TIME

A Tale of Two 9-Year-Olds: The One on the Playground, and the One With an Uzi

An UZI assault pistol
An UZI assault pistol Terry Ashe—Getty Images

You should be absolutely terrified that a 9-year-old’s constitutional right to fire an Uzi trumps your right to decide at what age your kids can play at the park unsupervised

Parents who allow their 9-year-old to play unsupervised at a playground can be arrested, but handing a nine-year-old an Uzi is perfectly acceptable.

Unfortunately, that’s not hyperbole. It’s just the sad state of affairs in which we find ourselves, after a 9-year-old New Jersey girl accidentally shot and killed her instructor at a firing range in Arizona. The girl’s parents paid for her to fire a fully automatic machine gun, but she lost control of the weapon and shot her instructor, Charles Vacca, killing the military veteran.

The chilling ordeal was caught on tape, courtesy of the girl’s parents, but Arizona police officials have said no charges will be filed or arrests made. The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office concluded the incident was an “industrial accident,” and have contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate, according to published reports.

Let’s compare that to a story from earlier this summer, regarding a different 9-year-old, one in South Carolina.

Debra Harrell is a working mother who faces a common problem for parents when school lets out for the summer: finding affordable child care. The McDonald’s employee couldn’t afford to have someone watch her 9-year-old daughter, so the girl was playing on her laptop in the restaurant during her mother’s shifts. However, when that laptop was stolen from their home, Harrell armed her daughter with a cell phone in case of an emergency and let her go unsupervised to an area playground. Another parent noticed the girl there alone and contacted the police, at which point Harrell was arrested and charged with child neglect. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years behind bars.

Is anyone else absolutely scared to death of the horrendous message we’re sending to parents?

Regarding the incident in Arizona, we’re talking about two parents who willingly paid $200 to put a fully automatic weapon in the hands of their 9-year-old daughter. This poor girl, who should’ve been learning to shoot with a .22 rifle or some other weapon she could handle (if indeed she had to learn to fire a gun) was given an Uzi capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute—creating a recoil difficult for some adults to handle.

And the scariest part? The firing range has a minimum age of eight years old to fire such weapons – one year younger than the girl who is now surely scarred for life. The terrible judgment of the New Jersey parents (combined with the operators of the firing range to allow kids that young to fire Uzis) directly contributed to a man’s death. That stands in stark contrast to Harrell’s troubles in South Carolina.

Instead of a loaded weapon, Harrell armed her daughter with a phone, and sent her to a playground with lots of other kids and adults. The only shooting that took place was the cool water from a splash pad and some hoops on the basketball courts. There were even volunteers who came by the playground with free snacks. While perhaps not ideal since Harrell was at work, she sent her daughter to a family-friendly place with an environment geared toward fun and summertime frivolity. The same kind of place I routinely rode my bike to at the age of nine.

Yet Harrell is the one arrested. Who lost her job. Who spent 17 days in jail, temporarily lost custody of her daughter, and faces 10 years in prison.

So, when considering charges for the neglect of a child, playgrounds seem to be a greater threat in the eyes of the law than guns. And that is a travesty.

Wherever you fall in this country’s ongoing debate about guns and gun control, this should upset you. It should infuriate you. It should alert you to our disturbingly warped gun culture, and should be more than enough proof that change is desperately needed. And parents, let me state this unequivocally: It is never acceptable to let your 9-year-old fire an Uzi. Never. Under any circumstances.

Harrell’s detractors claim someone could’ve kidnapped her daughter at the playground, which is true. But while there is a low risk of child abduction at a public playground in broad daylight, it pales in comparison to the risks involved with letting a 9-year-old fire a machine gun. So please stop referencing the 2nd amendment, because I’m certain our Founding Fathers weren’t contemplating the benefits of letting children fire hundreds of rounds per minute when they drafted the right to bear arms.

If you’re a parent, you should be absolutely terrified that a 9-year-old’s constitutional right to fire an Uzi trumps your right to decide at what age your kids can play at the park unsupervised.

Something has to change. Now.

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME U.S.

Letting Kids Shoot Guns Is Good for Them

170144639
kali9—Getty Images

Marksmanship builds concentration, confidence and trust

It’s a terrible time to say this, right after a 9-year-old girl killed her instructor with an Uzi, but shooting guns can be great for kids.

Of course, there’s shooting and there’s shooting. Handing a loaded submachine gun to a small child is patently crazy. Sadly, Charles Vacca, the instructor in Arizona, both paid for that mistake with his life and inflicted on the unnamed girl a life sentence of horror and regret. Lest anybody think that the gun-owning and gun-rights communities are defending Vacca’s judgment, rest assured that they’re not. I watch the gun blogosphere as part of my work, and even the most hard-core gunnies are appalled and infuriated.

What the shooting community worries about is that people will conflate this tragedy with proper marksmanship training for children. A lot happens in a good shooting class before a kid touches a gun. The first class often involves nothing but drilling on the rules of gun safety. When it comes time to shoot, that’s done prone, for stability, and the guns are long-barreled, single-shot .22s with minimal recoil. Kids are given one cartridge at a time, and any deviation from the rules — a muzzle moving in the wrong direction, a finger on the trigger too early — stops the whole class for more drilling. Compare that to an unschooled 9-year-old in standing position with a short-barreled, full-auto gun and a magazine holding 32 rounds of powerful, 9mm ammunition. It’s the difference between leading a child in circles on the back of a docile pony and sending her alone around a track on the back of a thoroughbred.

Shooting a rifle accurately requires children to quiet their minds. Lining up the sights on a distant target takes deep concentration. Children must slow their breathing and tune into the beat of their hearts to be able to squeeze the trigger at precisely the right moment. Holding a rifle steady takes large-motor skills, and touching the trigger correctly takes small motor skills; doing both at once engages the whole brain. Marksmanship is an exercise in a high order of body-hand-eye-mind coordination. It is as far from mindless electronic diversion as can be imagined.

Other activities build skills and concentration, too — archery, calligraphy, photography, painting — but shooting guns is in a class by itself precisely for the reason highlighted by last week’s accident: it can be deadly.

A single-shot .22, while easier to control than an Uzi, can kill you just as dead. So how can such rifles possibly be appropriate for use by children? Again, context is everything. Under proper instruction, shooting is a ritual. You do this for this reason and that for that reason, and you never, ever alter the process, because doing so is a matter of life and death. Learning to slow down and go through such essential steps can be valuable developmentally. The very danger involved gets children’s attention, as it would anybody’s. But there’s an added benefit to teaching children to shoot: it’s a gesture of respect for a group that doesn’t often get any.

Invite a child to learn how to shoot and the message is: I trust your ability to listen and learn. I trust your ability to concentrate. I welcome you into a dangerous adult activity because you are sensible and trustworthy. For young people accustomed to being constrained, belittled, ignored and told “no,” hearing an adult call them to their higher selves can be enormously empowering. Children come away from properly conducted shooting lessons as different people, taller in their shoes and more willing to tune into what adults say.

While traveling around the country talking to gun owners, I met several who told me that when their teenage sons or daughters were going “off the rails” — drinking, experimenting with drugs and getting poor grades — they started taking them shooting. The very counterintuitive nature of the invitation — giving guns to druggies? — snapped the children into focus. The chance to do something as forbidden and grownup as shooting overcame their resistance to spending time with dad or mom. The discipline and focus that marksmanship required, combined with its potential lethality, not only brought these adolescents back from self-destructive habits but deepened the bonds of trust between them and their parents.

Again, it has to be done right. You don’t buy a girl a rifle and let her keep it in her room; you keep it locked up and let her use it only under supervision. You don’t let a boy new to shooting touch a gun until he’s been well schooled in the safety rules. You don’t ever let people shoot guns they can’t handle. But when done right, marksmanship training can be just what a young mind and spirit needs.

Dan Baum is the author, most recently, of Gun Guys: A Road Trip.

TIME Guns

9-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Shoots, Kills Instructor at Gun Range

The operator says it allows supervised children age eight and up to handle weapons

A nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting range instructor in Arizona, police say.

Charles Vacca, 39, was instructing the girl on how to use an automatic Uzi on Monday when the girl, who was accompanied by her parents, pulled the trigger and then lost control of the weapon, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. Vacca was shot in the head and died of his injuries.

Sam Scarmardo, the operator of the shooting range Last Stop where the accident occurred, said the range allows accompanied children age eight and older to handle weapons.

He said Vacca, a longtime military veteran, had been working at the range for roughly two years. Scarmardo also said the range had not had an accident since it was opened more than a decade ago.

The girl’s parents were recording the tutorial on their cell phones when the incident occurred and handed the footage over to authorities, according to Scarmardo.

TIME Guns

NRA Ad Campaign Has Michael Bloomberg in Its Crosshairs

Multimillion-dollar campaign tells billionaire gun control advocate to go back to New York

+ READ ARTICLE

In an effort to combat former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s high profile campaign for stronger gun control, the National Rifle Association is launching a national ad campaign to malign the business magnate and strike back at one of the gun advocacy group’s biggest detractors.

The campaign, which kicks off Wednesday, is part of a multimillion-dollar effort to stir up negative perceptions of the New York billionaire, USA Today reports. Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, called Bloomberg “an arrogant hypocrite who thinks he knows best how people should live their lives.”

Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million to build a grassroots network of gun control advocates in order to counter the NRA’s lobbying prowess, and has spent money across the country to defeat candidates who are staunch gun rights advocates.

Americans remain divided on gun control law, according to an Oct. 2013 Gallup poll. Public support for stricter laws covering the sale of firearms fell to 49% after reaching 58% in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings in which 20 children were killed. A total of 37% say laws should be kept as they are, with 13% wanting more lax regulations.

Gun control advocates say Congress’s failure to pass a measure to restrict the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines after the Sandy Hook shootings reflects the NRA’s pervasive influence on Capitol Hill.

An NRA ad will run nationally on cable television and in digital ads in states with key Senate races including Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and Georgia. “Hey, Bloomberg: Keep your politics in New York. And keep your hands off our guns and our freedom,” says the commercial.

[USA Today]

TIME Gun Control

Judge Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban

The ban on carrying handguns outside the home is unconstitutional, he says

The District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside of one’s home is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision shared Saturday, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin said the D.C.’s ban violated citizens’ right to self-defense, the Associated Press reports.

“There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” Scullin wrote.

After a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision ended the city’s long-standing handgun ban, D.C. created new laws that required gun owners to, among other precautions, keep the weapons only inside their homes and register them again every three years. A federal judge upheld the controversial restrictions in a May ruling.

Explaining his decision, Scullin cited the 2008 opinion as well as a 2010 ruling regarding a ban on handguns in Chicago.

A spokesperson for the D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General said the district was “studying the opinion” but declined to “comment on its substance.” The AP also cited an unnamed city official who said the city would ask for a stay and was considering an appeal.

[AP]

 

 

 

 

TIME Civil Rights

Bloomberg Group Asks Politicians Where They Stand on Guns

Everytown for Gun Safety Logo
Everytown for Gun Safety Logo PRNewsFoto/Everyown for Gun Safety

The former New York mayor's Everytown looks to take on the NRA

Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group began surveying congressmen and candidates on their stances on key gun issues Monday, as it looks to pressure lawmakers in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which is seeking to counter the influence of the National Rifle Association, is providing politicians with a 10-point questionnaire that asks about stances on policies like background checks for gun buyers and limiting the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The group plans to use the survey to help rally gun control supporters behind or against candidates in the midterm elections, much as the NRA does with its own respective rating system.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, has put some $50 million into the gun control movement and has said he would contribute more than double the $20 million the NRA spends each year on political campaigns, according to the Washington Post.

A spokesman for the NRA, Andrew Arulanandam, said it would be an uphill battle for Everytown.

“Money cannot buy the hearts and minds of the American people when it comes to the Second Amendment,” he said to the Washington Post. “Michael Bloomberg is just the latest incarnation of a long line of anti-freedom billionaires who’ve tried to take on the National Rifle Association.”

TIME Business

This Brilliant Ad Uses Sex Toys to Promote Gun Safety

Why adults need to lock up their guns

+ READ ARTICLE

As if gun safety wasn’t enough of a conversation starter, an organization called Evolve found a way to promote the reduction of gun violence with, um, dildos.

Using the widely known fact that kids have absolutely zero respect for privacy at all—they will open your not-so-secret drawer and play with your things—the commercial shows two mothers’ conversations rudely getting interrupted by their sons sword fighting with one mom’s sex toys.

Embarrassing, right? But not tragic.

“If they find it, they’ll play with it,” a narrator says. “So always lock up your guns.”

This isn’t the first time gun control has been linked with sex toys. In 2011, an adult store in Alabama had a Valentine’s Day promotion that allowed people to trade their firearms for store credit.

TIME

It’s Time For Businesses To Take a Real Stand Against Open-Carry

Gun control activists march across Brooklyn Bridge
Gun control activists march across Brooklyn Bridge Spencer Platt—Getty Images

As an Army vet, as someone on campus during a school shooting, and as a father, I think it's time to tell retailers we won't shop where there might be guns.

I came home from Afghanistan in the spring of 2008, left the Army a couple months later, and started college in Alabama a couple months after that. College was going to be a safe place where I could reintegrate, focus on learning and get a degree that would help me support my family. I wouldn’t have to carry fellow students in flag-draped coffins, or worry about rocket propelled grenades flying over my head as I slept, both things that had happened in the previous year.

That illusion was shattered on February 12, 2010. That day, Amy Bishop, who had previously been investigated in multiple violent crimes, sat calmly through half a biology faculty meeting before standing up and shooting six of her colleagues, killing three.

Bishop opened fire as I sat in a club meeting in a nearby building. She was probably forced out of the room by the survivors as I left the building for my truck. I drove by the scene of the crime just as campus was locked down behind me and dozens of patrol cars zoomed towards Shelby Hall where shell casings littered the floor of a conference room.

School was no longer a safe place. It certainly wasn’t as dangerous as Afghanistan, but it was still clear that the utopia of safety I had imagined was a fantasy.

I was a gun owner then. I had multiple pistols of various calibers. I even owned the same model that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin. I loved going to a local indoor range on Fridays after class and decompressing until the palm of my hand was bruised.

But as my own daughter grew to school age and campus shootings like the one I experienced mounted, I could no longer justify keeping them. Unceremoniously, I boxed them up, took them to a gun show, and sold them to the first person who offered me half of what I paid for them.

“Open carry” activists have dealt with gun violence differently. Rather than feeling, as the great majority of Americans do, that something must be done to limit access to firearms, they’ve chosen this moment to tote weapons that have no practical purpose beyond killing into retailers across the country, daring the establishments to turn them away. When I encounter their stories, I think of the two gun deaths that have occurred across from and in the street in front of my daughter’s school, just this year.

Many of these retailers decline to take a stance either way, claiming that they do not wish to involve themselves in “contentious political issues.” As we approach Father’s Day this weekend, when many of our families will purchase cards or take us to dinner at such “neutral” establishments, the indignant voice in my head tells me the worth of that excuse has long expired.

There was a time in America when companies made the same excuse when pressed on gay rights. But some time between then and when Bud Light made a logo that advocated for marriage equality and Oreo created rainbow cream, that ceased to be acceptable. As a country, we decided that businesses that discriminated against the LGBTQ community didn’t deserve our dollars.

One retailer certain to have a special interest in Father’s Day sales figures is Hallmark, a company that, according to the National Gun Victims Action Council, bans weapons in its corporate headquarters, yet doesn’t have the same policy for its Gold Crown Stores. This stance has lead NGVAC and other groups to call for a boycott against Hallmark this Father’s Day. And I think that coalition is onto something—I’ve requested that my family consider this when making shopping and dining pans for Sunday.

But this issue goes farther than taking the common-sense step of not letting people carry rifles while shopping for greeting cards. By attempting to stay above the fray, businesses like Hallmark are choosing—or being forced to choose, really, by the gun-toters—the side of irresponsibility. And to be irresponsible themselves. When children are being shot almost once a week in their schools, these companies need to look to Bud Light for some guiding principles.

It’s time for these companies to get in the game of making sure our kids are safe. I’d be ecstatic if this Father’s Day, people and corporations started doing more to make sure I get to keep being a dad.

Richard Allen Smith is a former Army sergeant. He served five years on active duty, including a deployment to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division from February of 2007 to April of 2008. Smith is currently a graduate student in writing at Johns Hopkins University.

TIME

Gun Control Demonstrators Take to the Streets in NYC

Hundreds of demonstrators march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for tougher gun control laws, Saturday, June 14, 2014, in New York.
Hundreds of demonstrators march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for tougher gun control laws, Saturday, June 14, 2014, in New York. John Minchillo—AP

Demonstrators plan to march across a major New York City bridge Saturday, urging stricter measures on guns after a spate of mass killings

Hundreds of demonstrators will walk across New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Saturday in a call for stricter gun control laws in the wake of mass shootings across the country.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is underwriting the march, which will lead from downtown Brooklyn to City Hall in lower Manhattan, and include the relatives of some of the 26 victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Organizers told the Associated Press that they will hold a demonstration outside the City Hall’s gates and chant “Not one more,” a protest uttered by the father of shooting victim Christopher Martinez, after his son was killed in Santa Barbara, Calif., last month.

Bloomberg is a major advocate of gun control laws, and has spent millions of dollars helping support groups including Moms Demand Action, Everytown For Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Seven people were killed in Santa Barbara on May 23, including the shooter. Two people, including the shooter, were killed Tuesday at an Oregon high school, the second school shooting within a week.

[AP]
TIME Crime

Loaded Gun Found in South Carolina Target’s Toys Section

Police are investigating how the firearm ended up in the aisle

A worker at a Target in South Carolina found a loaded gun in a toy aisle.

The employee at the Target in Myrtle Beach, S.C. told police that he saw the 9mm handgun on the shelf and at first thought it was a toy, before realizing it was fully loaded, The State reports. He said had seen a suspicious man walking around the toy section, though it’s unclear if he was the one who left the weapon.

Police are investigating and checking surveillance video to determine how the gun ended up there, according to The State. The gun has not been reported stolen.

[The State]

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