9-year-old accidentally kills shooting instructor while learning to use Uzi submachine gun

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(CNN) — A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range when the weapon recoiled over her shoulder, according to Arizona authorities.

The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, died at a hospital late Monday night after he was shot in the head.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the girl was with her parents. The website of Bullets and Burgers, the shooting range where the accident happened, says children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot a weapon if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Police identified the weapon as an Uzi, an Israeli-made submachine gun.

Cell phone video released by authorities Tuesday shows the moments before the fatal shots were fired, CNN affiliate KLAS reported.

In the video, Vacca and the girl are at an outdoor range. The wind blows a target in the distance. Vacca shows the child how to hold the gun then helps her establish her grip and her stance. She fires one round and dirt flies above the target. Vacca adjusts the Uzi, places his right hand on her back and his left under her right arm.

She fires several rounds in rapid succession and the gun kicks to the left as she loses control. The video ends before the fatal head shot. In releasing the video, authorities did not identify who made it.

KLAS reported the girl was a tourist from the Northeast.

The station spoke with Sam Scarmardo, who operates Bullets and Burgers, about the incident.

“We really don’t know what happened,” he said. “Our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they’re shooting. If they’re shooting right-handed, we have our right-hand behind them ready to push the weapon out of the way. And if they’re left-handed, the same thing.”

Vacca was married, well-liked and a veteran, KLAS said.

The range, which is about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, says on its Facebook page: “We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique ‘Desert Storm’ atmosphere and military style bunkers.”


  • B

    I’m a very strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, but a 9 year old does not need to know how to fire a fully automatic weapon. If this would have been a semi-automatic weapon it could not have happened this way. I’m all for teaching youth gun safety, but not with full automatics. They at least need to be developed enough to hold the weapons recoil on their own, clearly in this case she could not and the gun, continuously firing, pushed itself over her shoulder. Very sad. People use good judgment when deciding what type of gun is good for someone who maybe inexperienced, or not physically strong enough to hold the recoil.

  • Say What

    B, there is noting in the US Constitution about having good judgement! Laws and regulations are how societies codify what is, and is not, good judgement. Remember, you are not for anything like that!

  • Say What

    Fred, where are you? You need to come out from under your troll bridge and scream about this being a CNN story!!!!

  • Say What

    This was no “accident.” This place was in business to make money off gun nuts. They took money from anyone, and any age, that wanted to pay to play with their guns.

  • Say What

    I can’t wait until the next issue of the NRA magazine! They should be boasting about this example of their legal and political efforts to protect the unfettered access to all guns by all people (of any age)!! Members should be very proud about how their membership dues are being used!!

  • Lisa

    I am a strong second amendment supporter and a proud NRA member. This example of a 9 year old using an UZI is total irresponsibility on the parents and on the range master. In order for someone that age to be shooting, parents would need to be present and approving all guns. We can change laws all we want but if the family unit (and society) continues to lose their common sense, nothing will ever change.

    • Michaelangelo

      The girl’s parents were present…Common-sense aside – if there were rules/laws in place that made it illegal to knowingly allow a child access to firearms, this tragedy would have been avoided.

    • Say What

      Lisa, as a proud NRA member, you must be happy about this happening. It is your membership dues that have bought off politicians that have kept laws that could stop these events from ever passing!

  • K. LittleDeer (@AyahuascaDreams)

    Gomez and Juan– It seems you, both, use pejoratives to name call when the person does not agree with you. Instead of stating why you disagree with Say What, all you can do is petulantly throw a name calling tantrum fit. How about using some critical thought and logic? Tell Say What why you disagree and back your premise. Oh , and show evidence he is a “stupid liberal” and back it with cited sources or hell, even your inerudite opinion. Juan, the term moron is not capitalized.

  • campbell

    This issue is not even about any second-amendment rights, its not even about gun laws or anything. This is about stupidity at its best. This instructor(RIP), of all people, much less the parents and staff of that facility signed on for this little girl to operate a much powerful weapon for her size. How on earth does that happen? This is recklessness at its worst from everybody involved. I don’t even blame the little girl though she will have to live with the emotional scars of the debacle. Law suit? I don’t think so.

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