Sam Scarmado, the owner of the Bullets and Burgers outdoor shooting range in Arizona, went on TV Wednesday to stress how perfectly safe his recreational facility is, despite Monday's accidental shooting death of one of his instructors at the hands of a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi. That, and many of the other things he said in an MSNBC interview, reveals just how weirdly the values of the gun world skew from the world in which most Americans live.
A cellphone video of the shooting shows the instructor patiently helping the slight, brown-haired child to hold and aim the automatic weapon and shoot live bullets at a target. She takes one shot and all is fine, but when she squeezes the trigger for multiple bursts, the girl cannot handle the recoil, the gun bucks to the left and a bullet goes into the instructor's brain.
It's a tragedy for the dead man and his family and for the little girl who will deal with the killing for years to come. Scarmado said he was praying for the girl and mourned the loss of his employee and friend, but seemed strangely complacent when asked whether he thought putting automatic weapons with live ammunition into the hands of children was still a good idea.
Scarmado said policies were being reviewed. Maybe they'd follow the lead of Disneyland, he said, and put up a measuring post to see if a kid is tall enough for a gun. I'm wondering how tall that might be – 3 feet? 4 feet? Five-foot-two with eyes of blue?
He said 1,500 to 2,000 children have been his customers over the years. "The kids rent a lot of automatic weapons," he said. "We do birthday parties for children here. We do bachelor, bachelorette parties at (our) facilities. We're part of the Las Vegas entertainment industry."
Yes, nothing says fun for kids like blasting an Uzi on your birthday. Lots better than a bouncy toy or a hired clown.
According to Scarmado, the girl (who Mohave County prosecutors say they will not prosecute) looked like a good prospect for handling an Uzi. "This was a very mature young lady, and (this was) something she wanted to do and her parents were treating her," he said. "This was something that was high on her bucket list to do, and her parents took her out to do what she was going to do."
"Mature" is a curious term for a 9-year-old. Just how mature can a fourth-grader be? Apparently more mature than her parents who were "treating her" by putting a weapon of war in her little hands. "Bucket list" is another curious phrase to use for a child. Bucket lists are for folks way on the other end of the age spectrum who are running out of time to get their wishes fulfilled before they kick the bucket. This girl still has lots of time to ponder the consequences of using firearms for fun and entertainment.
With luck, when the girl grows up and gets through therapy, she will join the rest of us who believe guns have a place in our society, but should not be objects of veneration, obsession or play. Gun lovers adore fondling and fiddling with their weapons way too much, and the result is hundreds of accidental deaths every year.
The most worrisome thing is not the number of children who get hold of guns they shouldn't have, it's the vastly larger number of adults who are too immature to be trusted with the stockpiles of weapons they have amassed. Luckily, their worst damage usually stays close to home. They end up accidentally shooting themselves or their gun-brandishing friends or their own offspring.