Incapable Hands
By: Stephanie Wiederin 
Student Writer for The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, Volume 18

Shooting range
The United States is no stranger to gun debates. The second amendment to the Constitution provides for the right to bear arms, and since its ratification, the controversial provision has sparked numerous debates throughout the United States. With the accidental death of an instructor at a gun range by a nine-year-old girl sporting an automatic weapon, many are questioning how the disastrous situation could ever have come about.

The horrific accident occurred at shooting range in White Hills, Arizona on August 25, 2014. Charles Vacca lost his life when the automatic Uzi he placed in the young girls hands proved too much to control for her.  In a video shot by the girl’s parents, you see Vacca instructing the girl and showing her the correct shooting stance. After aiding her in firing a few rounds, Vacca steps back to let the girl handle the Uzi alone. As she fired the gun, the projection and recoil from the shot sprang the gun upwards, shooting Vacca in the head.

As the nation reacts to this devastating catastrophe, many are asking, why was the automatic weapon was ever placed in the girl’s young hands? Experts have criticized the unfortunate decisions made that fateful day. Clearly an automatic gun such as the Uzi was too much for the girl to control, and many wonder what would have possessed Vacca to give a fully automatic weapon to the girl to handle on her own. CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes stated, “to put an Uzi in the hands of a nine year old… is extremely reckless.” Others see Vacca’s actions in instructing her as lacking the correct safety procedures necessary for the situation. Greg Block runs Self Defense Firearms Training in California and indicated that instructors should stand to the rear and right of the shooter. "He was literally in the line of fire," Block said of the instructor. "He did pretty much everything wrong, and I don't like saying that because it cost the man his life."

Federal law prohibits children under eighteen from possessing firearms, but no federal laws are in place preventing access to guns. One of twenty-one states, Arizona has no law in place restricting gun access to children under eighteen with adult supervision. There are currently twenty-eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have laws managing children’s access to firearms. The range where the accident occurred has rules in place allowing children eight and older to fire guns under adult and instructor supervision, and this seems to be standard industry practice. Now these policies are being questioned.

Although this accident seems to have been the result of some poor decision-making and other unfortunate circumstances, it does not mean that something cannot be done to ensure another similar situation does not occur. Guns will always have a place in United State society based on the rights given to its citizens in the 2nd amendment, but as previously stated, things can be done to regulate what sort of contact children have with guns. Gun enthusiasts stress the educational benefits that exposing children to firearms could ensure. Yet it is accidents like this that display in stark reality that sometimes the benefit does not outweigh the risk.