9-year-old firing uzi at gun range accidentally kills instructor

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(CNN) — A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range when the weapon recoiled over her shoulder, according to Arizona authorities.

The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, died at a hospital late Monday night after he was shot in the head.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the girl was with her parents. The website of Bullets and Burgers, the shooting range where the accident happened, says children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot a weapon if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Police identified the weapon as an Uzi, an Israeli-made submachine gun.

Cell phone video released by authorities Tuesday shows the moments before the fatal shots were fired, CNN affiliate KLAS reported.

In the video, Vacca and the girl are at an outdoor range. The wind blows a target in the distance. Vacca shows the child how to hold the gun then helps her establish her grip and her stance. She fires one round and dirt flies above the target. Vacca adjusts the Uzi, places his right hand on her back and his left under her right arm.

She fires several rounds in rapid succession and the gun kicks to the left as she loses control. The video ends before the fatal head shot. In releasing the video, authorities did not identify who made it.

KLAS reported the girl was a tourist from the Northeast.

The station spoke with Sam Scarmardo, who operates Bullets and Burgers, about the incident.

“We really don’t know what happened,” he said. “Our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they’re shooting. If they’re shooting right-handed, we have our right-hand behind them ready to push the weapon out of the way. And if they’re left-handed, the same thing.”

Vacca was married, well-liked and a veteran, KLAS said.

The range, which is about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, says on its Facebook page: “We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique ‘Desert Storm’ atmosphere and military style bunkers.”

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  • Matt

    Regardless of the girl being within the age requirement of 8-17, I don’t believe minors should be allowed to handle certain weapons, especially not Uzis. Regardless of the instructors being trained to handle certain situations, they can make mistakes too, so making sure the person handling the weapon would be able to handle it should something go wrong, would be ideal. If a sub-machine gun goes out of control, I seriously doubt any normal 9 year old would be able to control it.

  • jo

    she should have been swimming or out doing some kid things, I hope she gets , plenty of counseling and the parents go to jail, this is their stupid decision, I mean what 9 yrs. old girl wants to learn to shoot an uzi, that child may have nightmare’s for the rest of her days

    • Offended..just a little

      In response to your post.
      Shooting is a “kid” thing, its a everyone sport.

      Why would wish the parents be sent to jail?
      If the girl was swimming as you suggest, would you wish the lifeguard be sent to jail if the girl drown ?
      Perhaps your anger towards the shooting sports would be better served if focused on say…any weekend in Muskegon, Detroit or Chicago ?

  • ShootsAlot

    That poor child, I hope she is able to understand that this was an accident and doesn’t become stricken with guilt. I hope the people around her are able to guide her in a positive way.

    My daughter was taught to fire sub guns at the age of 11.
    Her instructor stood behind her with his arms around her with his hands on the gun to help control it.
    After 15 minutes of close guidance she was able to control the gun because she knew what to expect.
    We have never fired a full auto Uzi, so I can’t tell you what it’s characteristics are. But as an example, a world war 2 Thompson ( Tommy gun) has a heavy recoil impulse and a tendency to climb. A MP20 H&K sub machine gun is smooth and does not have a tendency for muzzle climb.
    A 9mm “machine gun” is no more powerful than a 9mm pistol, however the recoil impulse causes the muzzle to climb. its not a powerful force, but if you are unaware of the tendency its likely to cause the shots to climb.

    I see this as an accident, not a political issue. Lets all just hope the girl isn’t overcome with guilt and the family who lost a member is able to find peace.

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