By now you’ve probably heard about the nine-year-old girl who accidentally shot a gun instructor at a shooting range in Arizona. For those who haven’t, the girl lost control over the Uzi submachine gun she was handling after the instructor switched the gun from semi-automatic—which fires a single bullet at a time—to automatic, which sets off a cascade of bullets such as you might see in, say, The Terminator. Earlier today, police released a video of what happened just before the fatal incident. Wearing day-glo pink shorts and a ponytail, the girl successfully pops off a shot in the semi-automatic setting before the instructor flips the switch to automatic. His final words appear to be, “All right, full auto.”
While horrifying, it’s unfortunately not that surprising. The average American nine-year-old girl weighs about 60 pounds. An Uzi weighs between seven and nine pounds. That would be roughly equal to a 40-year-old man firing a 25-pound gun like, say, the Hotchkiss M1909 used in trench warfare in World Wars I and II—a weapon so heavy it sat on a tripod.
What are tiny kids doing firing massive automatic weapons? What the law entitles them to do. The vast majority of US states permit children to fire guns at shooting ranges provided they are supervised by an adult (or, in stricter states, a licensed instructor). This isn’t the first time a child has killed someone with an Uzi at a firing range. In 2008, an eight-year-old boy in Massachusetts accidentally shot himself in the head when the micro Uzi he was shooting recoiled.
Accidental shootings make up about 1.8% of all gun deaths in the country—and 5% of fatal non-suicide shootings—according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thankfully, as with overall firearm death trends, the numbers are falling:
Here’s where most of the accidental shootings have taken place in the US:
Of course, there are many factors driving accidental shootings in the US, most obviously gun availability. US states with the lowest rates of accidental shootings also happen to have the most rigorous firearm laws, based on the scoring system by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (pdf):