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12:21 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Column: Submachine guns are not for children

It doesn't matter how old we get.

It doesn't matter how often we can honestly say, "Been there, done that."

It doesn't matter how cynical, jaded, or hardened we get, sometimes something happens that just knocks us to our knees.

Such was the case Monday when Mohave County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Trish Carter sent me an email.

A 9-year-old girl shot her instructor in the head at an outdoor shooting range near Dolan Springs.

Wait. What?

We then learn the 9-year-old girl, with her parents' apparent blessing, was given a fully automatic 9mm Uzi - the Israeli-made submachine gun.

One more time: She was given control of a fully automatic submachine gun. Let that sink in.

We learned that her instructor, 39-year-old Lake Havasu City resident Charles Vacca, died just before 9 p.m. Monday at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Forget about gun control for a moment. Forget about the Second Amendment.

Let's have a conversation about common sense and personal responsibility.

When my son was 9 years old, we let him fire a BB gun, and we were nervous, because he was 9, and he proved we were smart to be nervous because he promptly shot out the rear window of a vehicle owned by my father-in-law's brother.

You can get 1,000 BBs for about 10 bucks, but that particular BB cost me $400.

But nobody lost their life, or even an eye. The idea of handing my son a firearm - wheel gun, shotgun, bazooka, Uzi - when he was 9 years old would never cross my mind, and I was not exactly the most responsible father in the world. The most common three-word command I ever gave my kids was, "Don't tell Mom."

Of all the senseless tragedies I've seen, this one is right up there near the top.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how this came to be.

Nobody stopped for a second and asked if this was a good idea? Nobody, especially the presumed gun experts on site, worried about muzzle climb? Muzzle climb occurs with every shooter, no matter how experienced, when firing on full auto. It takes experience to learn how to control and even then it's a struggle.

Obviously, Mr. Vacca had a family and my heart breaks for them. My heart breaks for the child and I'm quite certain her parents are stunned beyond words.

But at the risk of sounding like a big fan of the government, perhaps now is the time we put laws in place that prohibit children from firing fully automatic weapons.

Save a firearm instructor's life: Make it illegal for them to instruct anyone under the age of ... what? Sixteen?

No. That won't do. The most dangerous animal on the planet is a 16-year-old who's angry at the world.

Eighteen will have to be the cutoff. This is the age of majority, they are adults, they can legally make their own decisions and they can be held accountable. We are talking about a weapon that truly was designed to do one thing: kill human beings.

Parents should embrace such a law, as it automatically precludes them from having to endure the pain this girl and her family will go through for the rest of their lives.