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Katy Burns: Locked and loaded – and only 9 years old

The image on the cell phone video is both searing and surreal. A little girl in a white shirt and pink shorts, her thick dark braid bouncing on her back, stands before a target with an Uzi – a fully automatic submachine gun – in her small hands. Hovering over her is an adult man, guiding her hands into place on the weapon.

As we all know – the video has been everywhere – things go terribly wrong.

The man is a shooting instructor at the bizarrely named Bullets and Burgers, part of an Arizona shooting range called Last Stop. He is dead, shot in the head by the girl when she couldn’t control the rapid recoil of the gun.

The child, a diminutive 9-year-old, will carry the image and memory of that horrifying moment for the rest of her life.

Her parents – who took that video and who gave their daughter permission to shoot – will be equally haunted by what their poor judgment has caused.

It’s heartbreakingly tragic.

And it’s totally insane.

There is no excuse – none – for putting a powerful weapon like that Uzi, in full-automatic mode, into the hands of that child.

I fully accept that the battle in this country for some sort of meaningful control over the proliferation of lethal weapons of increasing firepower is lost.

If nothing could be done in the aftermath of the slaughter of first-graders in Sandy Hook – even with overwhelming public support for stronger laws – we have, as a nation represented by cowardly lawmakers, surrendered completely to the NRA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the nation’s gun manufacturers.

But surely there are some things connected with firearms that we can all agree on. One is the fact that young children and weapons designed solely to kill (and to kill many quickly) are completely incompatible. Aren’t they? We will draw the line, right?

In a sane world, yes. But in our world, no.

The owner of the shooting range, one Sam Scarmardo, thought it was perfectly fine that a child would be allowed to wield an automatic weapon. After all, she wanted to!

“This is a very mature young lady, and this was something she wanted to do,” he earnestly explained in a TV interview. “Her parents were treating her.”

Oh? And if she’d wanted to, would her parents “treat” her to a ride to the Brooklyn Bridge so she could practice her diving skills? And would Scarmardo approve of that?

Scarmardo, who was all over the tube in the aftermath of the disastrous shooting, was appropriately horrified at the loss of life. He said he’d “been praying for that girl. . . . It’s something she did. My heart goes out to her.”

Something she did? It’s her fault?

She is 9 years old. Only perhaps in the backward corners of the world where marriages to prepubescent girls are condoned would a 9-year-old be considered “a very mature young lady.” The child could not have owned that gun herself. She could not have had a drink, she could not have voted, she could not have driven a car. She could not have seen an R-rated movie, for heaven’s sake. Way too much violence, they say.

And in recent years, an explosion of research into the development of brain functions has led scientists to conclude that even in late adolescence children are still not thinking and functioning with the judgment of adults.

But, said Scarmardo of the unfortunate child in question, “this was something high on her bucket list of things to do.” Bucket list? Nine-year-olds do not have bucket lists. They are children.

But no matter. Gun enthusiasts will say this is an aberration and talk wistfully about how they learned to shoot at their daddy’s knees, ignoring the fact that daddy likely – unless he was a 1920s-era gangster – didn’t have a submachine gun.

Gun tourism – and that’s what it’s apparently called, traipsing over the country to shoot the biggest and baddest weapons – is a booming business in the good old U.S. of A. People flock to these “resorts” where ordinary folks can shoot off everything up to and including grenade launchers.

These gun playgrounds are said to be particularly big attractions for visitors from other countries, especially those with sane gun laws.

One report I read called it all “good family entertainment.” And reviewers of Bullets and Burgers on TripAdvisor love the burgers (“Amazing!” “Best ever!”). Well, there you go! What more could one want?

We are righteously horrified now, of course, but the outrage will die. After all, it died when, in a similar incident in 2008 at a gun range in Massachusetts, an 8-year-old killed himself with another Uzi.

And gun tourism – isn’t that an odious phrase? – will continue as well.

On Thursday, I caught an interview with an earnest spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense. “We hope this will start a national dialogue on guns,” she said.

Fat chance. We hear this “national dialogue” stuff every time there’s a horrific gun disaster. Just as we do after every serious racially fraught incident. Our national Untouchable Topics.

But – unless it’s on a topic like the quality of Super Bowl ads or whether the Kardashians are a just a little overexposed – we don’t do national dialogues. They’re downright un-American.

Unlike guns.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Legacy Comments9

Well some of our right-of-center folks have posted and it is clear they don't get it. What we are discussing is not a "wedge" issue or an attack on "hunters" but support for God-given common-sense gun control laws. No civilian and the vast majority of police have no business having a weapon of war in their possession - that is simply common sense. Also, the assertion that police are trained in the proper handling weapons - especially assault weapons - is not exactly true. This is especially the case when our government foolishly though it was fine to flood local people departments with weapons of war, which now every third cop in this state has possession of an assault weapon. Does it scare you? Well it should, because I would place my trust in most cops to properly handle a weapon, much less one of an assault variety. Need an example, look at the recent photos of cops pointing assault weapons, with finger on the triggers, at demonstrating crowds - a totally wrong way of using of these weapons. The trouble is that neither of the two respondents see a problem here and neither one of them cannot see a problem with this nation and its sick addiction to guns, an addiction in which this nation has one of the highest per capital rates of gun violence in the developed world. It is shameful that we still get the same denial and distraction from these people instead a serious adult conversation that we desperately need.

This post must be labeled specious for the following reasons: 1) There is no such thing as a "local people department." 2) The poster seems to be "against police having assault weapons but then goes on to say that, ". . . I WOULD place my trust in most cops to properly handle a weapon" 3) The following statement contradicts itself, "The trouble is that neither of the two respondents see a problem here and neither one of them cannot see a problem with this nation and its sick addiction to guns." Clearly this person has not made up their minds about how they feel about this topic being discussed in this thread. I suggest enrolling in a gun safety course and some range time to help them sort it out.

Shame on you, Nashua-Mike for putting parentheses around the word hunters and lumping them in with gun enthusiasts and right-wing bloggers. I'm a hunter. I also voted for Obama. I'm NOT a member of the NRA, I'm pro-choice and I'm pro-gay marriage. Hardly a "right-winger" by any metric you might choose. Hunters, military personnel and law enforcement personnel all have one thing in common: they were all taught to handle guns under the responsible supervision of adults. The problem with guns in the US today has little to do with the guns and everything to do with the people. There is a new segment of the gun-toting population that has nothing to do with hunting, the military, law-enforcement, competitive shooting, etc. It's the "I wanna have a gun because I see it as a symbol of some chest-thumping, flag-waving, faux patriotism. In other words, I'm "clinging" to my guns as a reaction to certain events in our national political/social climate. Oh, AND . . . I have absolutely no training in how to safely handle weapons - like hunters, military and law enforcement personnel have. In other words . . . there's a bunch of yahoos out there who's only reason for having a gun is " 'cuz I can." That's a bad reason to have such a deadly weapon. You and I have more in common than you care to admit Mikey - it's unfortunate that you continue to pigeonhole me into your little "right wing" box because of your hatred for hunters. Together, we could join forces and defeat the crazy, ultra right-wing hordes. But alas . . . you won't grasp my hand as it reaches across the chasm of indifference and polarization.

re: "...grasp my hand as it reaches across the chasm of indifference and polarization.". Tell the truth, HD; you lifted that phrase from Hallmark, dintcha? Believe I saw it on a Family Reunion invite card. (c;

LOL! No I promise it just came outta my noggin, but maybe there's a future for me in the greeting card biz! Hunter Dan says there ARE second acts in American life!

Hunter, good post. But I will tell you that I keep firearms to, in the future have some insurance against the takeover of the country by extremists who think like Nashua Mike. Better safe than sorry.

This is why katy burns and the jean shaheen "one worlder"s" want: STAND YOUR GROUND" LAWS In its conclusions issued on Friday, the U.N. panel said "Stand Your Ground" Laws, a controversial self-defense statute in 22 U.S. states, should be reviewed to "remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to principles of necessity and proportionality when deadly force is used for self-defense". UN, I would love to see the day your powder blue helmets show up on our shores...between the crooked teeth and sloped shoulders, your crowd is a real formidable force...

No doubt that Katy like other progressives are anti-gun. Although this is tragic and I agree that a 9 year old should not be using an Uzi, it should not be used as a wedge issue to restrict and regulate guns. Moreover, we never hear about gun violence in places where it happens every day.....Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. Those incidents are never discussed but when statistics come out, guess what? Progressives like Katy say "see, see, see".

Interesting that we don't have a single comment about this article addressing the obvious need for rational gun control for this state and our nation from the usual suspects of gun enthusiasts, "hunters" and right-wing bloggers. But, what do you expect from this crowd, a common sense reaction? Because, for people like me who have not been brainwashed in the small state, rural mentality of asserting your "freedom" no matter what the cost, it is hard to believe that any thinking adult thinks an automatic or high-powered weapon is safe in the hands of a 9-year-old child. But, the sad truth is that our nation is sick and has too many individuals like the parents of this 9-year-old girl and the owner of this warped idea of a gun range that have no regard for personal safety, life or any small degree of common sense and manage to brainwash the unthinking and ignorant among us - especially in pro-gun states like New Hampshire - that we have "god-given" right to assert one's Second Amendment rights free of any common sense regulations.

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