9-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Kills Instructor with Uzi: How Young is Too Young for Children to Fire Guns?

Monday at around 10:00 am at Arizona Last Stop, a shooting range southeast of Las Vegas, a 9-year-old girl from New Jersey who was vacationing with her family, accidentally shot and killed her instructor after losing control of the firearm while being taught how to use an Uzi sub-machine gun .  The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, reportedly had over 12 years of military experience and was currently a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Most gun ranges do permit children to learn to shoot firearms as young as eight years old, but as a parent, this could be a tough decision to make.  Should parents allow their children to handle and/or shoot automatic firearms?  The gun range operator explained,

“We instruct kids as young as 5 on .22 rifles, and they don’t get to handle high firearms, but they’re under the supervision of their parents and of our professional range masters.”

Instructors are trained to block recoil on firearms, especially when teaching children, but clearly things can always go wrong.  A very similar situation occurred in 2011 when 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj accidentally killed himself while shooting an Uzi at a gun show.  Thankfully these types of accidents do not happen frequently, but should parents learn from these past mistakes?

We’ve discussed the issue of children and firearms in the past.  Parents know their own children better than any gun instructor might.  It’s very important to think about whether your child is mentally ready to handle such a great liability.  So in thinking about this, should there be age limits at shooting ranges?  Does it make a difference what type of gun a child wants to shoot?  How can we better protect our children and others under these circumstances?

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