On Uzis and Accidents — Lessons in Responsibility and Stupidity

 

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.  

300px-Uzi_1

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.

842220100514045201

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:  

  1. The weapon was wrong for the girl.  
  2. 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.  
  3. The instructor did not maintain direct control of the weapon or the shooter.  
  4. 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.

There are 29 comments.

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  1. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Y’know, I have to concede there are indeed “gun nuts” out there. The idea that giving a nine-year-old such a weapon and telling her to go “full auto” defies common sense. I’m speaking as someone who around that age, went out with friends on occasion to target shoot with .22 rifles. We never felt unsafe, but the adults there had realistic concepts on what we could control.

    Side note: I was a terrible shot.

    This poor kid will have nightmares about this for a long time. That man’s family, if he had one, has to suffer his loss. This did no good for anyone.

    • #1
  2. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    C. U. Douglas: Y’know, I have to concede there are indeed “gun nuts” out there.

     Yes, there are, and we have to police them carefully.

    • #2
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Well said.  I can’t imagine teaching a small kid to fire any fully-automatic weapon from a standing position.

    • #3
  4. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    skipsul:

    C. U. Douglas: Y’know, I have to concede there are indeed “gun nuts” out there.

    Yes, there are, and we have to police them carefully.

    My totally existing cop buddy regaled me a tale about one of them in an incident last year in Vancouver. Around here is a chain of bowling alleys and entertainment centers called “Big Al’s.” It’s not just bowling, it’s got practically a little of everything and people take the whole family.

    Well, in 2013, a leader in the Open Carry advocacy groups in this area decides to open carry his AR-15 and approach one of these Big Al’s. Well the response was understandable. People were stuffing children in cupboards, finding cover, and calling police while preparing for the worst.

    The police did arrive and had to deal with a lot of lip from this guy. After proving difficult and refusing to leave the premises on various excuses, they finally arrested for trespassing.

    There’s way too many idiots. In the past we knew “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Nowadays we seem to expect that we not only should, but we have a right to. 

    • #4
  5. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    C. U. Douglas: There’s way too many idiots. In the past we knew “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Nowadays we seem to expect that we not only should, but we have a right to. 

     There are some OC advocates who argue that such displays are necessary to inure others to the presence of weapons.  I’ve often argued otherwise.  There is a world of difference between this:

    open_carry_gun_law_01

    and more colorful displays.

    EDIT:  I do not mean to re-open the OC debate here, except to warn that our opponents will attempt to draw a false moral equivalency between Arizona and the recent Open Carry events in the news. 

    • #5
  6. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    skipsul:

    Hundreds of children drown in backyard swimming pools and hot tubs each year, but this is not national news. Likely every one of these deaths is 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.

     Of course, this problem is not just limited to firearms.

    Driving a car is orders of magnitude more dangerous than commercial aviation, yet the media pores over any plane crash for weeks, while we barely bat an eye when we hear the daily carnage, I mean traffic, report in the afternoon commute.

    Oddly, I am encouraged by the fact that this event is getting so much media play – because it emphasizes how rarely such incredibly boneheaded occurrences actually occur, even if most people watching at home will take the opposite message from this story.

    • #6
  7. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Great piece.

    • #7
  8. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Mendel: Oddly, I am encouraged by the fact that this event is getting so much media play – because it emphasizes how rarely such incredibly boneheaded occurrences actually occur, even if most people watching at home will take the opposite message from this story.

     It is informative to the open-minded, but to the anti-gunners it is confirmation that we’re all dangerous lunatics.  Its wide airing abroad leads to high-minded editorials about how dangerous America is, and about how all Americans are primitive ignorant troglodytes too stupid to embrace their enlightened policies.

    We try to cultivate the narrative of self-protection, self-reliance, responsibility, and safety, and this is a long and slow process, won inches at a time.  

    An incident like this suddenly makes it harder for you to say to your neighbor that they should examine their prejudices.

    • #8
  9. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    The problem I see with self-policing is that you will never prevent 100% of the idiocy . An event like this one will always pop up, if for no other reason than because large numbers of people x low percentage of real idiots = high probability of something really stupid happening eventually.

    I think the only way to deal with extremely isolated incidents like this is to a) not hold back in criticizing those who acted stupidly – even if they are currently paying dearly for those actions, b) emphasize the rare nature of these events, and c) do everything possible to ensure that the consequences of idiotic decisions are limited to those who made the decision and not to innocent bystanders.

    That last point includes telling over-the-top open carriers to tone things down in public.

    • #9
  10. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Mendel: I think the only way to deal with extremely isolated incidents like this is to a) not hold back in criticizing those who acted stupidly – even if they are currently paying dearly for those actions, b) emphasize the rare nature of these events, and c) do everything possible to ensure that the consequences of idiotic decisions are limited to those who made the decision and not to innocent bystanders.

     Agree whole-heartedly.

    • #10
  11. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Very sad and stupid. Agree whole-heartedly.  

    The OC people are à different sort of stupid. I don’t mean the types who walk around town or the woods with a bear gun, because I do that.  I mean the people who go into Starbucks with AR-15s and intimidate people and cry like babies when people are bothered by it.  They bring discredit to the cause and convince businesses to ban guns in places they had been tolerated in.

    • #11
  12. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    The incident cited was idiotic. There is simply no justification for putting a weapon of that type in the hands of a child. If you want to teach a child gun safety and good shooting habits there are a wide variety of small caliber, .22, rifles and pistols with which they can be taught to shoot. 
    Having said that,  I don’t worry about the antigun crowd because nothing we do or say will change their viewpoint and conviction that all guns need to be banned. Fortunately, we do have the glorious Second Amendment which does not depend on those people liking or disliking what we do.
    There will always be irresponsible people and some of them will own guns. Some of them may even be instructors. They are a small minority, but that doesn’t matter to the haters. Any event, no matter how rare, is going to be used by some antigun group. There are rules and laws. Neither stops crime or stupidity.

    • #12
  13. Spin Inactive
    Spin
    @Spin

    In general you make a great point.  But let me ask this:  what exactly should “we” have done to police “ourselves” in order to prevent what happened in Arizona?  No offense, but I don’t need you to tell me to be careful with guns.  The dope in Arizona needed you (apparently) to tell him to be careful with guns.  So when you say “we” need to police “ourselves”, what specifically do you mean?

    Second, it doesn’t matter if there was an accidental shooting in Arizona or not.  It doesn’t make the ant-gunners any more rabid.  They are already rabid.  If we think that absence of an accidental shooting in Arizona is going to mean we need to be less diligent about defending the 2nd Amendment, I think we are fooling ourselves.

    • #13
  14. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Spin: Second, it doesn’t matter if there was an accidental shooting in Arizona or not. It doesn’t make the ant-gunners any more rabid. They are already rabid. If we think that absence of an accidental shooting in Arizona is going to mean we need to be less diligent about defending the 2nd Amendment, I think we are fooling ourselves.

    What this event does is give a specific “hook” for activism and legislation. I expect to see attempts to restrict the age at which children may handle firearms, and perhaps to prohibit anyone under, say, 16 from handling any fully automatic weapon under any circumstances. Frankly, the latter would not be a place I’d expect many 2nd Amendment defenders to stand on principle. And if legislation passes, that legislation then becomes leverage to further tighten. (E.g., if the minimum is 16, why not raise it to 21?)

    • #14
  15. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Son of Spengler:

    Spin: Second, it doesn’t matter if there was an accidental shooting in Arizona or not. It doesn’t make the ant-gunners any more rabid. They are already rabid. If we think that absence of an accidental shooting in Arizona is going to mean we need to be less diligent about defending the 2nd Amendment, I think we are fooling ourselves.

    What this event does is give a specific “hook” for activism and legislation. I expect to see attempts to restrict the age at which children may handle firearms, and perhaps to prohibit anyone under, say, 16 from handling any fully automatic weapon under any circumstances. Frankly, the latter would not be a place I’d expect many 2nd Amendment defenders to stand on principle. And if legislation passes, that legislation then becomes leverage to further tighten. (E.g., if the minimum is 16, why not raise it to 21?)

    Exactly. These sort of things always give rise to cries as to how we can prevent that from ever happening again. For the Progressive, good is the enemy of the perfect. 

    • #15
  16. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Son of Spengler:

     

    What this event does is give a specific “hook” for activism and legislation. I expect to see attempts to restrict the age at which children may handle firearms, and perhaps to prohibit anyone under, say, 16 from handling any fully automatic weapon under any circumstances. And if legislation passes, that legislation then becomes leverage to further tighten. 

     I think this is the biggest problem.

    During the Obamacare Supreme Court debate, we justifiably challenged the left to define their limiting principle for government intervention.

    But on gun control, they can do the same. Unless you believe that citizens have the right to own atomic weapons, there has to be a limiting principle to ownership of weapons.

    But once anyone defines that line, the left will use it as a starting point to start clawing back gun rights incrementally. So nobody defines that line, and the result is that we are forced to defend the right to own a very-difficult-to-control, 950 rounds/min gun with the same vigor as a normal handgun.

    Yet claiming that a Mini-Uzi is just as vital to self-defense as a handgun, shotgun or rifle also makes us look like extremists.

    • #16
  17. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Spin:  So when you say “we” need to police “ourselves”, what specifically do you mean?

    Couple of examples:  I’ve been to lots of ranges and only once or twice have I seen behavior that was unsafe.  But it only takes one time for a fatality.  Had to deal with an individual (you probably know the type) walking up and down the line, criticizing everyone else’s shooting, distracting us when we’re trying to aim, etc.  Kept hovering over one shooter who started to lose his cool.  The shooter got up from his bench to tell Mr. Talky off, and without realizing it still had his rifle in his hand as he stepped back.  Swept us all with it, and got himself ejected, along with Mr. Talky.  One of us should have said something sooner.

    At a local indoor range, there are several patched bullet holes in the ceilings and walls behind the line.  You can guess how they happened – walking off the line with a loaded chamber and “relieving pressure on the hammer spring” before putting the gun in its case.  No injuries, but now you have to be in the booth to open your case.

    • #17
  18. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Ranges probably need to review their safety procedures for unusual weapons or for minors.  Parents need to put down their cameras and tend to their children.

    As I said at the beginning, the issue is that for our own sakes we have to be harder on each other than our opponents will be with us.  They don’t show us any quarter on accidents.

    • #18
  19. douglaswatt25@yahoo.com Moderator
    douglaswatt25@yahoo.com
    @DougWatt

    Most of my range time has been with the Portland Police Bureau. There is always a Range Master and his or her word is law on the range. Police Range Masters also have a state certification to instruct. There are two types of ranges. A hot range means that everyone is shooting with full magazines. Two rounds and re-holster. Three rounds and re-holster, etc. A hot range is never used for first time qualifiers. The first time I took my wife shooting I told her that if she pulled the trigger and nothing happened she was to raise her left hand and keep the pistol pointed at the target and she was not to turn around. I made her repeat that to me three four times before she shot. When she was ready to shoot I placed my left hand on her right shoulder with just enough pressure so I could tell if she was going to turn around and kept my right hand free so I could stop her gun hand from turning if she forgot what I told her. There is no reason for a 9 year old to shoot a full auto Uzi.

    • #19
  20. douglaswatt25@yahoo.com Moderator
    douglaswatt25@yahoo.com
    @DougWatt

    I’ll add some more words of caution on teaching a child to shoot with a .22. You or the instructor must remember that there is a difference between a rim-fire or center-fire round. In the event of a misfire a center-fire cartridge probably will not fire at all. A rim-fire cartridge can fire at any time. There is a wait time for the center-fire cartridge that misfired before you eject it from the rifle or pistol. The rim-fire cartridge requires a longer wait time because it can go at any time.

    • #20
  21. Locke On Inactive
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    I teach rifle marksmanship.  On the day of that accident, I had 9 and 10 year old girls on my firing line.  They both did a good job of staying focused and safe through a long weekend, and one went from not hitting paper to firing a 3 MOA group.  Kids can be safe with firearms and often learn faster than the adults, because they tend to listen better.

    It was just crazy handing that kind of weapon to a kid, though, particularly cutting loose with a full mag.  Even if you’re an experienced shooter and used to semi-automatics, full rock and roll is a whole different deal.  Trying to ride the recoil will let the muzzle rise, even if you feel like you have control.  And for someone who’s never handled a firearm…  just nuts.  The only question is whether it was entirely the instructor’s failure, or whether range’s policies allowed or even encouraged something of the sort. 

    • #21
  22. Wylee Coyote Member
    Wylee Coyote
    @WyleeCoyote

    Locke On:

    I teach rifle marksmanship. On the day of that accident, I had 9 and 10 year old girls on my firing line. They both did a good job of staying focused and safe through a long weekend, and one went from not hitting paper to firing a 3 MOA group. Kids can be safe with firearms and often learn faster than the adults, because they tend to listen better.

    Well said.  The week before this happened, one of my buddies at work was showing off a cell phone video of his 12 year old son firing an AR-15 at a gun club range.  The kid is good – his stance was perfect, his shooting was rapid but controlled, target transitions, everything.  But he had been taught carefully.

    Having a 9 year old first-time shooter handle a full-auto Mini-Uzi is not training, it’s entertainment.  My read was the same as skipsul’s:  she probably panicked and clenched on the trigger.

    • #22
  23. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    I was asked earlier about just how we self police these things, in giving this more thought, and in particular Wilee’s statement “[it’s] not training, it’s entertainment,” I think I can give some good examples.

    There is a trend in videos on Youtube of men taking their wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters out to the range, handing them weaponry beyond their level of experience, watching them embarrass and injure themselves, and filming it for laughs.

    http://youtu.be/ebkmsTcG56o

    http://youtu.be/2AFw74gPbvE

    There are lots of others, but they all are much the same.

    For those of us being responsible already, this should p155 us off beyond words.  If some guy tried to pull that with one of my daughters…

    When I talk about self-policing, this is what I mean.  Firearms are great, they are useful tools, they are tons of fun, but they are not to be used as a spectacle for humiliating others.

    • #23
  24. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Skip – that stupidity has been going on as long as I can remember. I always thought it was dumb to alienate women about guns, and there’s no better way to do that then what you showed. ?Who want to ever shoot when this it the memory you have of the event. And if  your wife is pro-gun, your time shooting goes a whole lot smoother.

    • #24
  25. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Devereaux: And if  your wife is pro-gun, your time shooting goes a whole lot smoother.

     I’m blessed that my wife considers a joint trip to the range as a good date.

    • #25
  26. user_348483 Coolidge
    user_348483
    @EHerring

    Many things result in unnecessary deaths:  abortions, DDT ban, teens driving cars, CAFE standards, pools, mop buckets, ladders  …..liberals only seem to care when the deaths occur due to something they don’t approve of.  The 2nd Amendment didn’t kill the instructor….a stupid act did.

    • #26
  27. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    EHerring:

    Many things result in unnecessary deaths: abortions, DDT ban, teens driving cars, CAFE standards, pools, mop buckets, ladders …..liberals only seem to care when the deaths occur due to something they don’t approve of. The 2nd Amendment didn’t kill the instructor….a stupid act did.

     Except that for all of the things you mention, there is a balance of risks vs. benefits. WRT children firing automatic weapons, there’s no inherent benefit. The argument boils down to preserving a particular freedom for the sake of the principle of freedom, which is more abstract and thus harder to defend.

    • #27
  28. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    The instance of this young girl accidentally killing her instructor is a perfect reminder of why a proper respect for firearms must be maintained by those new to guns and those who’ve been around them their entire life.  The girl’s parents may not have known any better with their choice of firearm for the youngster, but the folks running the range should have and should have taken better steps to ensure that the youngster could not only enjoy the experience, but ensure that everyone would walk away safely and unharmed. 

    A lack of a safety culture at gun ranges, in power plants, construction sites, or driving down the road gets people killed needlessly.  I have no idea what the safety rules or habits were at this range, but we can at least see one tragic example of what happens when layers of bad decisions are made.  If poor decision making on the part of the range operators and rangemasters was permitted, then I am perfectly content to see that this range has closed.  All of the safety rules hanging on the walls of ranges mean little if those using the range and the rangemasters don’t appropriately address improper behavior and questionable judgement. 

    Although skipsul posed his remedy as self-policing, it is really nothing more than making sure our own actions are performed safely with consideration for others, addressing others whose actions may be dangerous, and having a general willingness to do something about dangers we perceive.  When unsafe behavior is reliably called out on ranges by users and owners, and folks are shown how to perform actions in a safe manner then a safety culture is developed and everyone benefits.  This should be our standard expectation when out shooting with family, friends, and strangers.

    • #28
  29. user_348483 Coolidge
    user_348483
    @EHerring

    Son of Spengler:

    EHerring:

    Many things result in unnecessary deaths: abortions, DDT ban, teens driving cars, CAFE standards, pools, mop buckets, ladders …..liberals only seem to care when the deaths occur due to something they don’t approve of. The 2nd Amendment didn’t kill the instructor….a stupid act did.

    Except that for all of the things you mention, there is a balance of risks vs. benefits. WRT children firing automatic weapons, there’s no inherent benefit. The argument boils down to preserving a particular freedom for the sake of the principle of freedom, which is more abstract and thus harder to defend.

     Dubious benefits, if any.

    • #29

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