As We See It

Local firearms instructors say a child should never be in control of an automatic weapon

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Photo: Marvin Lucas

The recent accidental killing of a shooting instructor in Arizona by a young girl has raised questions about how old children should be before they’re allowed to fire automatic weapons. According to several experts in Las Vegas, however, the issue is not the 9-year-old girl holding an uzi, it’s the environment she’s shooting in.

Gwen Eaton, a certified instructor at the Gun Store who’s seen the video from the Bullets and Burgers tragedy, says the instructor was “absolutely” at fault in the accident. “You never stand on the left side of them if they are right-handed. You need to be in control of that gun at all times, so you need to be on the right-hand side of that child. And he should have had his hand on that trigger guard so that the only thing the child had to do was pull the trigger.”

Rick Cross, owner and operator of Be Safe Firearms Instruction, agrees. While he doesn’t condone training anyone under 16 in the use of automatic weapons, he says children around the age of 10 and up should be allowed to fire them in an environment where an adult is in complete control of the weapon—and provided they pass a mental and maturity screening. Even then, he stresses caution. “My 10-year-old granddaughter is an accomplished shooter, and the only thing she uses is a .22-caliber. Would I allow her to handle an automatic weapon? No,” Cross says.

Emily Miller, marketing manager for the Gun Store, says the youngest person she’s ever seen fire an automatic weapon at their facility was 9, “and we literally hold onto the gun. All the child will do is reach through and pull the trigger. We’re not going to give a child a fully automatic weapon, because that’s irresponsible on our part.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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