WASHINGTON – There have been lots of arguments in the gun-control debate in Washington, but there probably have not been many like Tylor Vacca’s.
“Kids at school ask me how my dad died all the time, and I tell them that he was shot by a 9-year-old girl who was learning to fire an Uzi,” Tylor said Tuesday during a news conference in the Capitol.
His dad, firearms instructor Charles Vacca, was killed on a shooting range in White Hills on Aug. 25, 2014, when the girl lost control of the submachine gun she was firing and accidentally struck Charles Vacca in the head.
That incident brought Tylor, 16, and three of his siblings to Washington to advocate for a bill that they hope will prevent another tragedy like the one they endured, by barring children under age 16 from owning or shooting automatic weapons.
“A year ago my siblings and I decided that something needed to be done,” said Ashley Moser, Tylor’s 21-year-old sister. “We weren’t satisfied with the progress, or lack of it, from people here in Washington.”
They began a year ago by creating “an online petition asking kids and young adults to tell lawmakers to pass a law that says kids and assault weapons do not mix.”
The Vacca children made the trip to Washington today to support a bill that would do just that, “prohibit kids under the age of 16 from possessing or firing machine guns and assault weapons, including at gun shows and shooting ranges.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, and Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, said their goal in introducing the Help End Assault Rifle Tragedies – or HEART – Act is to keep military-style weapons out of the hands of children.
The bill would “prohibit kids under the age of 16 from possessing or firing machine guns and assault weapons, including at gun shows and shooting ranges,” Gallego said.
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The House bill has been co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Mike Honda and Barbara Lee of California, Michael E. Capuano and Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Robin Kelly of Illinois.
“The HEART Act represents the type of common sense legislation the vast majority of the country wants: a real effort to reduce accidental gun deaths while maintaining a reasonable right to own guns for hunting or self defense,” Honda said.
Calls seeking comment from state and national gun-rights groups Tuesday were not immediately returned, or the groups declined comment because they had not seen the bill.
But the Vaccas said they are gun-rights supporters.
“We can support the Second Amendment, without arming children with machine guns,” Moser said.
“We can support the Second Amendment, without giving children unlimited access to assault weapons. We can support the Second Amendment, without giving 9-year-olds Uzis,” she said.
The 9-year-old girl in Vacca’s death was not charged by Mohave County authorities, but the Vacca children reached out to the girl in a video in which they read a letter to her.
“We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you, and we wish you peace,” their letter said. “Our dad would want the same thing.”