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Ask Carolyn: Guns, Children and Custody

CarolynDear Carolyn,

Now that summer is almost over and school will be starting back, I am reflecting on the summer trip with my two children, who are 9 and 11.  Their mother and I are divorced, and I am trying to make summer memories with them that will last a lifetime.  This summer we ventured to the West Coast to see the sites.  While in Flagstaff, Arizona, we saw advertisements for a place called “Bullets and Burgers” in Arizona. That reminded me of the headlines about a nine-year-old girl from New Jersey, who killed her Uzi instructor in a place like this.   I am just curious if this could happen in North Carolina.  What are the North Carolina laws on this?  Do we have places like “Bullets and Burgers” in North Carolina?  My ex is dating a guy who owns a lot of guns.  Could he take my children to such a place?

~ Curious and Concerned


Dear Curious and Concerned:

You are referring to a story of a 9-year-old girl from New Jersey who was on a family vacation in Arizona. This story received lots of attention in the legal arena and in legal publications.  Her family took her to the place called “Bullets and Burgers.”  She was assigned an instructor and shot a single shot weapon without any trouble.  The instructor then let her shoot an Uzi automatic weapon that shoots 600 rounds per minute. She lost control of the Uzi, shooting and killing her instructor, inadvertently.  No charges were filed and the accident was ruled to be an “industrial accident.”

I am neither an anti-gun or a pro-gun person and I support the constitutional right to bear arms,   BUT—-My personal opinion:  I do not know why any 9-year-old needs the experience of shooting an Uzi.  I question the wisdom of allowing a 9-year-old to shoot any gun.   What I do know is that this little girl is going to have a life time of trauma from this unfortunate event.

Now, I want to address your situation and questions.  Yes, this could happen in North Carolina.  Arizona prohibits the use of automatic weapons until age 8.  North Carolina has no age limit with parental permission and adult supervision.  So, theoretically, North Carolina law permits machine gun training and “potty training” at the same time.

There are gun ranges in North Carolina that rent automatic weapons to children with parental permission and adult supervision.  Apparently, the shooting ranges make decisions based upon the observable maturity of the child. I have to wonder if we are training these children so they can kill everyone in their high school. It is a studied fact that children exposed to violence desensitizes them to violence.

In North Carolina, your ex-wife’s boyfriend cannot consent to your children going to a shooting range, but the mother can.  A custody order—either by agreement with your ex or in the discretions of the judge– can stop a parent from taking a child to a shooting range, allowing the child to use an Uzi, or having the child around weapons at all.


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This blog is revised from a previous Ask Carolyn in The Rhino Times.