present at the Bullets and Burgers shooting range, it is difficult to evaluate the safety conditions present, but generally speaking, as a certified NRA Range Officer, I would not permit a child of nine years of age to discharge any firearm without first assessing child competency with lower-caliber handguns.

Yet, when the Uzi recoiled and drifted left as the girl squeezed off an undetermined number of rounds, she lost control of the Uzi as it raised up above her head.

“The guy just dropped,” Sheriff McCabe said of firearms instructor Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, who suffered at least one gunshot to the head.

I would concur with the comments made by Jeff Frichette.

Although Sheriff McCabe properly acknowledged that Bullets and Burgers is a legally-operated business, it is possible that if Charles Vacca had a wife and family, they potentially could file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Jeff Frichette, director of training for The Range 702 in Las Vegas, said the incident in Arizona would never have occurred at his range and credited this to the attention to detail of how range safety officers are trained.

“Hypothetically,” a 9-year-old would be able to shoot a fully-automatic weapon, but it’s a discretionary decision, he said. That decision is based on physical and safety guidelines, Frichette said.

Children need to understand the concept of safety before they are allowed to shoot, Frichette emphasized.

Also, they must be “physically and mentally prepared” before they are allowed to shoot a fully automatic weapon. 

This includes a 4-foot height requirement, he said, adding that even then, they have to master other weapons such as a semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle before they’re allowed to shoot a fully automatic 9mm submachine-gun.

Frichette added that a petite-looking child would likely only be allowed to shoot a semi-automatic rifle.

THE REVIEW-JOURNAL contacted several other gun ranges in Las Vegas. One did not return a call and officials at another two declined to comment.

An autopsy on Vacca’s body will be performed by the Clark County coroner’s office.

McCabe said no citations will be issued and no charges will be filed as the shooting range is a licensed and legal operation.