This past Monday, a nine year old girl accidentally shot and killed a firearms instructor on a gun range in Arizona. Her parents visited Last Stop, a shooting range that is part of a tour given by a group called Bullets and Burgers, and thought it would be fun (?) to let their nine year old daughter fire an Uzi. On automatic.
The video of the incident shows Charles Vacca, the instructor, helping the little girl in pigtails get into the correct stance, and with the Uzi on semi-automatic, he tells her to fire one shot. She does, Vacca reaches down to the Uzi, changes the semi-automatic setting to automatic, and tells her to fire. According to multiple sources, the little girl was unable to control the recoil, and shot Vacca who was standing to her left.
Arizona has no laws prohibiting this. Arizona has no minimum age requirement for firing guns, and while there are federal laws that prohibit anyone under the age of eighteen from possessing a handgun, there are exceptions made for gun ranges. Other gun ranges in Arizona do not allow young children to handle weapons like an Uzi, but Last Stop isn't one of them. From the Bullets and Burgers website, and the New York Times, customers can:
...shoot a wide variety of fully automatic machine and belt fed guns including the AK-47, Colt M-16, MP5/40, FN FAL, Bren, M4, M249, M60, PKM and M203 Grenade Launcher.
That includes customers who are eight years old.
Charles Vacca was a war veteran, who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One has to wonder why he would work for a company that puts deadly weapons into the hands of children, after seeing deadly weapons in the hands of children while he was at war. We cannot ask him, because a tragedy of almost Greek proportions unfolded Monday and he is dead, while a child is traumatized, possibly for life.
Wednesday afternoon, NRA Women, a group we can presume loves firearms, and obviously has no empathy, tact, or public relations staff, released a Tweet. The screenshot below is from a Mother Jones article:
Two days. NRA Women posted this incredibly thoughtless Tweet two days after a nine year old girl was given an Uzi on full auto, and a combat veteran was killed.
And about that combat veteran. Over the past three days, I have read some of the most heartless, selfish, cruel, and flat out mean comments about his death. He deserved it, we're better off now that he's dead, one more "ammosexual" gone, Darwin award winner, etc. No. You don't get to lay all the blame on the dead back of Charles Vacca. You don't even get to lay it at the feet of that poor child's parents. We own this, at least part of it, because we wring our hands, and we shed our tears after every goddamn one of these "accidents," but what do we do? What do we change? Oh yay, Open Carry Texas can't take their guns into Starbucks, but they can still wander around Dallas or Austin, armed to the gills.
Our politicians for the most part are terrified of the NRA, and John Lott, and gun extremists. People elect representatives with "A" ratings from the NRA, those men and women don't just magically appear in the House. Maybe your family members voted for representatives who are subservient to the NRA, maybe you did. My rep has an "A" rating from the NRA, he received money from them, and he's a Blue Dog Democrat. The people who run against him are fringe conservative birthers, who think the Earth is about 6,000 years old, support a theocracy, and hate the LGBT community. What the hell am I supposed to do?
That's the problem, in a nutshell. We are forced to vote for people who might be wholly owned by the NRA, but at least they might not want to shove creationism down our kids' throats. If you live in rural America, it's even worse. Our rep has to suck up to the hunters and the "sportsmen," because they comprise the majority of his demographic. He might lose in November, because he supports marriage equality. He loves guns, and gets that Holy Grail rating from the NRA, but he still might lose to someone who is honestly more conservative than Michele Bachmann.
We need better choices. I would love the DNC to stand up to the NRA, and to only back candidates with what I consider the Holy Grail rating: an "F." It will never happen, because Democratic candidates represent small towns, towns like mine, filled with paranoid, angry white people, who think President Obama was born in Kenya, and love their guns. And never forget that the real reason most politicians get into politics in the first place is the power. They have to appeal to the majority, and if the majority is made up of lunatics who do cling to guns and the Bible (in that order), that's the vote they seek.
If we want to change anything, if we want to live in a country where you cannot give a nine year old an Uzi, we must demand better candidates, better representation, better laws. We cannot just sit back, complacent and petulant, waiting for "someone else" to make it happen. It's up to us, because I think it's pretty obvious we have no one in power brave enough to really do what needs to be done.
No one should be able to give a nine year old an Uzi. Guns should not be marketed to children, the way they are at Crickett Firearms. And we-the voters, the citizens of the United States of America-deserve, and must demand, representatives with the courage to create legislation to stop this insanity.
This is not Koch America, or ALEC America, or NRA America. It's our America, and it's time to stand up for what's right. Research your candidates before you head to the voting booth in November. If you're like me, and you're stuck with a Blue Dog, call them, tell them the only reason they got your vote this time is they're not a right winger. Then start looking for a better candidate. Hell, run yourself. But we need to defend our country against gun extremists, and people who use traumatic events like Monday to promote more guns, more guns, more guns.
We can no longer just stand by and live in a country where we have to ask "What happens if you give a nine year old an Uzi?" We need to live in a country where that can never happen. And that is up to us.