Firing-range instructor hands 9-year-old an Uzi. Now he’s dead.

A 9-year-old girl at a shooting range outside Las Vegas accidentally killed an instructor on Monday morning when she lost control of the Uzi he was showing her how to use.

A partial video of the incident — which does not show the instructor being shot — shows a slender young girl in a ponytail and pink shorts beside a man clad in camouflage pants, a black T-shirt and sunglasses. “Allriiight!” he says, congratulating her after she fires the gun in single-shot mode. “All right, full auto!” he says. Then comes a spray of bullets and a child’s scream before the video cuts off.

The girl, whose name wasn’t released, visited the outdoor shooting range while vacationing with her parents. She’d fired the 9mm weapon, designed for use by the Israeli defense forces in the 1940s, several times in single-shot mode. But when it was set to fully automatic, the weapon recoiled and she lost control.

“The guy just dropped,” Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The instructor, Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head. He was airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital where he died Monday night. A Facebook account under Vacca’s name says he’s from Greenville, S.C. His wall is full of pro-gun posts like this one:

The sheriff said no citations would be issued and no charges would be filed against the shooting range because it is a licensed, legal operation.

Sprawling across more than 30 acres in the Mojave desert 26 miles from Vegas, Bullets and Burgers advertises itself as an “Outdoor Machine Gun Adventure” with a “Desert Storm atmosphere.” “Our guests have the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons,” the Web site says. “At our range, you can shoot FULL auto on our machine guns. … Let ‘em Rip!”

The shooting range’s Web site says the minimum age for the “ground adventure” is 8, and children ages 8 to 17 “must be accompanied by parent or legal guardian at all times.”


A man closes off an entrance to the Last Stop outdoor shooting range Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in White Hills, Ariz. Gun range instructor Charles Vacca was accidentally killed Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 at the range by a 9-year-old with an Uzi submachine gun. (John Locher/AP)

Ronald Scott, a Phoenix-based firearms safety expert, told the Associated Press most shooting ranges have an age limit and strict safety rules when teaching children to shoot. He said instructors usually have their hands on guns when children are firing high-powered weapons. “You can’t give a 9-year-old an Uzi and expect her to control it,” Scott said.

Jeff Frichette, director of training for the Range 702, another shooting range in Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal the incident would never happen at his facility, where there are trained safety officers. Children need to understand the concept of safety and must be “physically and mentally prepared” before shooting a fully automatic weapon. Frichette’s range has a 4-foot height minimum and requires kids to master other weapons such as a semiautomatic .22-caliber rifle before they’re allowed to shoot a fully automatic.

In a similar incident in 2008, 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj shot himself to death with an Uzi at a Massachusetts gun show organized by a former police chief. The boy was with his father, an emergency room doctor.

Correction: The previous version of this story said Christopher Bizilj’s father gave him the gun for Christmas.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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