The death of common sense

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

Will historians look back on this era in American history and characterize it as the beginning of the end of common sense?

Case in point is the recent story out of Arizona, where a 9-year-old girl on vacation from New Jersey inadvertently shot and killed her instructor at a “gun tourism” business with a fully automatic Uzi while her parents watched nearby and recorded the scene on their cellphone.

Evidently — and arguably predictably — she could not control the powerful weapon’s 10-bullets-per-second recoil, which in this case forced it to rise and jerk to the left.

Charles Vacca, 39, took at least one bullet to the head. He leaves behind four children of his own.

In virtually every press account this tragedy has been labeled “accidental.” We suppose it was in the sense that what transpired was unintentional.

But there are accidents, and there are situations where the behavior is so negligent — in this case from the girl’s parents, from the instructor himself, from the tour company, from the state of anything-goes Arizona — that those involved are asking for something bad to happen.

A father teaching a son or daughter of an appropriate age how to shoot a shotgun used for hunting is one thing, but putting a weapon of war in the hands of a girl whose ponytail and pink shorts would suggest a greater comfort level with a comb and a Barbie is quite another, even with supervising adults in the immediate vicinity.

Indeed, the company that advertises the “Bullets and Burgers Adventure” says on its website that it provides a “unique ‘Desert Storm’ atmosphere and military-style bunkers” where guests as young as 8 “have the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons.”

The latter include grenade launchers, as well as “our 50 Cal. selections ... the Barrett Sniper Rifle, the Browning BMG .50 Cal (‘the deuce’), and the Desert Eagle. We even have the actual firearms used in several Hollywood hits including The Terminator and Rambo II.”

It’s hard to imagine any responsible gun owner — which describes most, in our experience — approaching an Uzi as if it were a toy rather than a deadly serious instrument.

But forget for a second that we’re even talking about a gun, since that is such a hot button term here in the land of the Second Amendment. As a caring parent or otherwise consenting adult, would you let a child play with razor blades or a match and gasoline, even if you were observing just feet away?

We can’t believe there’s even a debate on this issue.

As usual, the uncommonly tone-deaf National Rifle Association managed to enter the controversy, issuing a “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range” tweet just two days after this tragedy before evidently engaging in a rare display of introspection and deleting it.

If past is prologue, there will be apologists and defenders. We’ve heard from gun-rights advocates in the past that the Second Amendment guarantees a citizen’s latitude to match the military firepower of the federal government.

Irrationality is the hallmark of this era.

Ultimately, self-regulation is always preferable to yet another law of limited effectiveness. We’re not calling for the latter, which is impossible in the current political environment anyway.

Unfortunately, we’re not confident regarding the former, or that this will even be bad for business.

When common sense disappears, well, history won’t be kind.

—GateHouse News Service