Thursday marks two years since Charles Vacca was killed in a bizarre mishap at a roadside diner and shooting range in the desert outside Kingman. The fact that the tragedy was caught on video made it a major media story. But it was the details of what happened that revealed the real horror. The shooter was a 9-year-old girl. The gun she was handling was an Uzi.
"The way they had told me that a 9-year-old had a machine gun, I was kind of angry," said Elizabeth Vacca, who is now 17. She is Charles' daughter. Together with her three siblings, Elizabeth has done more than most adult gun-control advocates to keep assault weapons out of the hands of children since the accident that killed their father. The Vacca children have filed a lawsuit, started a petition drive and convinced members of Congress to introduce a bill.
"I feel like I'm not just waiting around for someone to say, 'Oops. My bad,'" Elizabeth said. "Somebody needs to be held accountable for this and something needs to change."
EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Elizabeth and Christopher Vacca talk about what they hope to achieve
The fatal shooting took place at a place called Bullets and Burgers. It's a roadside attraction between Kingman and Las Vegas, and it sees a lot of tourists. The website advertises a "Desert Storm atmosphere," and the ability for tourists to shoot "full auto" on the facility's machine guns.
Vacca was an instructor there.
At the time of the Vacca shooting, Bullets and Burgers allowed children younger than nine to shoot, so long as they had their parents' permission and the parents were with them. When CBS 5 Investigates visited the facility on Monday, an employee said children needed to be at least 12 in order to shoot.
On Friday, the Vacca family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the myriad of companies involved with Bullets and Burgers.
"They allowed a 9-year-old to have an Uzi, and Uzi that shoots over 1,000 rounds a minute, and it killed my client's dad," said Marc Lamber, an attorney who represents the children. "That was an unsafe business and it was an unreasonably dangerous business and it should be held accountable."
Bullets and Burgers did not return a phone call requesting a comment.
While the children blame Bullets and Burgers, they do not blame the 9-year-old girl who pulled the trigger.
"It wasn't her fault," Elizabeth said. "She had a whole system of people and groups who failed her."
The 9-year-old had traveled to the shooting range with her family. There is no nationwide law or state law in Arizona that sets a minimum age for children to shoot guns. The Vacca children want to change that.
"The first day that we launched our original petition, the whole website crashed because of how many signatures it got," said Christopher Vacca, who is now 13.Somebody needs to be held accountable for this and something needs to change.The petition attracted the attention of two members of Congress. One of them is Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) of Arizona. That led to the introduction of the HEART (Help End Assault Rifle Tragedies) Act in Congress in July. The bill would make it illegal for children under the age of 16 to handle assault weapons.
"I think the kids are realistic about the prospects of getting this passed today. They know it's an uphill battle, but also a year ago they were told there was no way they would even get a bill," said James Goodnow, another attorney who represents the Vacca children.
The children understand this is a measure their father may not have supported.
"It's not completely about what my dad would want," Elizabeth said. "If this had been in place before my dad started instructing, he would still likely be alive."
DIGITAL EXTRA: Extended interview with Elizabeth and Christopher Vacca
"I don't think that with this law we will be taking away people's gun rights," Christopher said. "It's the right to bear arms, not the right for kids to bear Uzis."The way they had told me that a 9-year-old had a machine gun, I was kind of angry. It wasn't her fault. She had a whole system of people and groups who failed her.RELATED: Uzi recoil causes girl to fatally shoot gun instructor (Aug. 25, 2014)
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