Monday’s fatal accident at an Arizona shooting range called Bullets and Burgers is horrific and tragic for a multitude of reasons. It hit particularly close to home for me, though, although I am Canadian and live in Ontario. I believe in responsible gun education and that it is possible to keep people safe if they choose to handle a weapon. However, there is a big difference between a woman my age and a 9-year-old girl. No child should have a gun in his or her hands for any reason.
Admittedly, the family in question was on vacation, and sometimes, the brain might go a little mushy as routines fall by the wayside and the lazy days of summer set in. However, there are several questions that arise as a result of this terrible tragedy that left a man dead. First of all, a 9-year-old girl was on a shooting range with an Uzi, which has some recoil to it. A 9-year-old child can barely stay focused long enough to sit through a half-hour meal, let alone concentrate on the responsibilities that come with putting a gun in your hand. Secondly, there is a significant difference between a submachine gun and a pistol. If the child was going to be on a shooting range and wanted to fire a weapon – and make no mistake, it is legal for children to fire a weapon at a range in Las Vegas – why was she not given a smaller pistol to handle instead of a submachine gun? The instructor apparently had taught the child to fire the gun on single shot mode and then told her to shoot in full auto when she hadn’t been prepared for any recoil.
I feel for the 9-year-old. I have a 9-year-old daughter myself, and I know that, should the time come where she may want to go hunting with her father, she will be taught everything she needs to know – and then some – about the responsibilities of handling a gun. She will not be given responsibility in any capacity for any gun until she can demonstrate an understanding of how to be safe with it and how to maintain control of it. Too much can go terribly wrong, as evidenced by the tragedy that occurred at the shooting range in Arizona. The 9-year-old will need significant therapy about having killed a man, albeit by accident. Her mindset will be irrevocably altered as a result of this incident.
My heart also goes out to the parents. They are being mercilessly drubbed on social media, and while I can certainly understand that sentiment – there’s a very tangible part of me that would love to grab them and shake them, asking, “What were you thinking?” They, too, are suffering. Not only do they now have to determine the best way possible to help their daughter through this horror, in addition to the knowledge that she has killed someone accidentally, they have to come to terms with their decision to let her use an Uzi on a shooting range in the first place.
By all accounts, she is the product of a couple who is very well educated about guns and how to control them. However, the big question is how they could ultimately decide that it would be all right for the child to try using a submachine gun. Certainly, no one could have predicted how terribly things would go awry, but these are parents who should have had at least a passing familiarity with the Uzi and the power it could generate in the hands of a well-intentioned 9-year-old and her instructor.
This is a tragedy, no question, but the bigger tragedy would be if we do not learn from this horrendous lapse in judgment that occurred in letting the child try a weapon she was clearly ill-equipped for in the first place. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the shooting is now forever memorialized on social media. The 9-year-old girl will be lucky if she ever recovers from the notion she has killed someone.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean