Editorial: Fully Automatic Firearms & Safety

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Firearms are dangerous machines, and it is unfortunate that for many it takes a tragic incident to remind us of that. In Arizona recently, a girl of only 9 years accidentally shot a firearms instructor in the head with a gun she should not have been handling. The young lady and her family are from New Jersey and wanted to visit a firing range to experience our favorite pastime. The instructor, Charles Vacca, handed a Mini-Uzi to the child to fire and was killed when she failed to maintain control over the weapon. The recoil caused the gun rise and a bullet struck Mr. Vacca in the head and he was killed despite being airlifted to a local hospital.

Steve asked me to write a brief editorial on this incident and express my thoughts as a machine gun enthusiast in order to reaffirm how important it is to respect the danger poorly handled firearms present. In fact, in 2008 an 8 year old boy was shooting a Micro-Uzi and shot himself in the head.

I have taken dozens of people out to shoot machine guns for the first time and I have developed a sort of system to try and make the experience as safe as possible:

  1. Gauge the person’s size, age, and experience with firearms to choose the right gun.
  2. Stand directly behind the person shooting.
  3. Be prepared to grab the firearm in the event of excessive muzzle climb.

In my opinion, the girl should not have been given a short firearm like a Mini Uzi. The cyclic rates of the Minis and Micros are very high, and muzzle climb is often difficult to control for advanced shooters. I have seen grown men shoot the hangers at indoor ranges due to a complete lack of preparedness or anticipation of recoil and muzzle climb. It is for this reason that I usually start people out with a full size Uzi because of its slow cyclic rate and low recoil. The video below is of me instructing and supervising some colleagues at a local range:

The people in the video were told before shooting to lean forward with weight on their front foot, and before they shot the Uzi they fired handguns and other pistol caliber carbines. That is, in my opinion, the safe way to expose someone to full auto.

The 9 year old girl was simply given the gun (in my opinion, the wrong gun) and the instructor backed off:

Why Mr. Vacca is no longer with us is painfully apparent: The girl was given a gun she shouldn’t have been shooting and the instructor failed to properly control the situation. Admittedly I have let younger people shoot machine guns, but I always have a hand on the firearm and one on the shooter’s back to make sure that the firearm does not place rounds anywhere but the target area.

It is too often that people hand the wrong firearms to people with little to no experience. This is, unfortunately, common. In 2013 a woman shot herself in the head with a Smith and Wesson 500 that she should not have been shooting. It is neither smart nor funny to knowingly hand a firearm that is too powerful to a shooter that you know cannot handle it. I would no more hand a Mini-Uzi to a child than I would give a 16 year old new driver a 600 horsepower first car.

In short, we need all remember to respect the danger firearms present in any given situation. This event is a terrible reminder that marksmanship can go from safe to dangerous with the wrong equipment and negligence.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • JLR84

    To be fair it looked like he was attempting to maintain control, but he took his hand of the weapon for a split second, perhaps to correct her grip or something, but in that moment she let off the burst that caused her to lose control.

    That being said I am in absolute agreement that a machine pistol was an extremely poor choice. Too light, too short, too high of a cyclic rate, far too difficult to control even for many experienced shooters lets alone a young novice. I’ve shot full-auto on a few occasions, and while I’ve never found an M16 or MP5 too difficult to control, even I’d be nervous if I were ever handed something like a Micro-Uzi or a G18.

    While a shoulder stock would have helped in controllability, I’d still steer away from a Micro Uzi. The 2008 incident that resulted in the death of 8-year old Christopher Bizilj was with a Micro Uzi with a shoulder stock.

    If the kid was too small to handle something more controllable like an MP5 or M16, then perhaps that’s a sign they shouldn’t be shooting full-auto at all. Or at least give them a shot at something stationary like a tripod-mounted M1919, which isn’t really going to move.

    • whskee

      Truth truth truth. The Micro Uzi and similar designs are notorious for the bolt travel inducing additional ‘flip’. You really do need to brace in with the stock. I’m almost certain she had about zero pressure there but that’s beside the point of all the other issues that went into this. It looks almost like the burst startled her and she started going limp while still holding the trigger down, leaving it to travel where ever it wanted. He may have contributed by grabbing at this point and actually steering it into himself.

  • Well said, Alex.

  • toadboy

    just horrible. Obviously he paid a very high price for a momentary lapse in vigilance. I have never been much of a fan of those little guns. I think at least those of us who instruct kids can keep this burned into our memories, and do what we can to not let this happen again.

    • JLR84

      The thing that really gets me is that there was a similar incident in 2008, where 8-year Christopher Bizilj old accidentally killed himself with a Micro-Uzi at a machine-gun shoot in Massachusetts. I distinctly remember making much the same argument then as Alex.

      I can’t imagine that the proprietors of a machine-gun rental range would not have been familiar with that incident. It should have been burned into their memories then.

      Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

      • USMC03Vet

        Maybe that’s why he was positioned where he was.

        My belief is that if the shooter can’t manipulate the weapon them self they have no business trying to shoot it. He obviously had some sort of reserve regarding her capability of using it and right then he should have said no and done the safe thing.

        • Ethan

          Exactly. He caused a situation that had more risk than he was equipped to safely handle. He rolled the dice in the interest of helping someone have a good time, and he lost.

          As an NRA instructor, I understand the pressure to not look like the dead-horse-beating safety Nazi, but this is what happens when you take risks. Sometimes you lose, and when you lose, you lose BIG.

  • morty finklesteinberg

    Too bad it wan’t Biden showing her how to use a shotgun.

    • This comment it out of line. Wishing someone dead is not the kind of comment we allow here.

      • morty finklesteinberg

        Even Biden? That Zionist scumbag could care less about the 2nd amendment and all of us plebs.

        • RickH

          Tell us how you really feel.

          • morty finklesteinberg

            “Mein Kampf” does a much better job than I ever could.

  • gunslinger

    Going to add, would a Strap have helped? when my buddy rented a MG from local indoor range, they had it strapped down. and he’s a big dude who was an avid shooter.

  • ES

    I thought this was strictly guns, no politics? Who are you to decide who should and shouldn’t be able to handle a gun? The kid had little experience and he was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    • JLR84

      Alex did not call for legislation. Safety is an important non-political topic.

  • Len

    this is unfortunate.

    I am a pro gun person, but if your teaching any kid or any small framed person (under 5 feet) why or earth would you go full auto. what ever happened to teaching with the .22lr in SEMI…

    My heart goes out to both families. the instructor cause he probably has a family, but more importantly the 9 year old kid that has to live with the fact she accidentally killed someone.

    I don’t want to disrespect the instructor but, this is just my opinion and only one person but I think he was very negligence and he lost his life because of it.

    • UpChuck.Liberals

      Len, I totally agree. I took my grandkids to the range last week. My granddaughter is 8, she’s had training with airsoft pistols, in a very controlled environment. Taught the 4 basic rules of firearm safety. I let her use a Ruger 10/22 on a rest, heck she was barely over the station. I would NEVER let a child use a firearm that wasn’t age appropriate without supervision.

    • gunslinger

      i’d start with single shot. let the shooter get a feel for recoil, trigger control, etc.

      • Hank Seiter

        AND EVEN THEN 9 YEAR OLDS SHOULDN’T BE HANDLING A LOADED FULL-AUTO WEAPON MUCH LESS SHOOTING ONE.

        • Ethan

          Maybe not *your* 9 year old, and that is fully your choice; but I know several who can, and do, shoot fully automatic weapons safely.

          Don’t deal in absolutes – no two 9 year olds on earth are alike enough to make that kind of generalization about all of them.

    • Geodkyt

      She wasn;t there to LEARN, she was there to have a fun experience shooting a machinegun. THAT’S HOW THEY ADVERTISE THE PLACE. Show up, pay your $50 (or whatever the rental price is) + ammo (at a steep markup), BRRRP! and back on the bus to the next tourist stop. it’s no different than places that have “SCUBA Excursions”, zip lines, and other “thrill trips” for tourists

      Now, you can do that safely. Even letting a nine year old fire machineguns. But you have to follow some basic guidelines that are REALLY simple, and even if you go the whole nine yards and do the physical restraints (which I would call mandatory for anyone on a Mini-Uzi or similar with a LOT of slow coaching to work up), don’t cost a lot (like, “under $100 per firing point + $2 per gun”). The range cadre did not do ANY of it.

      what happened here was the firearms equivalent to saying, “Well, you managed to make a tower jump. Next, it’s a night freefall jump. . . ”

      This DIDN’T happen because she was nine. This happened because a total newb was handed a VERY tricky piece of equipment with effectively NO training, and ZERO physical safety measures to prevent loss of control. I could hand that Mini-Uzi to your average businessman off the street, and they’d likely lose control just like she did. Unless I actually TRAINED them beforehand, or physically restrained the gun.

  • Justin

    Loading only 2-3 rounds in a magazine is also a good way to start.

    • flyingburgers

      This is true on any gun at any experience level. Start with 1 round until you’re comfortable, then move up to 2-3. Besides, if you’re unfamiliar with a gun, you should be shooting a few rounds and evaluating your aim anyway.

      • Max Kingsbury

        Unfortunately, it seems like the parents weren’t interested in improving her aim, but instead allowing her to “get some”. What a waste.

        • Kurt

          I don’t blame the parents here… not enough facts. They could have been just as nieve about firearms as the young girl and may have put their trust in the instructor. My heart goes out to the instructor and the little girl..

        • Geodkyt

          The parents in all likelyhood aren;t shooters, much less expeienced full auto shooters. They almost certainly THOUGHT they were in the hands of experienced, safe instructors, considering the place in question is a tourist machinegun rental joint — that’s what they DO.

          When you business model is “rent machineguns to newbies who want – just ONE TIME in their life – to blaze away like the movies”, you need to take extra care.

          Frankly, that gun should have been tethered so the muzzle COULDN’T track past the plane of the line. It CAN be done cheaply.

          While a newbie could probably handle an untethered gun like a Thompson with the “helicopter instructor” method the author indicates, ANY newbie handling something like a Mini-Uzi needs physical limiters, OR a really long, careful crawl-walk-trot-jog-run lead up to shooting. Not have her fire one round on SEMI, flip the Happy Switch to AUTO on a full stick (less one round) and say, in effect, “Here you go, honey!”

  • Chance

    Please don’t refer to this guy as an “instructor”. It gives responsible firearms professionals a bad name.

    • whskee

      That’s a terribly insensitive thing to say. There’s a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty that we must all accept to train ANYONE. This man was trying to do his job, and unfortunately when working in firearms instruction one mistake is all that is needed for a death to occur.

      Don’t bash the guy, he died and a lot of people are probably devastated as a result, not to mention the girl involved. I don’t know a SINGLE instructor who hasn’t had some kind of hinky crap go down, myself included. Unless you just don’t have any time instructing at all that is.

      • guest

        I don’t like the idea of giving children guns. I am all for teaching them gun safety, slowly but surely “moving up the ladder” from a .22 to a 9mm or something like that, but it takes time. Giving select fire weapons in the hands of a child is simply reckless and stupid, no matter how good the instructor is. You don’t give a 14 year old kid a 300hp motorcycle why then would you give a weapon that is BEYOND even the physical strength of the shooter?
        This is as moronic as those idiot boyfriends who give their high-heeled 80lbs girlfriends a S&W .50 and then laugh as they have their wrists twisted and head slammed by the barrel from the recoil, or shotguns or whatever you get the picture.
        Irresponsible, and I hate to say this he had it coming. Guns are not toys. I cal tolerate grownups shooting guns “for fun” and some limited amount of fooling around but again they are not toys. You start treating them like toys and abuse other people’s confidence and give someone unexperienced/young/physically incapable such a weapon then you should lose your right to own a firearm. There, I said it. Because some people have obviously no understanding of cause&effect, and about basic responsibilities. Those kind of people should not even be trusted to wipe their rear end without safety equipment.

        • whskee

          You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m of the camp that taking choice away from others because you don’t agree is not my place or yours. These accidents fall into the category of ‘freak accident’ and are statistically rare. I’ve seen firsthand many competent children who can out-shoot adults, and what’s more, they LOVE it. Who am I or you to say that it can’t be done safely and reasonably? Do you want to be the one that stands there and says they have to stop because someone else did something irresponsible?

          You’re completely right on shooter progression, and the ass-hats doing things for laughs. Do you realize there are youth racing events? Kids jumping bikes to lethal heights and at lethal speeds? An accident there can cost a life just the same. Life is full of risk. Do you drive by chance?

          He ‘had it coming’? What’s wrong with you? This was his JOB. His profession warrants responsibility and trust. Do police and military ‘have it coming’? Did 9/11 victims ‘have it coming’ for being American? You’re completely out of line saying such.

          • Nicks87

            Your comments are way out of line. How can you compare this to what the police and military do everyday or 9/11 for that matter (??). I only had to watch the video once to know that the guy had no clue as to what he was doing. First he was standing at her 10 ‘o’ clock which already puts him in a danger zone. Then he told her to put one leg forward in front of the other which is not at all how you should be standing when firing that type of weapon. Also, he should have kept his hand on the weapon keeping it pointed down range until he was sure that she could handle the recoil. Anybody that calls themsleves a firearms instructor needs to be properly trained (military or LE), certified by their dept/branch of service or at least the NRA (if civilian) and meet the requirements set forth by your state (if applicable) and last but not least, have some common sense!

          • whskee

            Let me be brief and hopefully clear. The guy is dead. As an instructor myself (Military- SAMI, ESAMI, CSWI, and many more titles), I don’t like that. What I don’t like even more is when people bash a dead guy as a ‘crappy instructor’ that aren’t instructors themselves more often than not and are going off of 1 terrible event. Armchair commando, hindsight 20/20, and full troll in some cases Unless there’s some evidence of a bad safety record, get off that BS. Mistakes were made without argument and a heavy price was paid. Unfortunately it’s another lesson written in blood. I’ve trained virtually all experience levels and let me tell you, it can get scary sometimes. Google video ‘hot extract training’ sometime and let me know how comfortable you’d be directing that evolution. And beforehand, it’s completely different (dynamic shoot) but illustrates how difficult it can be to control variables.

            And I was calling the absurdity of saying ‘He had it coming’. Screw anyone who would suggest he deserved to die. No one deserves to die for doing their job. Clear? What value do we gain bashing his instructing ability when he’s dead. I like that no one mentions that he wasn’t alone. What about the other instructors or his supervisor? Apparently he passes their smell test if he was working there, so he must have been doing ok at some point.

          • guest

            First off, I am not an armchair commando as you would put it, and second this discussion is not about me.
            Yes, he HAD it coming. Let me be clear on this: had this child as much as understood what was going to happen after he flipped the fun switch to FA I am not sure she would even participate (and I mean the controllability issue, not that she ended his life). An instructor is supposed to be judgmental and draw lines – safety, ability, etc – when needed. He let her fire off one shot and then very enthusiastically switched to full auto.
            I do not know if she even shot anything in her life before, but judging by how she could not control the weapon I highly doubt she is one of those kids who have been training for so long that they can out-shoot adults. To me she looked like a frail kid, which was brought there by their parents and given a weapon to “shoot for fun”.
            I am fully aware that there are youth races (bot with vehicles and those with “race guns”), but you are deliberately derailing the subject: no kid with a responsible parent is let to start a dangerous sport with at least basic training. No kid with a responsible parent is ever given a gun that is TOO POWERFUL TO HANLDLE for a child that size, without training both physically and mentally to understand exactly what the dangers are and how to control it.
            She did not control it, and that’s my whole point. She is EXACTLY like one of those jack-a**es who never rode a real racing bike, buys one, and then ends up crashing it 10 seconds after he/she takes it for a spin because it is too powerful and the driver has no clue what he/she is in control of. The only difference being that a kid does not even comprehend such a decision, and THAT was the duty of the instructor which he failed to do.

            You can talk about dangerous jobs all you like buddy, my work can kill me just as fast as a gun, and if I ever expose myself to a danger so willingly or recklessly as that “instructor” did then I will also have it coming.
            Have a plane crash down on your house while you are asleep – that is an accident. Piloting a plane into someone’s house “by mistake” is recklessness. He was a recless idiot and he had it coming. No sympathy for him what so ever.

          • guest

            And as for choices and making choices for others: ever heard of driver’s license? Ever heard of pilot’s license? I know you will be up-in-arms because it is a right in USA… I don’t care. If you are too stupid, if you can not understand cause&effect, if you can not make the most basic safety decisions then you should not be able to own or operate something that can kill you instantly. I do not want a complete moron to be able to drive a 3-ton pickup as much as I would not want the same person to own a gun. If some people decide to test Darwin’s law by themselves is fine by me: go to a remote forest, desert etc and give it your best. But I do not want dangerous idiots around me to pose a threat to my life and well-being by having or operating something they can not comprehend.
            Gun ownership requires responsibility, period. If not written in law, then at the very least peer pressure should instantly crack down on stupidity of this type relentlessly and mercilessly, because one thing is one person doing something stupid another thing is if MY gun ownership is put in question because either some mentally unstable idiot is given access to someone’s guns, or a child with no concept of safe gun use is given an uzi. You want to have anarchy – go to international waters and live out Waterworld.

          • Nicks87

            “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

            -Red Adair

          • Hank Seiter

            Quit rationalizing and misrepresenting our views. Accept the fact it was UTTERLY STUPID AND IRRESPONSIBLE FOR THIS “INSTRUCTOR” TO COACH A 9 YEAR OLD IN SHOOTING A FULL AUTOMATIC WEAPON. Quit being defensive and drinking the kool-aid.

            Now we have people calling it “choice” to justify irrational and irresponsible behavior which results in a child being clearly outclassed by a full-automatic weapon from the gitgo. I guess it’s a matter of choice to let children play on busy interstate hiways, too, eh?

            And what if it wasn’t the instructor who received the fatal bullet but rather someone further down the firing line? I bet dollars to donuts you wouldn’t be defending this guy as a competent “instructor.”
            You’re sympathy for a dead man is completely understandable but it shouldn’t cloud your judgment that he did something very stupid and irresponsible. Knowledge is power, therefore, physician heal thyself.

          • Geodkyt

            Hank —

            The difference is, there IS a safe way to do this.

            Unfortunately, this guy didn’t do ANYTHING along those lines.

            Done PROPERLY, it is not significantly unsafe to teach someone like this kid (or ANY new-to-full-auto; she could have been 40 years old and a big strapping male hunter, and had the gun run away from him with only the “instruction” and safety measures this little girl was given.)

            Teaching someone how to wing shoot is probably more hazardous than teaching them full auto with the right procedures — you gotta swing that shotgun to track the passers. . .

          • Geodkyt

            Well, as a former Infantry Drill Sergeant, former civilian range safety officer & instructor, and until recently, a formally carded range officer for a major Army post who was certified for anything on that post except air-to-ground ranges, I’ll throw my two cents in. In addition, I’ve coached newbies – including kids about that age – through learning to shoot full automatic weapons, INCLUDING buzzguns. So, i *do* have the formal training, experience, and knowledge to comment:

            This guy bought and paid for his Darwin Award IN CASH, through his own incompetance. And in doing so, traumatized a nine year old girl, and probably her parents. He hurt everyone who knew and loved him. All because he was stupid, and either didn’t know what he was doing, or sloppy and complacent (which is worse.)

      • LouGots

        No. This was blatant disregard of the known danger of placing an unsupported, untethered full-auto submachine gun in the hands of a nine-year old.

        Insensitive? You betcha, I’m insensitive about the feelings of incompetents responsible for casualties like this. Guns don’t accidentally shoot people, stupid people accidentally shoot people. This fiasco is no exception. If someone other than the Darwin Award laureate himself had been the victim of this incompetence, I would have been glad to give expert testimony at the so-called “instructor’s” manslaughter trial.

      • Hank Seiter

        Terribly insensitive? Not at all. It seems to me that the lack in judgment in allowing an inexperienced 9 year old — even an “experienced” 9 year old — shoot an automatic weapon pretty much belies the assumed “expert instructor” narrative.

        May as well let a 12 year old boy climb into a 10,000 hp Top Fuel dragster to make “a safe run down the asphalt” for the thrill.

        The 9 year old shares no blame for this completely avoidable incident. Both parents and the “instructor” share all the blame for even allowing their daughter to handle a loaded 9mm Uzi much less shoot one.

        • Geodkyt

          Frankly, I doubt the parents had enough information to make a truly informed judgement on the competance of the cadre. When you see a major, well advertised, long running, specialty business that caters to tourists seeking thrill experiences, most people take it for granted they are actually competant to safely do what they advertise.

          The fault lies with the guy who was SUPPOSED to ensure it was done safely, and then did NOTHING that *any* competant firearms instructor familiar with full auto weapons and their characteristics would have done. And, in almost all probability, significant fault lies with the people responsible for hiring and overseeing him, for not ensuring he understands what the proper procedures are and why they have to be followed EVERY TIME.

          The age of the girl is a red herring, in terms of “reasonable”. If he had taken my 30 year old little sister out and done the same thing with her, the only likely change would have been the bullets *probably* would have passed over his head, because she’s a foot taller than th elittle girl is.

      • Jimbo

        Not insensitive. The guy used his head for a hat rack. That kid may be messed up mentally and emotionally for years.

    • USMC03Vet

      It looks that way.

      Looks like she wasn’t taught the basics of operation which is why he placed himself in a dangerous area to do it for her. I know before I teach people to shoot we do dry fire and manipulation first and foremost so the shooter knows exactly what is going to happen before they ever handle a loaded weapon.

      There was a recent youtube video showing a terrible range instructor in action letting complete novices endanger themselves and others. Notice when the lady flags the guy with her muzzle.

    • toadboy

      He seems to have been taking his job extremely seriously. Obviously there was a chain of errors, and he paid a high price for that. I think we need to understand what was happening here. the girl’s family was not there to learn firearms safety. They were there to have the experience of shooting a machine gun. There are a lot of ranges that market that. Most of the ones I have seen cater to Japanese tourists. That means they have a bunch of people come in with zero firearms experience, who point to a cool looking gun on the wall and expect to be able to safely shoot just like in the movies. I have not spent much time in those places, but I feel pretty sure that working there as an instructor is a very stressful experience. I would like to hear from members who work in those places. I imagine the girl picked the mini-uzi because to her it looked small and easy to control. That is just a guess. I think we would all benefit from learning how these tourist ranges operate, and what rules are in place there.

      • Hank Seiter

        Then obviously the desire to make a few bucks for outweighed any consideration for the great danger posed by letting 9 year olds fire full-automatic weaponry. THE GUY IS DEAD for those “chain of errors” that he so willfully engaged in and that is proof enough that what he did was irresponsible, irrational and stupid.

      • Ethan

        Speaking as an NRA instructor, I agree with Hank.
        While we can speculate on how, under different circumstance this could made safe, the bottom line is that this man simply failed at his #1 Job: Safety.

        He didn’t handle the situation responsible, and he paid the price. He chose a course of action that represented more risk than he was able to safely handle – his fault and no one else’s.

    • Nicks87

      Chance, I agree, too many dipshits like to call themselves instructors but in reality have no business running a range. What kind of “instructor” let’s a 9 year old child with no previous firearm experience fire a full-auto machine pistol? He wasnt even showing her a proper stance! Maybe after this tragic incident people will think twice about claiming to be something they are not.

  • Ben

    Heres an idea besides what was posted which was great, how about 4 mags each loaded a little more in each clip. 2 or 3 rounds for the first then 5 etc. this way even if said auto climbs odds are its empty by the time theyre swinging and it gives the shooter an idea of what auto is going to feel like with more rounds.

    • Hank Seiter

      How about manning up and growing a pair and embrace a little sane commonsense and simply say … NINE YEAR OLDS SHOULDN’T BE SHOOTING FULL-AUTO ANYTHING UNLESS IT’S AN AIRSOFT GUN. Why do all the apologists for this “instructor” believe using some commonsense with respect to youths and small-statured women regarding full-automatic and large caliber weaponry is somehow an assault on the Second Amendment?

      Sheesh, conversely gun-banning liberals couldn’t be any dumber with their ahistorical emotional approach to the Second Amendment.

      • Ethan

        Hank you seem to have quite the agenda – that’s the 4th time you’ve posted that message here.
        You are of course entitled to your opinion, but dealing in absolutes is never an intellectually honest exercise.

  • Jim_Macklin

    I won’t say that a 9 year old child should never shoot an UZI. But there are certain safety precautions that deal with the shooters, the gun and range safety equipment.
    beside some dry fire training and instruction on sight picture, the safety rules and suggested or recommended procedures for the particular firearm.
    Some semi-auto firing with the magazine loaded with one round for the first shot. If the student has any problems handling single round loads, don’t jump into any full magazine or full auto fire.
    Instruct the student about how to hold the gun safely so they control the muzzle and the trigger. Instruct them to fire and release the trigger. The normal reaction to the recoil is to grip the gun more tightly. That will also probably squeeze and hold the trigger.
    When it is time, load 2 or 3 rounds for semi-auto fire. If this goes well, no control or trigger finger problems, Load 5 rounds for semi-auto and fire the gun until the bolt locks back.
    If that goes well load a dummy and 3-5 rounds for full auto. Maybe load several 3-5 round-dummy stop so the student experiences full auto and short bursts.
    A lesson can be learned from Sporting Clays, a small window frame or diameter wooden or rattan hoop fastened securely to the bench used as a muzzle control device.so the instructor/range safety can keep the student from falling or pulling back so the gun is free to move vertically or laterally.
    I remember the shooting galleries at the state fair. The guns were secured with a chain or cable on the barrel.

    • Hank Seiter

      Then I’ll say it, A NINE YEAR OLD SHOULD NEVER SHOOT A FULL-AUTO UZI OR ANY FULL-AUTOMATIC WEAPON INCLUDING .22 FULL-AUTO.
      Give them a single shot .22. I wouldn’t even let my own boys shoot a semi-automatic pistol or rifle until they were 12 and capable of holding the weapon by themselves with me BEHIND THEM making sure they were in complete control.

      • Geodkyt

        Well, Hank, people who know how to do this safely, including people who have done it professionally, disagree with you. . . based on first-hand experience.

        The difference is how you do it. He broke EVERY basic rule on teaching someone about shooting a full auto weapon there is.

        A full grown adult would have been just about as likely to have the same loss of control issues she did, because of lack of training. I’ve coached kids through shooting SMGs, and didn’t have a single issue. . . but I didn’t do it ANYTHING like this idiot did.

      • Ethan

        I have to disagree with you.

        This scenario certainly *CAN* be done as safely as letting a child that age drive a bumper car. This instructor simply chose not to go the safe route, and instead took on a much greater level of risk, for which he paid dearly.

  • USMC03Vet

    “Stand directly behind the person shooting.”

    Can’t be emphasied more than this video especially with short barreled weapons.

  • mtwzzyzx

    “…and unfortunately when working in firearms instruction one mistake is all that is needed for a death to occur.”

    Well, like most tragedies, it’s a confluence of several factors. His moment of inattention. Overestimating the abilities of the person shooting. Failure to use additional layers of safety like a strap down (all you need is a strap/cord looped around just behind the front sight, and secured to the ground or the shooters belt or foot), or cross strap from one side of the shooting stall to the other, or the suggestions below of multiple mags loaded with incrementally increasing numbers of rounds to prevent a runaway. An awareness of how kids are would help too- often they’ll just let go if something reacts in their hands in an unexpected to them manner- obviously dangerous here. Even him crouching or kneeling next to her rather than standing might have made a difference.

    Hopefully, this will help others avoid the same fate.

  • Aaron E

    Horrible! Tragic! And bad for gun lovers everywhere. The instructor’s death is tragic enough, but the girl’s trauma cannot be understated either.
    I’m all for full auto firearms. They’re a blast to shoot (in the right conditions). In my opinion, children and adults should be introduced to full auto firearms with the firearm secured in some manner. That way they can enjoy the “rock and roll”, wihtout the worry of a dropped weapon or out of control muzzle rise. In this case – the instructor is behind the student and holding the weapon with both hands over the child’s hands. With adults, maybe a bench rested firearm with some form of weight or safety lever that prevents muzzle rise. Just a thought to prevent this type of disaster.
    Reminds me of a previous TFB post from Korea I believe, that showed a gun shop range where the pistols were secured to a safety wire. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something.

  • Julio

    Thanks, Alex, for a well-considered and fluent commentary on this tragic but all too avoidable accident.

  • Pedro Marcos

    Completely STUPID the idea of letting a 9 yo girl shot a sub gun. She should better be learning the rudiments of homemaking, and basic social skills, FFS! For shooting, start the kids after 12 with a low powered airgun and then go from there. Are people going batshit insane? Jeesh!

  • Mystick

    I’ve had the opportunity to fire a MAC-11/9, and being an experienced shooter, even I had problems controlling the thing. Trigger discipline is absolutely key… short, controlled bursts. The instinct when it jumps is to hold on tight with the whole hand, but you have to keep the trigger finger relaxed. Having very little to hold on to with the non-firing hand makes the job that much more difficult. A handstrap attached near the muzzle or an insulated suppressor helps a lot… along with properly using them.

    Bottom line, these types to firearms are not for the novice – especially for someone lacking arm/grip strength combined with poor focused trigger discipline and small hands, such as a 9-year old girl.

    An M4 or even MP5 would have been a better choice… anything that had weight, encumbrance, or a low cyclic rate – unlike the Mini-Uzi or MAC-11 “bullet hoses”…

    Introducing your children to firearms should be done a responsible manner… not with “novelty” guns. Use common sense! Don’t give them a Lamborghini with their Learner’s Permit. Start off small and easy. 10/22’s, .410’s, hell, even an air rifle. Take it in steps and be involved!

    • Ironically I believe a full sized Uzi with one of those wooden stocks would’ve been a better choice, combined with partially loaded magazines… and maybe a better stance. It looked like a weird offhand stance.

  • Zugunder

    Not that i wish someone’s death, but i not really sorry for this guy. I’m sorry for this girl more, this is terrible experience for 9 y.o. girl. She probably won’t take her hand on gun anymore, and more sadly would have psychological problems for the rest of her life. (sorry my english)

  • An Interested Person

    From watching the video a few times, it looks like the Uzi went straight sideways on the second shot in auto?

    Can anyone with experience explain that for me? I (having never shot one) would think the recoil impulse would be upwards. Did the shooter just lose all control when the second round fired in this instance?

    • She’s 9 years old and completely novice. I’m hardly surprised it happened – she was surprised (no past experience means she didn’t know what do expect), had zero strength to counter the recoil, which she didn’t expect.. and it was a full magazine. Of course the Uzi went in a wild direction. There was hardly any control there.

      Risk factor multiplied by risk factor.

    • Geodkyt

      She panicked when the gun got away from her. Which happens with newbies who haven’t been properly instructed (regardless of age).

      Which is why any fam fire of a full auto gun by total newbs ought to be physically restrained, so it CANNOT shoot back across the line, regardless of what happens. Not unless you are willing to take the time and ammo to lead them up to that point an inch at a time.

      That’s just as true with a male 250lbs college athelete as it is with a 50lbs nine year old girl. I can GUARANTEE neither one is holding it properly, tightly enough, or firmly braced, unless you’ve spent a lot of time TRAINING them. Which this range DOESN’T do — their business model is, “Run ’em through quick, let ’em have a thrill.”

  • Scott Tuttle

    My theory is he stood off to the side because they were videoing her and didnt want to block their view.

  • Lee

    I think an mg34 or m249 would of been a better option here. One, it is heavy and sits on a bipod on the ground. Two, you can unload links so the customer can only shoot 5 bullets at a time. Three, you have to try really hard to shoot yourself with a long mg34. Based on how the customer handles the firearm in 5 shot bursts one can determine if a 10 rnd string is acceptable. Remember, this is a small child. If they placed the gun in a mounted system where the kid didnt have to aim and the kid only had to pull a trigger…it would still bring a smile to their face.

  • Secundius

    According to the owner/operator of the food and shoot facility. The instructor is suppose to be a the girls 6’oc position. If you look at the video, he wasn’t. He was more likely or not at her 7:30’oc position, or even 8’oc position. Most like, so the mother and father could video the shot. The other thing I found interesting, was the owner/operator keep looking to his left. As though he was receiving instructions or reading from “Cue Cards” .

  • smartacus

    **DISCLAIMER**
    It’s sad that I have to preface myself with “i am not sexist, but”

  • guest

    Tragic and stupid. But then again this was not an instructor, but a darwin candidate. And try imagining what that girl went trough… now she will forever remember she killed a man. Probably have nightmares. Maybe PTSD. Maybe even for life. F***ng makes me sick just to think how I would feel like in her shoes, at that age.

  • Bill

    At 9 my daughter “got” a Savage Stevens Favorite and a bicycle. At 12 she was taught to drive the garden tractor and a bolt action . At 16 it was a driver’s license and training with a GLOCK. A 9 year old girl with a subgun would be the equivalent of expecting me to play with a Barbie doll.
    And it isn’t a gender thing, the same would apply to a 9 year old boy, just different analogies. Not to be flippant, but if you have to be so tall to ride a roller coaster, this should be a no-brainer. Come to think of it, my kid and I worked our way up from the kiddy coasters to the vomit comets over years.

    • OliverTabuger

      It’s not necessarily an age thing. It’s about experience and properly instructing those without experience.

      • Bill

        True, to a degree, and there are 9 year old violin virtuosos and 50 year old cops I wouldn’t trust with a rubber band. But physically, and newer brain research indicates neurologically, kids are kids, and we don’t actually stop “developing” until our 20s. I’d no sooner let a 9 year old short a fully-automatic weapon, particularly one that’s notoriously difficult to shoot well, than I’d let them operate a chain saw.

        We always fall back on what we were allowed to do as kids, or weren’t allowed but did anyway, but I doubt I’m the only one to have had multiple trips to the ER for stitches and broken bones, AFTER we got the cows penned up for the night, etc.

        Someone commented about a checklist, and I really believe in their value in situations like this as an instructor. When you are doing the same thing repetitively with numerous different people, it’s the best way I’ve found to avoid human-factor-based errors and I think most pilots would agree. Atul Gawandes’ book “The Checklist Manifesto” is a valuable resource/

  • adverse

    I regret the death of the instructor, I equally regret the 9 year old is going to live with this experience for the rest of her life. I am sure everyone involved woke up thinking it was going to be just another day at the range.

  • GunTotingLib

    Kids shouldn’t be allowed to fire that powerful of a firearm no matter how much they would like to. It is like tossing the keys to a Maserati to a 12 year old boy and telling him to go ahead and take it for a spin,because it’s fun car to drive. Kids should shot a lot of .22LR before they shoot anything else and I can’t imagine how a kid gains the experience, responsibility, maturity and training to shoot a full auto gun by age 9. Responsible parents know when to say no, your not old enough yet.

  • LouGots

    As a certified instructor with many years experience, including running full-auto fam-firing for juniors, I find this article to be grossly understated.

    This firearms mishap with fatal casualty was entirely foreseeable and preventable. We do not advance either firearms safety or the cause of the right to keep and bear arms when we sugarcoat the blatant instructor malpractice of this Darwin Award laureate.

    There is a right way to conduct fam-firing of full auto firearms, and this was not it. When my organization’s youth program conducts this evolution, the firearms, (Class III legal M16’s, with .22LR adapters) are tethered and supported. We care, so we take the time to do it right.

    Fortunately, this incompetent himself paid the price of his conscious disregard of known dangers.. Centerfire submachine gun, untethered and unsupported, fully loaded, selector switch on, “Let ‘er rip, Litttle Girl!” Yeah, sure.

    .

  • scaatylobo

    I was an LEO and firearms instructor back a few years ago [ retired now ] and I allowed many young people [ children of dept & office personal ] to shoot an MP-5,no problems or even close calls = EVER.
    As stated above,follow the safety rules and no one gets hurt or even scared.
    All who shot on my range came away with a great respect for and HUGE love of the firearm.
    Sadly ,this man made a fatal error that he paid the full price for.

  • petru sova

    I have been pro Second Amendment all my life but allowing untrained people especially children to fire full auto firearms when they may have never even held a firearm in their entire life is just plain irresponsible. Several years ago a young boy was killed at a machine gun range resulting in some State changes on shooting ranges and children. It is an adults responsibility to use common sense when dealing with children. I think this recent incident only proves that training with firearms is a prerequisite and an age limitation on full auto public ranges is mandatory otherwise this same incident will only happen again.

  • A.D. Hopkins

    Well said.

  • Steve_7

    This is a range that advertises a .50 M2 HMG for rent on an ATV! For people who’ve never used a gun before. That to me is reckless.

  • Lou

    I am 71 years old. I have been shooting since young. But when I fire a new firearm for the first time, I try to remember to put only ONE round in the chamber. This practice will avoid accidents like the 500 S&W mag killing that poor girl. Full auto weapons area different story though.

  • Al

    This indeed should be a wake-up call for all those who are blurring the lines. Too many TV shows, video games and marketers are blurring the line between reality and fantasy with all this fun-and-games and zombie crap with real firearms. A lot of people are making a lot of money this way and this is the price. The instructor was the on-site expert and let profit precede safety and common sense. I am deeply sorry for all those concerned, but the facts speak for themselves.

  • Lloydl333

    The instructor0created a situation that caused his demise. Was he a qualified instructor?

    My opinion: Two or three bullets and hold the gun with the girl so the recoil could be controlled.

  • Hank Seiter

    I believe the Second Amendment, as originally intended by the constitutional architects, clearly enumerates the right of sane, mentally competent adults to “keep and bear” ANY smallarm of choice … including full-automatic or select-automatic smallarms.
    Having said that, I think it’s extremely irresponsible to let any child to shoot or even handle a loaded full-automatic weapon … period. The vast majority of adults have a difficult time truly controlling a full-automatic weapon. And a 9 year old girl … irresponsible insanity! And please, no face-saving rationalizations about how your six year old routinely and safely fires a full-automatic firearm. Sheer bunkum and stupidity on steroids.
    What a waste just so a 9 year old could get a “thrill”.

    • Ethan

      Perhaps *your* 9 year old could never be trusted with that kind of responsibility (and they don’t have to!), but you don’t speak for everyone. Absolutes are a tool of politics, not reality. Words like “Always” and “Never” and “Absolutely” are rarely an accurate depiction of reality.

  • Jimbo

    I’m living in NYS, trying to take care of an elderly parent who wants to stay in her house. Gun owners here are fighting for our rights, but it is a an uphill climb. It seems like every week, I’m defending what is left of my 2nd amendment rights to some gun banner, writing the local newspaper, or contacting my congressman and senators. Every time I make some progress convincing people, some idiot in a state that has few restrictions, does something stupid like hand a young kid an UZI. That gives more ammunition to the gun banners.