Tragic news hit this week over the death of a shooting instructor. A 9-year old girl at a shooting range was allowed to handle a fully automatic Uzi machine gun. Unable to control it, she ended up shooting her instructor to death.
I am a gun owner and a supporter of the second amendment. I am not convinced fully that the right to bear arms is limited to militias. Having an armed citizenry is a good start in protecting ourselves from whomever might unwisely take it upon themselves to mess with us.
I come from a family of gun owners. There are plenty of hunters and target shooters in my extended family. I’m pretty sure the county where part of my family resides would put ISIS on the run given the opportunity.
Several years ago I had two opportunities to shoot automatic weapons, one an Uzi. I believe the rate of fire was about 30 rounds per second. Firing it was like wrestling the business end of a rhinoceros.
After popping in the first clip, I decided to go Hollywood and hold the trigger back until the last round was fired.
Yeah. Me and Bruce Willis.
No one told me there is a vast difference between a rifle or handgun of any caliber and an automatic weapon.
When I was about 16, two friends of mine—brothers—smuggled their Dad’s 4570 out of their house to a nearby vacant dump site. It was absolutely beautiful. Smooth, heavy octagonal barrel. It was a wonder.
Oh, a 4570 is also known as “an elephant gun.” They are powerful enough to hunt and bring down their namesake creature.
We took turns shooting that gorgeous firearm. We took turns examining our bruised shoulders from the tremendous kick. We dug the huge slug (a spent round) out of a fiberglass barrel. It was great fun.
Shooting an automatic weapon is nothing like that. Automatic weapons rise when fired. All guns rise when fired, but the nature of the rapid, repeating fire is an ongoing rise. It is very difficult to control.
Those scenes in the movies where some hero-type holds out a machine gun with one hand and wipes out a terrorist cell are not realistic. I am not saying no one could do such, but it would take tremendous strength and experience to do so.
My pull down on the Uzi? Before I even realized what had happened the bullets were tracing up the target and cut the metal target holder in half. I was able to release the trigger just before bullets started going into the ceiling of the firing range!
This gun owner says, no, children should not be allowed to handle automatic weapons. Here are four reasons why:
1. There are plenty of other options for children to learn about and experience firearms.
Gun owners tend to want their kids unafraid of guns. People who were not raised around guns, or who were but are opposed to having them around young children, may oppose any combination of kids and guns. That debate is not the point of this writing.
What holds true is gun owners have plenty of options for exposing their children to firearms without going full auto. Some small caliber weapons are sized to allow children to learn without feeling like they are holding up a fence post.
Parents raised in the rural areas often see gun ownership as a rite of passage, a symbol of growing up. I got my first rifle, a .22 Marlin, when I turned 16. There was not even a place around my house to shoot it, but I knew what it meant. I have owned plenty of weapons since and in no way feel cheated that I did not get to lay into a Heckler & Koch MP5 when I was eleven.
2. Most children are not physically strong enough to control automatic weapons.
Any father can attest to being asked to “move this,” “pick this up,” “carry this for me” because our young children do have have the bodily strength to do certain things. There is a galaxy of difference between a single-shot .22 rifle and an Uzi. It is not even the same activity. Think go-kart vs Cadillac Escalade, or 20-inch bicycle vs Harley Roadster and you are in the ballpark.
There are precious few girls under the age of 10 who have the upper body strength to handle the rise of an automatic weapon. Not all boys can either as the death of Christopher Bizilj testifies.
3. There are reasons we do not allow children to do certain things.
Children cannot legally smoke. Children cannot legally drink. Children cannot legally drive until a state specified age. Children cannot legally conceal-carry a pistol, marry until a certain age, get a credit card, sign legal documents, co-sign loans and myriad other things.
Maturity, judgment, ability, perception, and self-control are reasons society forbids certain things for children. Guiding the freedom of children is the responsibility of a free society.
4. Because we are not raising child soldiers.
Our country does not require mandatory military service for every citizen. Those who choose to serve receive full training to become proficient in whatever weapon needed to fulfill their responsibilities from hand guns, to automatic guns, to bazookas, mortars, tanks or flying machines. It is not necessary for a child—or even a teenager—to be proficient or have experience with automatic weapons.
Child soldiers are the domain of militant rebels in uncivilized areas who use murder, rape, drugs and abuse to harden children into remorseless, sociopathic killers. Seeing the dead-eyes of a 10-year old strapped with an AK-47 and banana clip are enough to break the heart and be reminded there remain things in this world of which children should be blissfully unaware.
This is not a 2nd Amendment issue. We can teach our kids how to safely use guns. We can teach them to hunt, to defend themselves, loved ones and property. We can train them to be Olympic shooters. We can do all that without creating Little League versions of Seal Team 6.
In the unlikely event of a mainland invasion of the U.S., there are enough adults to defend the nation taking positions in every henhouse, dog house, out house, and from behind every hedge row, bridge support, and brick wall. If that astronomically small probability were to happen, the hunters, recreational shooters, police and military in America will be able protect any 9-year old from needing to bear arms.