When is the last time you heard about a grade school youngster stumbling over an Uzi on the playground? Like never you say? Amazing!

But that improbability, or close to it, seems to be at the heart of the defense of those who would let little children handle the deadliest firearms on Earth. Have we gone nuts? Well, some of us have and that's for certain.

Unless you have been living on Mars you will recognize where this is going. It stems from the recent incident that caused the death of a military veteran husband and father working on a shooting range in Arizona. The poor 9-year-old girl at the center of the tragedy was being coached (with her parents standing by) on how to fire the notoriously difficult Uzi when the weapon's recoil kicked the gun upward and backward sending a bullet into the head of the instructor. The gun was on full automatic when this took place.

Defenders of the faith -- that being the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- immediately sprang into action when antagonists suggested that perhaps an elementary school student shouldn't be near a weapon of mass destruction let alone taught to fire one. It seems that the public firing range did have a rule that you needed to be eight or above, as if that one year made a difference.

One never knows when a wee person might come across such a potentially deadly force, so they need to be trained how to handle the situation. Right? Could it be that running like hell to find more mature help might be the solution? Shouldn't a warning to beware of unexpected firearms be on the must list of advice for every little child, right along with the one that says never get into a car with a stranger?


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Of course, that doesn't cover the parents imbued with the gun culture, who irresponsibly leave a loaded weapon nearby where inquisitive children can reach it. But that's a different story altogether.

What we're talking about here are professionals who sell shooting rights of automatic and semi-automatic weapons to boys and girls under the age of 16 or 18 at public ranges, or for that matter even the private clubs and galleries.

Don't be mistaken. I'm not talking about 22-caliber rifles or other hunting or target weapons.

Boys and girls several years younger are capable of learning shooting and safety rules that will generally protect them, and those around them, from harm.

Auto or semiautomatic weapons are completely different. They are battlefield weapons, powerful and often difficult to handle. Not only does handling them require judgment, but strength is a major consideration.

Had the little girl firing the Uzi had the physical ability to hold steady against the recoil, the instructor probably would not have been killed. In addition, experts analyzing the situation, state that he should have been behind her to the right instead of the left and should have had his hand on hers. But that's all beside the point. This accident would not have occurred had the weapon been off limits to anyone of her age.

As usual, we humans seem to make the same mistakes over and over again never learning from the past. The killer children of Africa -- little boys and probably some girls without mature judgment handed AK47s and AR15s and exploited by war lords bent on mass destruction -- should have taught us something. Life meant nothing to them. They were too young to even comprehend the finality of death. Their mantra: Shoot anything that moves.

This is not an indictment of the little girl in Arizona. Her responsibility is zero. It is a plea for rationality.

The irresponsibility of those who led her into such tragedy, including her parents, is another matter. It belongs to us who continue to turn a deaf ear to the cries for common sense reforms following one chaotic tragedy after another resulting from easily accessible firearms.

The U.S. Supreme Court bears the blame. All those congressmen afraid of and beholden to the gun industry bear the blame. The manufacturers and their mouthpieces in the National Rifle Association and other organizations bear the blame.

Most of all, the American people who have not risen up in anger bear the blame.

Here's to playgrounds free of Uzi's.

Contact Dan Thomasson at thomassondan@aol.com.