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By Lauren Raab, Los Angeles Times

The mother of a 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed her gun instructor while learning to fire an Uzi told sheriff’s deputies that the weapon was “too much for her” daughter and that it hurt the girl’s shoulder, according to a report released Tuesday by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

The girl’s father told a deputy that he, his wife and three children arrived at Last Stop in White Hills, Arizona, around 9:45 a.m. Aug. 25 and took a ride in a monster truck before being brought to the establishment’s Burgers and Bullets shooting range, the report said.

According to the report, the father said he shot the gun first. Then, instructor Charles Vacca began showing the girl how to fire the Uzi. After she fired off “a couple of rounds,” her father said in the report, he suddenly heard several rounds fire and saw her drop the gun. She was holding her shoulder, so the family thought she was injured and crowded around her without realizing Vacca had been hit, he said.

The girl’s mother told a deputy that her daughter said the Mini-Uzi “was too much for her and it hurt her shoulder,” according to the report.

Another gun instructor told a deputy he saw the recoil put the Uzi into the path of Vacca’s head. He saw Vacca fall, noticed heavy bleeding from Vacca’s head, and hurried to apply pressure to the wound and call 911, the report said. The father said that’s when he realized Vacca had been hit.

The parents said they quickly brought their children into the establishment’s restaurant so the kids would not see what had happened.

The emergency call came in at 10:02 a.m., according to the report. Vacca died at a Las Vegas hospital that night.

Last week, asked why a 9-year-old had access to the automatic weapon, range operator Sam Scarmardo told local television station KTNV that Bullets and Burgers allows children 8 and older to shoot firearms. “We instruct kids as young as 5 in .22 rifles,” he said. “They’re under the supervision of their parents and of our professional range masters.”

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has said it will not file charges.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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