Three days after a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot her instructor with an Uzi in Arizona, concerns are being raised about the rules and regulations at Edmonton’s shooting ranges.
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The city does not enforce a minimum age for youth using shooting ranges, leaving it up to individual range owners.
At the Wild West Shooting Centre in West Edmonton Mall, management forbids any child younger than seven from shooting.
The Phoenix Indoor Shooting Range, however, imposes no age minimum at all.
Owner Lennard Kucey said he is confident children can safely shoot guns – regardless of age – as long as they have an instructor there to monitor them and ensure their grip is correct.
Kucey regularly allows children as young as six or seven to shoot at the range. Anyone who is not licenced must have a supervisor within a controlled distance.
“I don’t believe there is a minimum age,” he said. “It is purely ‘Are they able to comprehend what they’re doing? Can they distinguish [that] it's an actual firearm? It can kill a person. It does shoot real bullets. It's a real gun.’”
Ability or maturity?
Asked whether the Arizona death could have been avoided, Kucey agreed emphatically.
“It always comes down to lack of instruction, lack of training. What I call here is ‘a comfort level,’" he said.
“It had nothing to do with the type of firearm, or the age of the person,” he added. “It came purely down to was the person instructed in the use of that firearm.”
He said instructors have several ways to test a child’s grip before allowing them to fire.
“If you can pull it out of their hands, they can't[shoot]. They're not going to be able to maintain and handle the recoil, even of a nine millimetre, unless they can hold on to the gun.”
Kucey said his range’s perfect safety record speaks in his favour.
And Kucey said teaching interested children how to shoot safely, regardless of age, may have long term safety benefits as well.
“If you’re always exposing people to things that they have huge curiosities in, that curiosity is satisfied. They know that dad will take me shooting … so I don’t need to go out and play with the guns.”
The idea of children shooting automatic weapons does not sit as easily with everyone.
“It scares me a little bit honestly. I'd like them to see an average age of a little more than nine honestly,” said Edmontonian Leon Selensky.
“I find it a little bit unnerving, to tell you the truth. Most adults don’t have the strength to fire an Uzi, let alone a nine-year-old child.”