To the Vacca family

When we lose a loved one, we need someone to blame. And often we don’t want to lay blame where it belongs, simply because of what it means.

In your instance, you suffered a horrible loss when your husband and father, Charles Vacca, was killed when a 9 year-old lost control of an Uzi in full-automatic mode. I’ve seen the video. What was clear from the outset, however, is that Charles was to blame for his own death. Not the range that employed him. Certainly not the 9 year-old. But Charles.

In your lawsuit, you contend that the Uzi should never have been placed into the 9 year-old’s hands. And on that I concur in part and disagree in part. The problem wasn’t the Uzi itself, but its full-automatic mode. I’ve said in other venues that the Uzi should never have been switched into full-auto mode. But who switched it to full-auto mode? Charles.

Safety is also everyone’s duty at the range. If anyone feels that a person is about to do something dangerous at the range, the person who sees it has an implicit obligation to call a cease fire on the range and see the issue corrected. If they notice but don’t do or say anything, they can be held liable in part for the consequences if something bad happens.

And that goes double if a person is acting as an instructor for someone unfamiliar with firearms. Again, this comes back to Charles. Charles would still be alive if he never put the Uzi into full-auto mode. Charles would still be alive if he never allowed the 9 year-old to even handle that weapon.

Charles also would likely still be alive if he had not been standing so close to the 9 year-old in question. He was practically behind her shoulder, something that any person knowledgeable of gun safety will say is not the place to be standing. You should instead always be at least two feet behind them at minimum, with where you stand being depending on where shell casings are flying to avoid contact burns.

But this is especially the case when you’re talking about a fully-automatic weapon. Charles should’ve known the recoil characteristics of that weapon. He should have known that a person who has never fired a full-auto firearm previously is going to have difficulty controlling the compounding recoil to keep the barrel forward. He should have known that a 9 year-old will also, simply by nature of their size and typical level of strength, have a lot of difficulty controlling the compounding recoil of that firearm.

Again, all of this could’ve been avoided had Charles not put the firearm into full-automatic mode. And it also could’ve been avoided if Charles had not allowed the 9 year-old to fire the weapon at all. I can understand wanting to lay the blame for Charles’s death on the employer. Since it avoids laying the blame on Charles.

How many minors have fired Uzis and other full-automatic weapons at that range without incident? Charles’s life could’ve been spared had some other details been observed. Again, he should not have switched the weapon into full-automatic mode simply because a 9 year-old isn’t going to have the strength to control the compounding recoil. I agree as well the 9 year-old shouldn’t have had hold of it to begin with.

But once the firearm was in her hands, there were ways of mitigating the risks that led to his death, starting with not having his face so close to the firearm.

Charles failed in his job, and it cost him his life. I know that’s difficult to accept. But unfortunately that is just the reality of the situation.