December 04, 2008

Charges Filed Against Police Chief in Accidental Machine Gun Death of Eight-Year-Old at MA Machine Gun Shoot; Father Amazingly Not Charged

This past October an eight-year-old was killed on the firing line of a machine gun shoot when he lost control of a Micro Uzi submachine gun he was firing and put a single 9mm bullet into his own head.

Charges have now been filed:

A police chief and a Massachusetts gun club have been indicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself with a Uzi at an October gun expo in Massachusetts.

Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury owns COP Firearms & Training, which sponsored the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman's Club, where 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj accidentally shot himself in the head in October after losing control of the 9 mm Micro Uzi submachine gun.

In addition to the manslaughter indictments, Fleury and the Westfield Sportsman's Club were also indicted on four counts each of furnishing a gun to a minor.

Two other men, Carl Guiffre of Hartford, Conn., and Domenico Spano, of New Milford, Conn., also face involuntary manslaughter charges.

This story is an exercise in what happens when a series of bad judgement calls compound upon one another with tragic consequences.

As a father of an eight-year-old myself, I know that my child doesn't yet have the responsibility, situational awareness, or strength to handle any firearm responsibly, and I would never consent to letting her handle a submachine gun.

Even if the father did not know enough about the recoil of fully automatic weapons to know that his child should not be handling one, the instructor should have been familiar enough with the firearm to suspect that a child cannot handle one responsibly.

Third, the owner/operator of the shoot, the Police Chief that has been among those charged, should have posted some sort of minimum qualifications to participate in the shoot, and the physical age and capability to handle such firearms should arguably factor into who is allowed to participate; the dead child obviously and tragically did not meet these standards.

I'm not sure if involuntary manslaughter charges are the best way to handle this negligent death, but if charges are to be brought, I'm disappointed that they were not distributed equally to those obviously the most to blame.

The judgement of the father of the child to allow his child to try to fire a machine gun was the largest mistake in a string of mistakes, and he was not charged.

Perhaps the prosecutor agonized over the possible charges and felt that the family suffered enough with the loss of the child, but this father, in my opinion, is the individual most directly to blame for the death of his child, and if others are charged for this tragic death, he should be as well.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 4, 2008 07:00 PM


It's MASSACHUSETTS, the land where the responsible party is never at fault. Only OTHER people are ever at fault.

Posted by: Bill Smith at December 4, 2008 10:14 PM

What a sad situation. A stupid decision turned into a tragic mistake. There are good ways to get children involved in learning about shooting and shooting safety, but a micro Uzi is probably not one of them.

Posted by: Mike Gray at December 5, 2008 01:09 AM

I disagree with the author of the post. While the father was stupid and negligent, there is no punishment on earth that could equal the loss of a child. I am a gun owner and a father, and even imagining my son would die as a result of my stupidity is almost unbearable.

Posted by: Walter at December 5, 2008 10:15 AM

If you don't charge the person most responsible for the child's welfare with negligence then you shouldn't be charging anyone else. This should be written down as a tragedy and let go. The father must live in his own personal hell for the rest of his life, no further action need be taken.

The next most "responsible" person is the instructor who should have known better than to let a 8 yr old child handle a automatic weapon. He should have his instructor's license revoked or at least suspended for several years. This likely removes the man's livelihood for a while and that along with knowing his poor judgment cost a child his life is punishment enough.

The buck stops there. The sponsor should not be liable, any rational individual would assume common sense would prevent such an incident. In this case both "fail safes" failed as the common sense of the instructor and the father failed to prevent this tragedy. Sorry but this hearkens to "stupidity labels" if they pursue this matter. We all know coffee is hot, not to use metal ladders around power lines, etc.

Posted by: Scott at December 5, 2008 11:17 AM

I let my son shoot machineguns when he was 4, I was a class III Dealer then, but never something like a submachinegun that I couldn't keep control of by wrapping my arms around him and supporting the weapon. I would certainly never turn a child loose with any weapon.

Posted by: georgeh at December 5, 2008 02:40 PM

What is the purpose of law?? The purpose is to punish evildoers. None of these persons willfully murdered anyone. It was a very tragic ACCIDENT. If I was on the jury... I would give an "innocent" verdict. Period.

There is no reason for punishment. People die accidental deaths all the time for reasons of negligence... human error... etc.

Now they have created "vehicular homicide" for accidental deaths that occur.

The desire for vengeance in this nation for simple human errors of reason or forethought with no malice is WRONG... and unlawful.

If all this is true, then beach owners can be charged with "homicide" every time a person drowns, etc.,etc., etc.,

We make mistakes. When are jurors and citizens going to realize that are BASIC LAWS are often a SHAM and we've got to stop participating in the INJUSTICE of BAD LAWS.

Meanwhile, willful massmurdering childkillers are protected by law... when they ought to be in prison for the rest of their lives for committing mass murder as abortions. That's WILLFUL PREMEDITATED MURDER... for profit.

Let's start thinking as citizen jurors and put a stop to injustice. NONE of these people should be charged with murder... it was an ACCIDENT!!!

"Involuntary Manslaughter" is a TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE in the first place - so the underlying presupposition of the charge is FALSE and WRONG and NO ONE should ever face that charge.

It's either murder, or it's an accident, and the law does not EXIST (or shouldn't) to PUNISH ACCIDENTAL DEATH!!

Posted by: l at December 5, 2008 03:18 PM

I eagerly await the charges of murder being filed against the mayor of the city and the governor of Massachusetts. They're just as culpable as the show sponsor is.

Posted by: ConservativeWanderer (formerly C-C-G) at December 5, 2008 08:08 PM

Until all you 2nd Amendment folks...recognize the rest of our Constitution...
I read all your harping about "personal responsibly"

Helmet laws save belt lives.
Banning cell phones save lives.
Trigger lock laws..may just keep children from killing each other...

The person and the "club" that allowed this to happen? Should be prosecuted. Having raised two children...
at one point in their lives were this age...
I place the gun culture that believe children need to fire a the same category as pedophiles..
and other abuse.
Do any of you..with a child truly believe a child of this age has the cognitive development necessary?

Posted by: nogo more at December 6, 2008 04:33 AM

"I place the gun culture that believe children need to fire a the same category as pedophiles..
and other abuse."

That's because you are a raging moron.

Posted by: Conservative CBU at December 6, 2008 06:47 AM

"Helmet laws save belt lives.
Banning cell phones save lives.
Trigger lock laws..may just keep children from killing each other..."

Indeed, why don't we just pass laws to deal with any kind of potential danger and every conceivible situation so we can just make sure people always do what is best for them and leave nothing to chance? Good luck with that.

Posted by: Todd at December 6, 2008 08:54 AM

Nogo, when are you going to get around to banning kitchen knives and baseball bats? It's possible to commit murder and other crimes with those, too.

Posted by: ConservativeWanderer (formerly C-C-G) at December 6, 2008 09:01 AM

An eight year old (or pretty much any inexperienced shooter) experiencing loss of control of a machine pistol that could result in serious bodily injury to the shooter or another seems like a foreseable consequence of allowing the inexperienced person to fire the weapon.

I've shot enough to have seen several experienced shooters have an AD. A child or inexperienced adult? You can bet money something just might go wrong.

So yeah, I'm o.k. with the charges.

I have friends who own class III weapons, and yes they allow others to shoot them. But they also exercise alot of caution - up to things like standing with the shooter, holding the weapon, and short loading magazines until they gain some confidence in the abilities and responsibility of the shooter.

Posted by: ThomasD at December 6, 2008 12:50 PM

I could see introducing an eight year old to firearms with a .22 rifle. In fact, I think it would lead to greater responsibility and safety. Letting an eight year old shoot a full auto Uzi.....that is a decision I just don't understand.

Posted by: George Bruce at December 6, 2008 02:17 PM

Thomas, George, I agree... but the person with primary responsibility is the father... the others have less, if any, responsibility. So why not charge the person with the most responsibility first?

Posted by: ConservativeWanderer (formerly C-C-G) at December 6, 2008 02:51 PM

The reason they charged the sponsors, is because they didn't provide a certified instructor. They provided an uncertified, 15 year old kid.

The reason they didn't charge the dad, is because when he asked if that was a good gun for his kid to try, the staff told him it would be.

I agree with the post, dad should have been charged anyways. Just bringing some facts that some of y'all clearly aren't aware of.

Posted by: Frank at December 6, 2008 07:38 PM

Frank, two words. "Caveat emptor." If Dad believed the staff, that does not negate his responsibility.

I am not saying that staff shouldn't be charged... but Dad should be as well, if anyone is. If Dad isn't, no one should be.

Posted by: ConservativeWanderer (formerly C-C-G) at December 6, 2008 07:41 PM

Go driving with Ted Kennedy in MA and die-tough luck.

Go shooting with your dad and die-outrage.

I wouldn't go shooting or swiming in MA if my life depended on it.

Posted by: pinandpuller at December 7, 2008 03:31 AM

I am a full supporter of the Second Amendment, but "you got to know your kid".

The average 8 year-old just isn't ready for a tricky recoil. If my son had asked me at that age if he could fire such a weapon, I would have said "when you are a little older". At age 14, he has been shooting .22 rifles since he was 11 (and this year a shotgun) in the closely-monitored confines at Boy Scout camp.

It brings to mind a story when I was a senior in high school, 35+ years ago. A friend's younger brother, a couple of years younger, fired a .45 in a controlled setting, but not being ready for the recoil, the pistol came back and broke his jaw.

And I have known three people who have been slightly injured by guns "they thought weren't loaded."

Sadly, at the shooting event, there should have been one of those signs you see at amusement parks, saying "if you are shorter than this"...

The instructor should have said "I'm sorry, he is not old enough, yet."

We need to ask ourselves when approaching a "situation" - "What is the worst thing that can happen?. And err on the side of caution.

I also struggle with whether the dad should have been charged.

Posted by: on-the-rocks at December 7, 2008 09:50 AM

Fatal "accidents" of any nature are almost always the result of a string of poor decisions.

Posted by: PA at December 7, 2008 08:36 PM