PHOENIX - The owner of an Arizona shooting range says he regrets that they let a 9-year-old girl fire an Uzi submachine gun, and regrets the death of one of his instructors , who was shot and killed when the gun went out of control.
Instructor Charles Vacca was standing next to the unidentified girl Monday at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in White Hills, Arizona, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas, when she squeezed the trigger.
Shooting range operator Sam Scarmardo said Wednesday that the girl's parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules of the range and were standing nearby, video-recording their daughter, when the accident happened.
Scarmardo said his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and the watchful eye of an instructor is standard practice in the industry.
A co-owner of Cassells Shooting Range in Mesa said several factors go into deciding whether a child is allowed to shoot an automatic gun at the range.
Aside from the shooter’s age and physical size, instructors consider the shooter’s experience with guns, and the shooter’s comfort level with the weapon, Carolann Bergeson, the co-owner, said.
Another factor is whether the instructor is comfortable with the shooter using the gun, she said.
"One of my worst fears is that an event like [the instructor’s death in Mohave County] will cause parents to say that they never want their child to be involved in the shooting sports,” Bergeson said.
She added that most children younger than five don’t have the mental ability to understand guns, and so should not be shooting.