What Are We Thinking?

child with gunThe story’s been all over the news: a girl, aided by a firearms instructor, prepared to fire an Uzi while her parents video-recorded her experience. A minute later: tragedy. The instructor was dead, shot in the head when the fired Uzi bucked upward, out of the girl’s control.  ( http://www.cbsnews.com/news/family-of-instructor-killed-by-9-year-old-with-uzi-speaks/ )

She was nine. Nine.

What were her parents thinking? Who’s responsible for putting that weapon in that girl’s hands?

Apparently, it’s standard practice in the business to allow children over the age of eight to fire an automatic weapon, as long as they’re guided by a licensed instructor and under adult supervision.

The ‘business’ I refer to is gun tourism, where ordinary folks get the chance to fire weapons like Uzis and sniper rifles. Out west, especially, gun tourism is gaining popularity, even popping up at social functions like bachelor parties and weddings. That thrill comes with a price–apparently, a pretty steep one–but one folks are willing to pay.

One of the more well-known of these businesses is Bullets and Burgers (http://bulletsandburgers.com ) just outside Las Vegas. Their website describes the services they offer:

Our guests have the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons. You will choose the guns which you want to shoot from our extensive collection and we provide the eye/ear protection, ammunition, and expert guidance. Our guests have an opportunity to choose from a wide variety of machine guns. Click here to view all of our available guns. Our 50 Cal. selections includes the Barrett Sniper Rifle, the Browning BMG .50 Cal (‘the deuce’), and the Desert Eagle. We even have the actual firearms used in several Hollywood hits including The Terminator and Rambo II. To top it off, lunch is included. . .

Not sure how expensive the burger is, but firing one of those guns isn’t cheap. As one partron writes:

. . .shot 6 rounds out of a barrat 50 cal sniper rifle approx 100 dollars. . .

I admit, I like shooting guns. I’ve shot rifles, shotguns, a Glock. I’ve gone skeet shooting and really enjoyed the challenge. My cousin runs a sniper school out in Texas, my dad was a hunter, my husband grew up around guns, hunting with a shotgun but he had to earn that right, prove himself responsible before he was ever allowed to touch a gun. Remember, I’m talking shotguns now, weapons you have to rack before firing. Not an automatic weapon with a loaded magazine.

That nine-year-old girl didn’t have enough training with an Uzi. She wasn’t prepared for the powerful kick, didn’t have the physical strength to hold the Uzi steady. Was it the instructor’s fault for not taking greater care, for not holding the weapon down from the top, in anticipation of that kick? Big mistake. But wholly his? The girl’s parents signed a waver. Does that excuse them from responsibility? Who’s at fault here?

Least culpable is the kid who fired the damn thing. Adults should have known. . .

We like our thrill rides, our grown-up toys. We enjoy flirting with danger. I include myself, I’ve done some dangerous things in my time, just for the thrill of it. Case in point: When offered the chance to light and throw a quarter stick of dynamite, I said yes. What the hell was I thinking, right?

Yeah.

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