No matter how many times I chase this around the bush, I come back to the same conclusions:

  • The “instructor” at the northwest Arizona shooting range that was killed by a nine year old with an Uzi, whether by absence of training or short-term failure of good sense, was fatally incompetent;
  • Whomever “certified” this instructor shares in the responsibility for what happened; and
  • The parents, standing nearby and watching their child do something extremely dangerous, also share in that responsibility.

If you’re not sure, consider an even more extreme example: If a nine year old says they want to jump from an airplane and pull the rip cord of their parachute “all by myself” with no automatic system to intervene, would you trust the instructor who is going to jump along side to guarantee the child’s safety?

No, there is a point where, regardless of the supervision, regardless of the certification, regardless of promises, assurances or smiling sarcasm to the contrary, a parent must say, “No!”

That is a parent’s responsibility.

Sadly, when the parent behaves irresponsibly – in this case they weren’t the only ones – bad things happen.

This one will go through many courts.

The parents may sue the instructor’s estate and the gun range for mental damage suffered by the child. Yes, I would award such a claim. (FYI: Signing a waiver does not absolve the range of responsibility. It casts doubt but no more than that. Courts and juries make the ultimate decision.)

And the instructor’s family may sue the authority that certified him. The family’s attorney will argue it is tragically obvious he was not competent. Again, I would agree to that assertion.

And the gun control lobby will continue to fight the gun advocates in the congress and in the courts. In these, I would have to read the proposals and hear the arguments before deciding. Simply setting an age limit does not guarantee ability – in this case the shooter was unable to hold on – nor responsibility – I know many adults I wouldn’t trust with an Uzi.

But the bottom line is that, in this case, the parents agreed to allow their child to do something extremely dangerous.

They should have known better.

And, to not know better, is to abdicate a parent’s responsibility.

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