With gun laws keeping high-powered weapons out of reach for most people — especially those outside the U.S. — indoor shooting ranges with high-powered weapons have become a popular attraction.
"People just want to experience things they can't experience elsewhere," said
The accidental shooting death of the firing-range instructor in
Prosecutors say they will not file charges in the case. The identities of the girl and her family have not been released.
Many American youth grow up around guns, and taking part in their first hunt with parents is a rite of passage in rural America. But giving a child an automatic Uzi is a different story.
The dusty outdoor range calls itself the Bullets and Burgers Adventure and touts its "Desert Storm atmosphere."
Similar attractions have been around since the 1980s in
There's also the prohibitive cost of owning an automatic weapon — an M5 might go for
"It's an opportunity that people may not come across again in their lifetime," Sessions said.
"People have a fascination with guns," said Cohen, who is from
The businesses cast a lighthearted spin on their shooting experiences, staging weddings in their ranges and selling souvenir T-shirts full of bullet holes.
But behind the bravado, owners acknowledge they are one errant movement away from tragedy. Cohen's business, for example, is installing a tethering system that will prevent machine guns from riding upward after firing — the same motion that killed the gun instructor this week.
"Guns are designed to cause damage, and if they're mishandled, they'll do exactly that," said
"I have regret we let this child shoot, and I have regret that Charlie was killed in the incident," Scarmardo said. He said he doesn't know what went wrong, pointing out that Vacca was an
"The parents aren't culpable," Zack said. "They trusted the instructor to know what he was doing, and the girl could not possibly have comprehended the potential dangers involved."
Still, the accident has raised questions about whether children that young should be handling such powerful weapons.
"We have better safety standards for who gets to ride a roller coaster at an amusement park," said
In 2008, an 8-year-old boy died after accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun expo near
After viewing the video of the
"If it was the first time she'd ever handled a full-auto firearm, it's a big surprise when that gun continues to go off," said Workman, a firearms instructor for 30 years. "I've even seen adults stunned by it."
Scarmardo said his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and the watchful eye of an instructor is standard practice in the industry. The range's policies are under review, he said.
Associated Press Writer
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