It’s not often that a story runs out of gas by the third paragraph. The Year After Death, Business as Usual at Arizona Gun Range is one of those stories. After briefly introducing a Spanish family visiting The Last Stop gun range – where a nine-year-old girl shot and killed an instructor trying to show her the ways of a full-auto Uzi – nytimes.com scribe Julie Turkewitz’s “exposé” takes a dirt nap. Like this . . .
In the year since a New Jersey girl visited Last Stop and accidentally killed Charles Vacca, a 39-year-old father of four, little has changed in the nation’s tourist-oriented machine gun ranges.
Correct! No one else has been killed or injured. No children, adults, instructors or SWAT-averse dogs have suffered because of their exposure to fully automatic weapons. So . . . what? As Walter Mondale famously demanded, where’s the beef?
It’s the same beef the New York Times has had since The Sullivan Act of 1911: civilians shouldn’t own guns. Never mind shoot them. So the fact that people are shooting guns – children! machine guns! – is a story for the Gray Lady. Whose publisher has a concealed carry permit. Whose family mounted twin machine guns on the Times building to repel looters during the New York City draft riots (though presumably manned by men among men doing manly things).
The fact that “little has changed” changes little about the Times’ insatiable desire to proffer anti-gun agitprop to its left-leaning urban audience, knee-jerk anti-gunners who wouldn’t know a semi-automatic modern sporting rifle from a true “assault rifle.” Or how much fun it is to shoot the latter. To satisfy that brief, Turkewitz digs deep.
Mr. Vacca’s death on Aug. 25 prompted a brief but impassioned conversation: Should Arizona and other states continue to allow children to fire automatic weapons? A video of the girl and the gun in the moments before Mr. Vacca’s death — she wore pink shorts and a ponytail — helped fuel the debate . . .
After Mr. Vacca’s death, legislators in at least two states, Arizona and Louisiana, tried to pass laws that would have set a minimum age for handling an automatic weapon. Both efforts failed. State Representative Victoria Steele, a Democrat who proposed the Arizona bill, said her colleagues would not consider supporting a bill that restricted gun use, fearing a backlash from the National Rifle Association.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have laws that restrict firearm use by children in some way, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Turkewitz has got to get a quote from the antis in there somewhere. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. Setting aside the fact that there isn’t one. In fact, I bet this story was hanging around in the Times’ server waiting for a machine gun-related fatality, preferably of a child. No dice.
[Last Stop gun range owner Sam] Scarmardo said he had decided after the accident to raise the age requirement for shooting to 12, from 9, though employees are allowed to waive that rule when they deem a child large and mature enough to handle a powerful weapon.
“If you’ve got a kid who is five feet tall and as mature as a 25-year-old, he can shoot,” Mr. Scarmardo said.
He added that children were typically restricted to using M16s or belt-fed guns that rest on a table or other surface, though a range employee later said he was unaware of that rule.
Gotcha! Typically, the Times wants readers to think of anyone involved with guns is an uneducated brain-dead yahoo. But, as Nick Leghorn constantly reminds me, you can’t stop the signal. In the final furlong of what should have been a light feature, Turkewitz doesn’t even try.
On a recent weekday, Mr. Calvo, one of the Spanish tourists, was surprised to learn from a reporter that Last Stop was the scene of the killing he had heard about last year. One of his friends, Samuel Pueyo, 29, said: “Shooting is fine as an experience, but for adults — not for children. It’s not ethical for a child.”
But Mr. Nárdiz said he felt very safe, and his children, Jon and Toni, agreed.
“Oh, my God,” Jon said, rattling off the names of the guns he had fired: the MP5, the M4. “At the beginning it was a little scary, but it was so much fun.”