By John Montone, 1010 WINS
The subject line of the e-mail from editor Maloney read: Young Shooter.
Broadcasters use the word “shocked” much too often. Anchors will say, “We have the “shocking details from Bum-hum,” and then the reporter standing in Bum-hum will nod his head and say, “Bum-hummers living on this tree-lined street are “shocked.” Perhaps. As for me, after watching the south tower of the World Trade Center vaporize, I am rarely “shocked.”
But the story called “Young Shooter” did the trick.
I opened the e-mail on my phone at 3:30 A.M. and read the tale of the family from New Jersey on vacation in Western Arizona. They stopped at a shooting range near the Nevada state line called, “Bullets and Burgers.” How clever. Pump a target full of lead then talk about it while tearing into a quarter pound patty of chopped, bleeding beef. I prefer the beach, but if learning how to fire a gun is a person’s idea of fun, have a blast.
But this time the shooter was a 9-year-old girl and the gun was an Uzi — an automatic weapon. You probably know the awful details by now. As her parents shot video with their cell phones, the girl in pink shorts and a pony tail shot the sub-machine gun. The instructor, 39-year old Charles Vacca, guided her each step of the way through a single shot and then in automatic mode which is when the local sheriff described what he called a “ghastly” scene.
The little girl was unable to hold the Uzi steady. Its powerful recoil caused her to lose control and she sprayed the area with bullets, one of which struck Vacca in the head killing him.
Nine years old, in pink shorts, a pony tail…and a man she shot dying at her feet. Even as I reported the known facts, I had a hard time believing my own words.
Much will be written and spoken about this death in the desert. The editorial writers and bloviators will condemn or defend the practice of putting a military-style weapon in the hands of an innocent. I will do neither. The firing range may be guilty of the grossest negligence or new details will emerge of fun-filled family vacations with tots toting 9-millimeters, dressed in fatigues and hitting bullseyes while their moms and dads cheer them as if they had just whacked a home run at Williamsport.
But as I sit at my keyboard thinking of the little girl, the big gun and the dead guy, I can say only one thing for sure.
I was shocked.