The lesson here would seem obvious — don’t let children shoot highly dangerous weapons that they’re not physically strong enough to control — but that lesson’s too prosaic for our “national conversation.”
Knowing next to nothing about guns, I feel intuitively that “nine-year-old” plus “submachine gun” equals “bad idea.” Charles Cooke, who knows a lot about guns, says yeah, bad idea.
As a general rule, smaller people — especially children — are restricted to smaller weapons that are commensurate with their size. At my range, kids who are being taught to shoot are not only limited to .22LR ammunition but also to long guns that they can get their shoulder behind. That way, if the gun pushes back, it hits something solid. This may cause bruising, sure. But it’s unlikely to be dropped or to fly upwards — or, heaven forbid, to kill somebody. When American children used to go to school with a rifle slung over their back, it was almost certainly a low-powered .22. There weren’t many Tommy Guns in American classrooms.
An Uzi, on the other hand, seems to be the worst of both worlds – especially when it is chambered in a larger caliber. Because their recoil tends to push the weapon upwards, handguns are inherently more difficult for young people to control. This is especially so when they keep firing upon a single trigger pull. Frankly, it is difficult to imagine a gun less suited to a small girl. Contra the Piers Morgans of the world, I don’t think it tells us too much about the law, nor do I think it’s that relevant to the question of firearms in the United States. But it does suggest gross negligence on the behalf of the range, the instructor, and the parents.
Other experts who spoke to CNN are mystified by the lack of precautions taken:
[Greg] Danas questioned why the instructor in Arizona was standing immediately to the left of the Uzi, which would have recoiled in that direction…
“Teaching people machine gun 101, even with adults, even with people going through military training, the first few times they shoot machine guns you don’t have them shoot a full freaking clip,” [Steven Howard] said. “The thing begins to fire and it begins to jump and buck all over the place. Your first human instinct is for your hands to clamp down, and you clamp down on the trigger and if the thing has a 32-round magazine … it starts spraying all over and people get killed.”
The instructor was 39. No criminal charges are pending against the gun range but they’re guaranteed to face a whale of a negligence lawsuit from the little girl for the trauma she’s suffered and probably one from the instructor’s estate. Whether those suits are likely to prevail or to fail on grounds of contributory negligence/assumption of risk I’ll leave to legal eagles to say in the comments.