US & Canada

Arizona shooting: America and gun control

Shooters practice with pistols at a gun range Image copyright AP

Questions over gun ownership and control have arisen again in the US following the accidental killing of a shooting range instructor by a nine-year-old girl as he showed her how to use an Uzi sub-machine gun.

BBC News website readers have been in contact with their experiences of gun control.

Todd Watkins, Atlanta, Georgia

Image copyright Todd Watkins

I have three children aged 24, 19, and 13. All of them were taught to handle firearms from a very early age.

My children shoot AR-15s which is the civilian version of the M16. These do not continually fire when you pull the trigger, making it a much safer weapon to handle.

I think that it is essential to teach children how to use guns, given the environment we live in. It is like teaching a child not to touch a hot stove or to be safe around any other potentially dangerous environment.

Since so many firearms exist in the US, it is important for children to understand how to handle them, the power they have and how dangerous or useful they can be depending on the operator.

Image copyright J. Todd Watkins
Image caption J Todd Watkins has his own extensive gun collection

I am pro-gun and I own 112 guns. I have hunting firearms and defensive firearms. I use an AR-15 for protection.

For me the issue is that this child was firing an automatic weapon. I would not have my child training with automatic weapons. Automatic firearms are harder to control.

Alan Barnard, Houston, Texas

Image copyright ALAN BARNARD
Image caption Alan doesn't believe automatic weapons will be banned

Knowing how to shoot is pretty common here but when you get further away from the city, it's an essential part of life, especially when you live in the country where it sometimes feels like everything is out to either poison or eat you.

Although I'm originally from London, I now live in Houston with my wife and 13-year-old son. I don't shoot but I have tried to learn, while my wife owns a pistol.

My son was shown how to shoot by my in-laws who are all police officers. He started out trying handguns before moving to a .44 Magnum and then on to automatic weapons. When he used an AK-47 assault rifle, they were standing right up close behind him ready to grab and control the gun at the first sign that his aim had started wandering.

Over here, kids grow up with guns. They are going to come across them, but they must be taught how to use them correctly and understand that they are not a toy, they are a tool. Gun ranges are very strict.

Everyone here says automatic weapons should be banned but that will never happen because gun clubs have so much power, unfortunately.

Adam Martin, Bristol, Virginia

Image copyright Adam Martin
Image caption Adam's gun club restricts use of automatic weapons to those over the age of 21

As a parent and gun owner in the US, I think that nine-year-old children should not be allowed to shoot a sub-machine gun.

I've been around firearms since I was young. I learned to shoot in my backyard, in the woods. I started with a BB gun and then gradually moved up to .22s and a shotgun.

Shooting a fully automatic is a different experience to shooting a single-round weapon. If you're not old or competent enough to handle such a weapon, you're asking for trouble.

The gun law is a hot topic and people try to take it too far. This is a tragedy, a terrible accident and a cautionary story to be considered. However, I don't believe it should be used to propel anti-gun laws in our country.

I think there should be reasonable restrictions on kids with fully automatics. The rifle club to which I belong sets an age restriction on the use of fully automatic weapons to 21 years and older. It's certainly a reasonable rule to have.

David, Mount Pleasant, Michigan

I am a parent of two boys, aged 12 and 15. Our children have not had shooting lessons, nor do they appear to have any interest in guns. Why are Uzi guns being tested at a range by anyone other than law enforcement? I am not afraid of gun violence, the prevalence of gun culture, but I wish that guns were less popular - and that I could speak up about it, debate it with people, without losing face locally.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFootage released by the sheriff's department shows instructor Charles Vacca teaching the nine-year-old shortly before the accident

Christopher Yap, Suffolk County, NY

I am a police officer, army combat veteran, and state certified firearms instructor for my police department. I also have two small children.

I feel that it is very important for children to learn how to safely operate and handle a firearm starting at an early age. This is critical in avoiding accidents especially in a household where a firearm is kept.

When familiarising someone who is unaccustomed to fully automatic fire there are certain safety protocols and techniques that must be applied. Regardless of whether the student was a child or a small-framed adult, this tragedy could have been avoided if it was done properly and safely.

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