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The private ownership of guns — and the attendant culture of gun owners — is virulently opposed by a significant portion of the country. Such anti-gunners are disproportionately represented in journalism and entertainment, fields populated by people skilled at speaking, acting, and writing; people, moreover, who have all the resources necessary to make their voices widely heard.
I’ve said it here before and it bears repeating: Gun owners must be tougher on themselves than their opponents are. Every mistake we make; every arrogant boast; every garbled, ineloquent defense we attempt; every misplaced criticism of our culture will be parsed, dissected, analyzed, and stored for future use.
Hundreds of children drown in backyard swimming pools and hot tubs each year, but this is not national news. Every one of those deaths is likely avoidable by keeping the pools locked, but the deaths keep occurring. There is no national media campaign to ban backyard pools, nor to forbid pool access to minors. A child is involved in an avoidable fatal shooting accident, however, and the anti-gunners spread the word around the world in hours.
This week, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her instructor on a firing range in Arizona. The parents should have prevented this. The weapon was too dangerous. the instructor was careless. We must police ourselves better than this.
There was an accumulation of mistakes leading up to the shooting. First, look at the firearm involved. Contrary to some media reports, the girl was not firing an Uzi, but a Mini-Uzi. This difference is critical.
An original Uzi is what is known as a Sub-Machine Gun, which is a class of fully automatic or select-fire weapon with a shoulder stock and the dimensions of a short rifle, firing pistol ammunition. Such weapons can be prone to an excessive rate of fire, so designs typically have either a delaying mechanism (which adds cost and complexity), or a high-mass bolt / breach block. The heavier the bolt, the slower the rate of fire. The Uzi has a nominal weight of 7.72 lbs, which is approaching the weight of a rifle. The weight of the weapon, the lower rate of fire, and the shoulder stock (when extended), allow the weapon to be easily controlled on fully-automatic fire. The weighted bolt slows the rate of fire (500 rounds per minute), while the sheer mass of the entire weapon (following Newton’s law of inertia) keeps it from climbing or drifting as much. The Uzi also has a decent shoulder stock with a good length of pull (distance from your shoulder to your shooting hand), so you can brace it easily.
A Mini-Uzi is what is known as a Machine Pistol (there is also a Micro Uzi). A Machine Pistol is a class of select-fire weapon that can be holstered like a pistol, and has a similar weight to a pistol. Because the weight of a Machine Pistol is so low, it will climb or drift more. But a Machine Pistol also has a smaller, lighter bolt, so its rate of fire is much higher (950 rpm). Thus each shot moves the weapon more, and you have more shots per minute, making the weapon exponentially more difficult to control. The Mini has a shoulder stock, but it is far less useful as a shooting aid.
Having taught children to shoot, I could possibly see teaching a child of the right temperament, strength, and size fire a full-size Uzi. After all, child soldiers in Africa are routinely seen with AK-47 rifles, a far more powerful and dangerous weapon. However, I would not attempt such instruction with a Mini-Uzi. Just four years ago we had a painful lesson in just why.
That leads in turn to this week’s incident in Arizona. For the best commentary on what the instructor did wrong, read here. For the précis version, I’ll just say this:
- The weapon was wrong for the girl.
- The instructor did not pace the instruction correctly for the girl, instead just throwing her into the deep end, going from a practice shot to full auto on a full magazine.
- The instructor did not maintain direct control of the weapon or the shooter.
- The girl could not control the weapon and probably panicked.
The girl is likely traumatized for years to come, as are the parents. The instructor paid with his life. The girl is lucky to be alive.
We have to police ourselves better than this.