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No criminal charges in fatal gun range shooting by 9-year-old girl

(Reuters) - County law enforcement officials in Arizona said on Thursday no criminal charges are pending after a probe into a gun range incident in which a 9-year-old girl fatally shot her instructor with an Uzi, adding it was "being viewed as an industrial accident."

But state occupational health and safety officials were conducting their own probe of the Monday morning incident that was captured on video at a gun range that caters in part to tourists visiting nearby Las Vegas.

The shooting at the Arizona Last Stop in White Hills, near the Nevada border, has touched off debate over shooting ranges offering machine guns to casual visitors and the wisdom of giving children access to high-powered firearms.

"Based on the video, the Sheriff's Office has determined no charges are pending," the Mohave County Sheriff's Office said in a statement, adding that the shooting was "being viewed as an industrial accident."

A video clip released by the sheriff's office of the moments just before the fatal shooting and circulating on the Internet shows Charles Vacca giving a girl in pink shorts and a braided ponytail hands-on instruction as she aims the Uzi at a black and white target shaped like the silhouette of a man.

Vacca is heard encouraging the girl and asking her to squeeze off one shot. Then he tells her, "All right, full auto" and the weapon unleashes multiple rounds as the video cuts off.

It was apparently moments later that Vacca was shot in the head when the girl lost control of the submachine gun.

Vacca, 39, had been standing next to the girl when the recoil forced her arm over her head, the sheriff's office said. Authorities have not said how many times Vacca was hit but NBC News reported he was killed by a single bullet to the head.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health confirmed that the agency was investigating the incident, but said state law prevented her from disclosing details.


Some Uzi models are capable of firing up to 1,700 rounds per minute, or almost 30 rounds per second, according to the manufacturer's website.

The Last Stop, a tourist hub that also includes a restaurant, bar, RV park and general store and is decorated with paintings of firearms, faux bullet holes and crosshairs and a mural depicting a gun-toting Sylvester Stallone in the film "Rambo."

An employee at the scene said the range had resumed operations but gave no further comment, and gunfire could be heard coming from inside. The Arizona Republic had earlier reported the range was closed following the incident.

Owners of the gun range could not be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday.

The girl, whom police did not identify, was at the outdoor range with her parents while visiting Nevada from New Jersey.

Arizona Last Stop has a "Burgers and Bullets" program that offers customers lunch with a trip to the range, where they can choose from among more than 20 automatic weapons to shoot, according to its website.

The website shows the packages available for the shooting range, which is described as having a "unique 'Desert Storm' atmosphere," and says each group gets a "certified ex-military firearms instructor." It lists the minimum age as 8.

Scott Edwards, a former Las Vegas bus driver visiting the Last Stop on Thursday, said such gun ranges were popular with tourists visiting from out of state.

"One of biggest questions I got from all over the world is where can I shoot a machine gun?" Edwards said.

Bob Irwin, who owns the Gun Store in Las Vegas, which he said was the oldest range offering machine guns in the city, said his facility had no age restrictions, instead using strength and weight as a metric.

Irwin said Gun Store instructors were trained to hold the firearm for the child, who just pulled the trigger.

"There's no way a child that small is going to handle the vibration and motion of that gun," Irwin said.

(Reporting by Alexia Shurmur in White Hills and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Leslie Adler and Eric Walsh)

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Rev Josey Wales August 29 2014 at 8:24 AM

.MOAR GUNZ 'MURICA!!! Her parents should be charged with child endangerment, and so should the owner of the range. Actually it should be shut down because of incompetancy. A 9 yr old with an UZI???????????? A seriously WTF. And yes, I own firearms, .

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4 replies
grlsrm200 August 29 2014 at 8:13 AM

They wont charge her but she will have a life of torment aboiut this tragedy that did not have to happen. This poor little child will be tortured by her nite mares. What stupid adult would put their child in such a situation!!!!

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2 replies
AMERICASMUSEUM grlsrm200 August 29 2014 at 12:20 PM

"Tortured"? Maybe she learn from his dad that killing in Arizona Republic is an "industrial accident". So, blame the "industry".

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aaldrew grlsrm200 August 29 2014 at 12:21 PM

My daughter was shooting earlier than that.

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tr1amerarmor August 29 2014 at 9:54 AM

The parents should be charged with child endangerment and the owner of the range with wreckless endangerment. No 9 year old should be firing an Uzi.

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dee lightner August 29 2014 at 8:10 AM

No charges! WTH is that all about!

I do NOT think the poor girl should be charged, but I DO think that the parents should be charged with endangering, and FORBIDDEN from owning or firing ANY kind of gun! THIER poor judgment was a contributing factor. AND the 'instructor' certainly used poor judgment (for which he paid dearly), since HE was the EXPERT who should have at least had some clue that the recoil woild potentially pose a danger. AND I am thinking he might have had the good sense to NOT STAND BEHIND A CHILD WITH THAT KIND OF WEAPON!

The really horrific thing about this whole incident is that a little girl will have to remember, for THE REST OF HER LIFE, that she killed a man! And for that she has her parents to thank.

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3 replies
njhg1955 August 29 2014 at 10:06 AM

You really have to wonder about the mindset of any parent that takes a nine year old child to a gun range to fire an Uzi. Maybe no charges were filed in AZ, but I hope DYFS is waiting for those pinheads to return to Jersey and launch a full investigation into that household.

Granted, the instructor should never have placed that gun in the hands of that child ( or ANY inexperienced person ) and then taken his own hands off the weapon ....

But the girl could easily have killed herself and EVERYone around her.

I mean, for all intents and purposes, any nutcase could have walked onto that range, taken the gun once it was placed in his/her hands and committed a massacre.

Who the hell lets any schmuck enter their firing range, place an automatic weapon in their hands ( an Uzi, mind you ) and say, "OK pal, shoot." ???

Insanity. This goes beyond negligence.

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1 reply
muzikluver38 njhg1955 August 29 2014 at 2:44 PM

Full investigation into WHAT????!!!!! They went to a licensed gun range, and allowed their daughter to LEGALLY shoot a gun there... It turned into a tragedy... Back off the parents!! You know what?? My MOM allowed me , at 9 years old, to ride NYC busses alone to get to school.. should she be charged with child endangerment????? You people who want to charge the parents... When you are PERFECT parents and never make a mistake, then you can open your mouths!!

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skitzlpk August 29 2014 at 10:09 AM

The only way a fully automatic firearm should be offered to the public is one that is welded/braced into a fixed position where you can only pull the trigger to feel the effect of it.

It just defies all logic that people who are lifetime trained in firearms would not understand this weapon could get away from this little girl.

An Uzi is so compact, hell, it could get away from an adult if not braced properly against one's shoulder.

Bad things can happen in the desert & this is one of them.

Someone clearly had a lapse in judgment..

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2 replies
catherinecallaghan skitzlpk August 29 2014 at 12:08 PM

dkiyxlpk - Someone please explain to me the precise circumstances or situation under which an ordinary private citizen would need an Uzi or an assault weapon, or a machine gun, or any military style weapon.
These weapons are NOT for hunting, they are NOT for personal protection, and WE ALL KNOW IT. No burglar or rapist walks into a home with a machine gun at the ready. If you're in "imminent danger" & "fear for your life", you could shoot any handgun to protect yourself. So someone answer my question: why are certain people/groups "pushing" this militia style arming of ordinary private citizens?

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welcome eric skitzlpk August 29 2014 at 2:37 PM

I have fired several full auto weapons owned by a Class 3 dealer in my area including the UZI, MAC- 10, and HK MP5. For a 6' 200lb man like myself with several decades of experience with firearms, they are quite easy to control with fair accuracy, even when doing a full magazine dump without letting off the trigger. For a 9 year old girl from NJ who has probably only seen a gun on TV, let alone ever fired one, common sense would dictate that letting her fire one without holding it for her is not a good idea. To say a child cannot start learning about guns even a year or two younger than her is incorrect as I fired a 20 gauge shotgun when I was 8 years old. Start a child easy and gradually though. Start with a pellet gun first to learn safety and control, then .22 rim fire, gradually increasing to a small bore shotgun etc.

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kwhodges August 29 2014 at 9:02 AM

So many below are blaming the parents for the death of this man or for endangering the child and that's simply not the case. The parents selected an expert to show/teach their daughter about handling and firing a weapon. that was 100% the right choice to make if they'd decided to put a gun in the hands of their child. If an accident occurred, it was due to the instructor's failure to either properly instruct or properly control the weapon. When I was taught to shoot, I was never given control of the weapon until I could prove, again and again, I could control it. Now if you think 9 is too young to shoot an Uzi (which I do, btw) then don't give your 9yo an Uzi. But these parents did nothing wrong, IMO. So we're off to the races....I wonder how many people can call me stupid before the day is out.

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4 replies
happy2begridfree August 29 2014 at 11:05 AM

Where is the NRA on this?? They are always boasting that they promote gun responsibility, safety and training as well as gun rights. What do THEY have to say about this debacle and what safety procedure / precautions should have been in place .... including ( ya think? ) not allowing CHILDREN to handle fully loaded Uzis?? Hmmm????

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3 replies
erinlflanigan August 29 2014 at 9:28 AM

The gun shop owner is right - strength and weight are the most important physical factors for deciding who can handle a firearm.

For example, a sturdy 12-year-old girl would probably do a better job than a tiny 30-year-old woman. This is true not just for fully-automatic rifles, but for shotguns and large-caliber handguns as well.

Maybe the range could have inexperienced shooters practice with blanks first to get the feel of the weapon before they graduate to live ammo.

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2 replies
happy2begridfree erinlflanigan August 29 2014 at 10:11 AM

I absolutely agree with you on having novice shooters practice with blanks. Excellent idea.

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diane1240 erinlflanigan August 29 2014 at 2:50 PM

So maybe that's how we determine who can legally drink alcohol. If it's a sturdy 12 year old, then let her get drunk. What morons.

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1 reply
erinlflanigan diane1240 August 29 2014 at 7:34 PM

Bad logic, diane1240. An individual must be 21 to purchase alcohol, and an individual must be 21 to purchase most firearms, but that's where your comparison ends. We're not talking about purchasing here, we're talking about USING under direct parental supervision.

Parents can choose to serve alcohol to their minor children, in their own home, under their direct supervision. Likewise, parents can choose to allow their children to handle firearms under their direct supervision as well. It would be a terrible parent who allowed their children to misuse alcohol or firearms, but that's not what happened here.

The shooting range required parental supervision for minors, and the parents were present. The accident occurred not because of a lack of supervision, but because the instructor had a brief but fatal lapse of judgement.

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dram2500c August 29 2014 at 7:52 AM

Natural selection at work.

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