Girl, 9, kills firing-range instructor with Uzi

The death of a firing-range instructor at the hands of a 9-year-old girl bracing an Uzi submachine gun has set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle an Uzi.

PHOENIX — The death of a firing-range instructor at the hands of a 9-year-old girl bracing an Uzi submachine gun has set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle an Uzi.

As the girl opened fire at a black-silhouette target, the recoil wrenched the fully automatic weapon upward, and the instructor was shot in the head and killed.

Instructor Charles Vacca, 39, was standing next to the girl Monday at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in Arizona, south of Las Vegas, when she squeezed the trigger.

The instructor’s death generated angry social-media comments about why a child was allowed to use an automatic weapon. Many readers expressed sympathy for the girl while questioning whether the adults at the gun range were to blame.

Sam Scarmardo, a former Lake Havasu City Council member who operates the shooting range, said Wednesday that the girl’s parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules of the range and were standing nearby, video-recording their daughter, when the accident happened.

“I have regret we let this child shoot, and I have regret that Charlie was killed in the incident,” Scarmardo said.

This isn’t the first accidental shooting by a child using an Uzi. An 8-year-old boy died after shooting himself in the head at a gun expo near Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2008. Christopher Bizilj was firing at pumpkins when the Uzi kicked back.

Ronald Scott, a Phoenix-based firearms safety expert, said 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.

Scarmardo said his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and the watchful eye of an instructor is standard practice in the industry. The range’s policies are under review, he said.

A video released by investigators shows the 9-year-old, whose identity hasn’t been released, holding the stubby weapon in both hands. Vacca, standing to her left, tells her to turn her left leg forward.

“All right, go ahead and give me one shot,” he tells the girl, whose back is to the camera during the entire 27-second video. He then cheers when she fires one round at the target.

“All right, full auto,” Vacca says. The video, which does not show the actual incident, ends with a series of shots being heard.

Arizona has long had a strong pro-gun culture, including weapon ranges that promote events for children and families. Some of these ranges offer people the thrill of firing weapons such as the Uzi that are generally illegal for members of the public to own.

The Scottsdale Gun Club in recent years has allowed children and families to pose with Santa Claus while holding machine-guns and other weapons from the club. Children as young as 10 are allowed to hunt big game such as elk and deer in Arizona, provided they have completed a hunter safety course.

The gun range operator said he doesn’t know what went wrong to cause the shooting, pointing out that Vacca was an Army veteran who had experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scarmardo, who has been operating the gun range for more than a year and has run another for 14 years, said he hasn’t had a safety problem before at his ranges.

“We never even issued a Band-Aid,” Scarmardo said.

Just Posted

WATCH: Property taxes in Red Deer will go up 2.02 per cent in 2018

City council passes a “tough” budget that maintains most service levels

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more provincial funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by FCSS

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

Red Deer’s Soundhouse closing its doors on Record Store Day

The owners of The Soundhouse want to shut down their store on… Continue reading

NorAm Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships begin in Red Deer

The biggest cross-country skiing competition in Red Deer’s history is underway. Nearly… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month