Should children be allowed to handle automatic weapons? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Gun instructor's death raises questions on children handling automatic weapons


In Virginia, it's legal to own and use automatic weapons. According to the code, children under the age of 12 are allowed to shoot those weapons, but they must be supervised at all times by a parent or instructor.

While that may be the case, one local instructor says automatic weapons aren't for everyone.

A video recently taken in northwest Arizona starts off innocently enough, with a little girl learning how to use an Uzi. By the end, the instructor is dead. Investigators say, the little girl lost control of the automatic weapon.

"What tends to happen with a firearm like that, as you're pulling the trigger and firing the gun, there's what we call 'muzzle climb' or 'muzzle flip,' where the muzzle of the gun jumps up a little bit," said James Reynolds.

Reynolds is the president of Proactive Shooters. The Richmond company works to train people to safely use firearms.

He says the force of the kick back can cause a person to lose control.

"Your finger becomes like a pivot point, and it just rotates on the trigger guard, which keeps the gun firing and rotating and back towards you," explained Reynolds.  

This isn't the first time a tragedy like this has struck. In 2008, a Massachusetts boy was killed at a gun range after losing control while shooting a submachine gun.

Reynolds says cases like these show that accidents do happen, and just because they can, doesn't mean everyone should handle a weapon like this.

"It's one of those discretionary things that a parent or instructor says, 'can this person competently hold the weapon? Do they know how to use the firearm and can they do so safely without injuring someone else?'," he said.

NBC12 talked to two popular gun ranges in the region, and both told us that while kids do come in for safety programs and time on the range, as a rule, they don't handle automatic weapons.

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