Gun instructor dies after being shot by 9-year-old girl

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

An Arizona gun instructor died of his injuries after being shot in the head by a nine-year-old girl.

Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, AZ, died Monday night, August 25, 2014, at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, the Mohave County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday, August 26.

Deputies said a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot the gun instructor in the head at about 10 a.m. at an outdoor range in Dolan Springs.

Mohave County deputies said the girl was at the range with her parents when she fired a 9mm Uzi she was handling according to CNN affiliate contributor KVVU.  The child reportedly fired the gun once, lost control of the weapon and it fired four more times.

The recoil during the child’s operation of the firearm sent it over her head and resulted in Vacca being struck in the head, deputies said.

The shot hit the 39-year-old instructor in the head.

This case was under investigation, deputies said.


  • RealDefense

    Reblogged this on RealDefense and commented:

    1)Know when to say “NO” to a client.
    2)If you have any doubt about the safety of an activity, then it isn’t safe.
    3)If you have a younger or smaller client, stick with .22LR or Airguns.

    • Not so it seems

      Children handled weapons safely everyday and have defended their family successfully from danger in fact. The question here should be why was this child allowed to handle that specific type of weapon. I’m sure there are guns with less recoil she could have used. Seems like someone’s ego got the best of them. Look at the sign that says it all (“Shoot a machine gun”). At least the machine gun would have had a stand to hold it for her.

      • Samuele (@Samu_Ny)

        To address the first statement i would love to have literature of “everyday” rescued families from danger by “children’ … everyday…. . I do believe even younger children are trained with no harm thou. 22 is the usual weapon given to children down to 5.. but i think the question i would ask is “why”… Are this very young potential customers needed? If this is where we invest our very youth time looks more like Mozambique or anywhere in the middle east more than the most advanced and modern democracy of the modern era.

  • armeddefenseinstruction

    I’m not familiar with this range in particular, but this sounds like one of those “firearms experience” shops rather than an actual training facility. Unfortunately sometimes those places are more like a carnival ride than a schoolhouse, with the point being to run as many people through as quickly as possible rather than focusing on safety and instruction.

    As tragic as this is, it was completely avoidable. Adequate supervision would have prevented this.

  • disturbeddeputy

    There are techniques an instructor should use to ensure a firearm is properly controlled, whether the student is a child or an adult. I’ve had over 20 years experience teaching with firearms, and you can NEVER relax while teaching. Children are usually easier to teach than adults, particularly adult males, who often suffer from a macho tough-guy attitude. But one must teach safety first, and part of that includes choosing the appropriate firearm for the student.
    I do not believe that the particular firearm in question is a proper teaching tool, but rather is meant for advanced shooters. My children started shooting at age 7, but with appropriate firearms which were used to teach safe gun handling techniques; starting at home before making that first trip to the range.
    In reference to Alex’s comment about where an instructor might stand, I will say that to stand behind a beginning student is only the beginning of maintaining control on the firing line and just standing there is NOT supervision.
    Why do I say this? Because of my training and experience as a firearms instructor certified in 4 different shooting disciplines, and as a Certified Range Safety Instructor and former Class C Smallbore Rifle Coach with over 20 years of teaching from beginning to advanced shooters in target, sport, and combat shooting.

    Armeddefenseinstruction has it right. I don’t think the instructor was qualified to be teaching, and it looks like ‘shooting experience’ dude-ranch type of range. This tragedy was completely avoidable.

  • armeddefenseinstruction

    Disturbeddeputy has it exactly right. Just standing behind the student is not supervision, that’s proximity.
    First and assessment needed to be made to see if the girl was capable of handling the firearm she was given. Small caliber, single shot firearms would be appropriate for that. The instructor should have been at the ready, prepared to manage the gun if either the recoil proved too much or if she made the common mistake of trying to turn from a safe direction with the firearm.

    If proper safety procedures had been followed, this wouldn’t have happened. The fact that it did proves that safety was lax in at least this one respect, and if safety was lax when a 9 year old was on the gun, I can only assume there are more systemic safety issues throughout the program.

  • Vince Warde

    While I am not an official spokesman for the NRA and what follows is my own opinion, I am an NRA certified Range Safety Officer and Rifle Instructor. These are my thoughts:

    1) The NRA does not offer any classes involving fully automatic weapons. If this poor man was an NRA instructor, he was not conducting an NRA class. He also violated several safety rules that are taught to every STUDENT in EVERY NRA CLASS!

    2) Even on semi-automatic, this firearm was way too large for someone her size to safely handle. On full auto, the result was predictable.

    3) The “instructor” was standing too far forward – in fact it appears that he was violating the rule that you never break an imaginary line covering the 180 degrees in front of the shooter. If he was behind her this would not have happened – and if he needed to be where he was, he should not have let her shoot the firearm.

    4) The proper firearm of a young lady of her age and size is a single shot .22 rifle. There is little recoil, the gun must be manually reloaded each time and they can be had in small enough sizes to enable someone of her age and stature to safely handle it. My kids never fired anything more powerful than a .22 until their teens and they were always well supervised. Safety was drilled into them from day one.

    5) If I might use an illustration – if we compare vehicles to firearms a single shot .22 is like a bicycle. It’s a good first vehicle to learn the rules of the road, safety and responsibility. If a kid demonstrates responsibility and safety with a bike, then you might let them drive a speed limited go cart on a closed track. Then you would let them get their learners permit and teach them to drive a car. When they have significant experience driving a car, then and only then would they be qualified to go to a closed track where they could – under expert supervision – drive a race car that they would never, ever own.

    In the US, fully automatic firearms are highly controlled and extremely expensive – as in tens of thousands of dollars each. They are a bit like the race cars of the firearms world. Many businesses like this one exist – just as there are businesses where you can drive a race car on a race track. Both experiences are a usually very expensive. I have fired such weapons once in my life under very controlled conditions. It’s now crossed off my bucket list. My wife (also an instructor) did the same. We did so safely because we were experienced in firing semi-auto firearms and we were properly briefed and supervised by someone who stood behind us ready to take control of the gun is we lost control of it.

    Here’s my point: What happened here is exactly what would happen if you put a 9 year old girl – who may know how to ride a bike – into the driver’s seat of a race car. Sadly, the result was predictable: Disaster.

    However, linking this with the NRA is a bit like blaming the AAA for accidents on the race track. In both cases, it is outside of the organization’s area of practice – even though it is closely related.

  • Anthony

    By machine gun they probably meant an automatic weapon and an Uzi definitely isn’t something a nine year old little girl should be shooting maybe a a 22 rifle or a shotgun or a semi automatic pistol would’ve been more appropriate

  • sadia

    the girl is too young to handle a gun,so why bother teach her..And it is not right to blame her for losing control of the weapon and shoot her instructor.

Comments are closed.