“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”—Andy Goldsworthy (via selenemooneffe)
The four-hour tours offered by one of the big gun ranges here are a popular tourist attraction. Starting at $200 a person, a bus will pick up visitors at their hotel in Las Vegas, 25 miles to the north, show them Hoover Dam and bring them to a recreational shooting range called Last Stop, where they can fire the weapons of their dreams: automatic machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers. A hamburger lunch is included; a helicopter tour of the nearby Grand Canyon is optional.
But on Monday, one family’s adventure went horribly wrong. A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her. A video of the shooting, which her parents recorded on a cellphone, suggests that the girl, in pink shorts and with a braided ponytail, was unable to control the gun’s recoil; the instructor, Charles Vacca, 39, was rushed to a hospital in Las Vegas, where he died Monday night.
The parents turned over the cellphone video to the sheriff’s department, which released it publicly. As they spread online and on television, the images of a small girl losing control of a powerful war weapon during a family vacation created a worldwide spectacle, prompting some commentators to castigate parents who would put a submachine gun in the hands of a child.
“What in the name of Jesus is wrong with us, Americans?” one person wrote on the TripAdvisor page for Bullets and Burgers, the tour company that brings people to Last Stop, amid other reviewers who raved about the great time they had firing guns there. “Automatic weapons as toys? And now a man is dead, for no reason, and a 9-year-old girl is scarred for life.”
Some gun owners took to Twitter to defend the practice of letting children use firearms and pointed out that it is both legal and commonplace in the Las Vegas area and elsewhere. But even the owner of the Last Stop, Sam Scarmardo, said he would reconsider the practice in light of Monday’s accident. He said he had been in business 14 years and had never had a problem before.
“It is pretty standard in the industry to let children shoot on the range,” Mr. Scarmardo said in an interview. “We are working with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, and we’ll make a decision if we’ll make any changes after we review all the facts.”
Mr. Scarmardo said that the girl’s parents “were very familiar with weapons” and that Mr. Vacca and a tour guide had driven the family to the shooting range from their hotel in Las Vegas.
“We lost a friend — basically we lost a brother — we are all very close, we are a tightknit organization and community,” Mr. Scarmardo said. “Everyone here at Last Stop is either former military or police officer. We are all highly trained in firearms and safety.”
There is nothing illegal about a girl handling an Uzi. In Arizona, there are no age limits for firing guns, and while federal law prohibits people under 18 from possessing a handgun, there are exceptions for shooting ranges, said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a legal nonprofit that works to strengthen gun laws.
Some ranges in the area do prohibit young children from handling such heavy weapons, but Last Stop allows children as young as 8 to participate. Bullets and Burgers said on its website that customers could “shoot a wide variety of fully automatic machine and belt fed guns including the AK-47, Colt M-16, MP5/40, FN FAL, Bren, M4, M249, M60, PKM and M203 Grenade Launcher.”
But Uzis are considered particularly tricky because they are light — unloaded, they weigh just under eight pounds — and powerful, making recoil tricky to handle even for adults, gun experts said. Designed for the Israeli military in the 1950s, Uzis are known for their simple design and operation, and they have been featured extensively in popular movies and video games.
“We allow children to shoot, but not a fully automatic Uzi,” said Genghis Cohen, owner of an indoor shooting range, Machine Guns Vegas. He called the shooting on Monday tragic, but added, “It was completely and utterly avoidable.”
“It was just a result of a lapse of attention,” Mr. Cohen said, “but I would never let a girl of that size shoot a fully automatic gun of that size — never.”
Everyone, from the irresponsible parents who allowed their daughter to even pick up and fire a gun, to the owners of the business who also allowed a nine-year-old to pick up and fire said gun, is responsible for this needless tragedy.
Nicki Minaj is not a woman who easily slides into the roles assigned to women in her industry or elsewhere. She’s not polished, she’s not concerned with her reputation, and she’s certainly not fighting for equality among mainstream second-wave feminists. She’s something else, and she’s something equally worth giving credence to: a boundary-breaker, a nasty bitch, a self-proclaimed queen, a self-determined and self-made artist. She’s one of the boys, and she does it with the intent to subvert what it means. She sings about sexy women, about fucking around with different men. She raps about racing ahead in the game, imagines up her own strings of accolades, and rolls with a rap family notorious for dirty rhymes, foul mouths, and disregard for authority and hegemony.
While Beyoncé has expanded feminist discourse by reveling in her role as a mother and wife while also fighting for women’s rights, Minaj has been showing her teeth in her climb to the top of a male-dominated genre. Both, in the process, have expanded our society’s idea of what an empowered women looks like — but Minaj’s feminist credentials still frequently come under fire. To me, it seems like a clear-cut case of respectability politics and mainstreaming of the feminist movement: while feminist writers raved over Beyoncé’s latest album and the undertones of sexuality and empowerment that came with it, many have questioned Minaj’s decisions over the years to subvert beauty norms using her own body, graphically talk dirty in her work, and occasionally declare herself dominant in discourse about other women. (All of these areas of concern, however, didn’t seem to come into play when Queen Bey did the same.)
At a recent event hosted by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists got together with film makers to discuss what both groups have learned—-the scientists through painstaking experiments and analysis, and the film makers by intuition and experience—-about the mechanisms of attention and perception.
“Everything you’re looking at is real, and everything you’re not looking at is fake,” Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau told the audience.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”—Andrew Boyd (via purplebuddhaproject)
I can’t stand these fucking people with these fucking family window stickers on their cars a murderer is gonna come into your fucking house and you’re gonna try to hide your kids in the fucking closet and he’s gonna be like naw bitch I saw your fucking mini van I know you have six more kids where are they
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”—Bruce Lee (via settinggoalsandsmokingbowls)