Criminal Justice

Gun instructor killed after girl loses control of Uzi; shooting range operated legally, sheriff says

Updated and corrected: An Arizona sheriff has no plans to file charges against a shooting range where a 9-year-old girl lost control of an Uzi, accidentally killing her instructor.

Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe says the Bullets and Burgers shooting range, located 26 miles from Las Vegas, is licensed and operates legally, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Washington Post’s Morning Mix blog report.

The New Jersey girl was at the range Monday morning with her parents during a family vacation. She successfully fired the gun in single-shot mode, but lost control of the weapon as it recoiled in automatic mode. The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, died Monday night at a Las Vegas hospital.

Bullets and Burgers sets a minimum age of 8 for use of the range and requires a parent or guardian to be present for youths as old as 17.

The incident is being viewed as an industrial accident, the Arizona Republic reports. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reviewing the case.

Arizona is among 21 states that allow minors to have access to guns, provided there is adult supervision, NBC News reports. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have “child access prevention laws” that take several forms, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Some impose criminal liability when a minor accesses a gun that is negligently stored, while others bar adults from providing guns to minors.

Bullets and Burgers had stellar ratings on TripAdvisor, the New York Times reported in its coverage of the incident. But Lance Krig, whose brother had property next to the gun range, isn’t a fan, the Arizona Republic says.

Krig sued the gun range for an alleged noise violation, but he tells the Arizona Republic his real aim was to shut down the range until it could be inspected. “You can’t imagine what it’s like to be downrange when a barrage of gunpowder is released with no notice,” he said.

Krig had some success. He received a letter from Mohave County in 2012 saying the operators of the gun range were told “not to use weaponry that exceeded the design limitation of their shooting range, and they could not use exploding targets.” A judge, however, said the range was within its zoning rights. Krig’s suit was dismissed in April, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Updated on Aug. 28 to include information on gun laws and Krig’s lawsuit, and to correct state where Mohave County is located.

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