Earlier today, a Facebook friend send me the following message:
Stu - I am interested to hear your insightful and knowledgeable thoughts on the situation where the nine-year-old girl injured her instructor while firing an Uzi at a shooting range.
I thought my reply was worth saving here. Any and all comments welcome.
LOL! Well, as you might guess, that's all I'm hearing about for the past couple of days.
First off, I've got to say that teaching kids about guns at an early age is, in general, a GOOD thing. That said, many adults have a real problem controlling fully automatic firearms, so no, I would not give a 9-year-old an Uzi. (Or, like the boy last year, an AK-47.)
With all of this in mind, I'm also not jumping on the PC bandwagon of bashing the poor instructor who lost his life, but try and explain a bit of what happened, because it can easily happen to any instructor who isn't paying CLOSE attention to his/her students. If you saw the video, you may have noted that the instructor is standing to the shooter's left. This is common, because most guns eject spent shells to the right. It is also a BIG mistake. This is because, if a shooter has weak upper body strength -- or, in the case of this little girl, simply didn't expect the recoil forces to be as powerful as they were -- a right-handed shooter tends to swing the muzzle TO the left! (A machine gun's muzzle will also tend to rise, but this is usually expected/explained.)
So again, if you saw the video, these two facts came together with tragic resutls; the girl lost control of the gun, the muzzle swung up slightly and to the left where the instructor was standing with tragic results.
Having just gotten my own instructor's credentials (although I'm NOT qualified to teach full auto firearms), I'd say that the #1 thing wrong is that the instructor should stand BEHIND the student. Secondly, with young or new shooters, we start SLOW and build up to "bigger n' better." Most of us learned to shoot with little bitty .22 pistols and rifles. We'd often only load a single shot when first learning. Then, once we got the basics down, we'd move on to multiple shots, bigger calibers and so on. It looks to me like this was NOT what was done here.
So the ethics of teaching nine-year-olds aside, if that was my JOB, then I'd have started out with a .22 semi-auto, single shot rifle from a bench rest. Then standing, supported; standing unsupported; two shots; three shots (single); three shots (burst, with a full auto .22). THEN I'd move up to the 9mm UZI, again on a bench, again single shot, then standing, single shot, then standing three single shots, then a three-shot burst. I'd NEVER insert a full magazine until the shooter demonstrated full control over the three-round bursts At every step I would be standing behind the shooter, ready to take instant control of that weapon at all times. Instructors can look at the targets AFTER the shots are landed. While the shooting is happening, their eyes MUST remain on the shooter. Lives depend on this.
Lastly, to me, the saddest part of the whole thing beyond the death of the instructor is the poor girl, who now may well face years of therapy and may also grow up absolutely hating guns. Grown men, and trained police officers are often hard-pressed to grapple with the reality of having taken another person's life, even when the other person was in the process of trying to kill them! I know I'd be unconsolable if I ever shot anyone by accident, and I can only imagine -- vividly -- how this child feels. Again, I won't outright say it was irresponsible to try to teach her about firearms at an early age, but aside from some stories and talk, my own instruction by my parents didn't begin until I was about 12, and even then it did NOT include an Uzi or AK. The rule, IMO, is to start small and work up. As the child grows, then and ONLY then should the calibers and capabilities grow, too.
Thanks for the exuse to take the soapbox, A!