Who Is To Blame?: Child Kills Man At Gun Range

September 3, 2014  |  

Accidents happen. As a parent, I often find myself struggling to teach my kids a lesson when they make mistakes that result in circumstances that could hurt other people. Sometimes I yell at them out of anger, but quickly realize that although I want them to prevent these kinds of mistakes, I have to take some responsibility. Last week, my son almost cracked my iPad walking down the stairs. I was furious. Then I thought about it, why would I let a four-year old walk around freely with this iPad in his hands? It’s not really his fault if it cracks. It’s mine for letting him hold him. I might as well just smash it on the floor right now. Well, imagine if I just handed him a gun.

On August 25, the MacLachlan family walked into the Last Stop Range in White Hills, Arizona, just 60 miles south of Las Vegas, with their nine-year old daughter. The family was on what is being described in reports as a “vacation excursion.” Firing range instructor Charles Vassa, 39-years-old, was on duty. The girl’s mom was recording her daughter learn how to shoot guns with her phone. In the video, the girl is learning how to shoot an Uzi. While shooting, the Uzi recoiled upward and shot the instructor in the head. A tragic ending.

Now, regardless of where you stand on this at this point, let me note that the gun range’s policy permits children eight years and older to fire guns under adult supervision with the instructor there. As a result of the accident, the policy is now under review. But apparently, at the time, it was standard industry practice. So it almost can be chalked up as a freak accident. From a legal standpoint, county prosecutors say that the instructor was likely the most criminally negligent in the incident because he allowed the girl to shoot the gun knowing she couldn’t handle it, as she was not trained. But let’s put legal theories aside. A man lost his life.

Regardless of who is to blame for his death, the danger presented by putting an Uzi in the hands of a nine-year-old seems obvious. And I’m not just talking about physical danger, but emotional as well. If you ask me, parents can get locked up for a lot less. When I have to run to the market and my seven-year-old wants to stay in front of the TV to see “Dog With A Blog,” my response is “No. The police will come get me.” Her safety is my main concern, but I have to admit, I would trust her in the house alone for 15 minutes way more than I would trust her to hold a gun for a half a second.

New Jersey lawyer Kevin Walsh represents the family and has said they are devastated. He also said that after the accident, the family prayed that Vacca would survive his injury. Vacca’s family stated that they feel sorry for the child and want to comfort her. No charges have been filed in the case.

I read and researched the story over and over because I didn’t understand how this accident happened so easily. Family goes to gun range. Nine-year-old shoots Uzi. Child kills man at gun range. The details seemed almost too simple. There was one thing that stuck out to me though. It was a line from the police report that said immediately after it happened, “the other children were taken away from the range.” The whole time, I admit, I judged the parents for letting their child shoot at a gun range. But…there were other children there???

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