Charles Vacca’s Death Is A Tragedy, But Gun Range Accidents Are Exceedingly Rare
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Even experts sometimes make mistakes. That happened this past Sunday when a firing range instructor at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in White Hills, Arizona was accidentally shot to death by a 9-year-old student.
The reaction has been swift. Calling it “sick” over and over again, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough “Who would put an Uzi in the hands of a nine-year-old girl? What is wrong with these people? What is wrong with this culture? What right is advanced by doing that?” The New York Times quotes one person’s outrage: “What in the name of Jesus is wrong with us, Americans?” And, of course, Shannon Watts from Michael Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action was on television yesterday to discuss the tragedy and call for more gun control.
Anyone who has been to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport has probably seen the signs advertising shooting ranges that allow visitors to try shooting machine guns. People come from all around the world to visit these shooting ranges.
The accident is the first in the 14 years that the gun range has operated. It occurred when the girl couldn’t handle the recoil from the automatic gun.
Because the total recoil gets larger, instructors typically place their hands on guns when children are first firing them. The firing range instructor in this case, Charles Vacca, 39, made a mistake in judging what the girl could handle.
Still, these cases are extraordinarily rare. This is only the second accident of its type involving a young child firing a machine gun. Another similar case occurred in 2008 at a gun expo in Massachusetts. In that case the child died.
Fortunately, accidental gun deaths in general are low, both for adults and for children. There were 591 deaths in 2011, the last year the Centers for Disease Control data are available. With over 300 million guns in the U.S. and around 45 percent of American households owning a gun, the accidental death rate is extremely low.
A quick search of news stories found one accidental gun death involving a 25-year-old woman at a Missouri shooting range last year.
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