The name of the shooting range should have given anyone pause – Last Stop. The nine-year-old girl was there with her family for a pleasant outing of learning to fire a military-style automatic weapon. Isn’t that the kind of experience you would share with your child? You know – sort of like visiting the driving range and hitting a few golf balls or whacking some baseballs in the batting cages at the local fun park.
The accidental shooting death of a gun instructor at the shooting range in Arizona is an indication of just how crazy the American infatuation with guns has become. Since the horrific shooting rampage at Columbine High School in 1999, Americans have almost gotten used to hearing about tragic shooting deaths. Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, a movie theater in Colorado, and – most horrifically, to me – an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. These names are now associated in the public mind with unspeakable horror.
And those are just the high-profile massacres. What about the daily violence in my own city of Chicago, which most recently saw the death of a nine-year-old boy who was shot multiple times in his South Side neighborhood? What about the so-called slumber party shooting when a girl innocently enjoying time with her friends was killed by an errant bullet that penetrated the wall of her room? Whether obtained legally or illegally, guns have been the cause of so much destruction and heartbreak.
I was naive enough to think things would change after Newtown. The faces of little first graders, now dead, would surely soften the hearts of even the most die-hard NRA member. But no. The framers of the Constitution are turning over in their graves with how far afield our modern interpretation of the Second Amendment has gone. Gun laws get less restrictive instead of more. In Chicago, the current capital of shooting deaths, law enforcement officials are coping with a newly passed Illinois concealed carry law. It is a sad sign of the times that libraries and hospitals have to post prohibitions against carrying guns into their facilities.
At the Last Stop gun range, has the blood soaked into the dirt yet? Is it back to business as usual? I try to imagine how the little girl must feel after losing control of her Uzi – yes, you read that right – and shooting her instructor in the head. How horrific are her nightmares in the aftermath of that terrible day? How is the family of Charles Vacca, the instructor, dealing with their loss?
It may be true that “guns don’t kill; people do.” But a semiautomatic weapon makes it so much easier.