Friday, 29 August 2014

Thoughts on a tragedy.

The recent tragic incident of a nine year old girl shooting her instructor with the firearm she was being taught with has brought out the anti-gun media with a vengeance, along with its usual misinformed and uneducated pundits.

There has been much made of the fact that the weapon in question was an "Uzi machine gun", along with the statement that, "this is a high powered weapon". So in an effort to get a bit of balance here let's have a look at the details.

The Uzi is a "sub machine gun", which by definition is a machine gun that fires cartridges of a calibre and size found commonly in hand guns. The calibre of the Uzi is 9mm, the same calibre as the side arm issued to many police officers, army, navy or air force personnel, and widely used by security forces throughout the world, and where allowed, for personal and home defence. This cartridge has an effective range in the Uzi to between 100 -200 metres.

A machine gun, as alluded to by every report that I heard, is a weapon that fires a rifle cartridge. These cartridges are many and varied and range in calibre from .223 (5.56) up to, but not limited to, .308 (7.62~) being the more commonly available calibres. The effective range of these cartridges is out beyond 600 metres, depending upon the platform used.

There are and have been many instances where the recoil involved from the rifle, pistol or shotgun has proven too much for the shooter involved to maintain their control of the weapon concerned. This is not the fault of the instrument, but the instructor, who has failed to educate the student in the correct handling of weapon In question. In this case the consequences proved to be fatal for the instructor.

In addition to handling the weapon correctly, the stature of the student should also be addressed. Being of slight build myself, I can attest to the fact that due to a lack of mass to place behind the weapon, utilising what is available is crucial in an effort to prevent the weapon from taking over the shooter whilst firing. Before letting anyone shoot anything, all of these things should be taken into account and addressed before the trigger is ever squeezed.

Much has also been made of the fact the poor child in question was nine years old, and is it right or proper for children to handle, fire, or be involved with firearms of any description. This should be your personal choice and that of the child involved, and based upon the criteria outlined above. In addition, the demeanour of the child is paramount. They should be able to follow instructions, but equally they should be confident enough to question or ask for clarification on a subject if they do not understand what is required of them. In my experience, age does not guarantee this, having instructed adults who think they know better; and as an instructor it is my duty to advise them to the contrary.

Shooting is a safe sport, hobby, pastime or recreation, undertaken by millions of people around the world every day. Thankfully accidents are rare, very rare, which is why the media and those who would prevent the ownership of any firearms by the civilian populace are trying so hard to make a really big issue of this truly terrible accident. Shooters around the world must not let these groups use this incident to push for further restrictions on young shooters, or those who may wish to take up the sport. Whilst this incident is tragic, it was an accident, and accidents happen to all of us every day, though thankfully most of us get to go home at the end of the day, but not all. It is through the vigilance and true professionalism of shooters as a whole that these accidents are so rare that when a tragedy does occur, it is, headline news.

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