With his father and a firearms instructor standing nearby, an 8-year-old Connecticut boy shot himself in the head with a submachine gun yesterday, killing himself in an accident some say should never have happened.
Christopher Bizilj was testing a 9 mm Micro Uzi at the Westfield Sportsman's Club in Westfield, Mass., as part of the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo, when he shot himself Sunday.
"The firearm instructor prepped the weapon for him, and once it was ready he handed it to the child," Westfield Police Lt. Hipolito Nunez told ABCNews.com today.
Christopher then pulled the trigger, and the gun's recoil pulled the barrel upward, causing a round to hit him on the right side of his head, according Nunez. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Baystate Medical Center in nearby Springfield.
Massachusetts law allows a child to fire a gun with parental consent, so long as there's an active permit for the gun and a licensed firearm instructor is supervising. It is unclear whether the gun had a permit or whether the instructor was licensed, but Nunez said Christopher's father was nearby.
Christopher's family, including his father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, who is the director of emergency medicine at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, Conn., could not be reached for comment.
But according to Ted Oven, a gun retailer and president of the Massachusetts Association of Firearms Dealers, Christopher should have never been allowed to handle a submachine gun on his own.
Oven has shot similar weapons and said the recoil is tough to control even for an adult.
"It requires all my strength," said Oven, who added that he did not have much experience with the Micro Uzi. "For an 8-year-old, it was inappropriate."
The Micro Uzi, he said, is a tough gun to get a permit for and retails for several thousand dollars. He was not at the expo when Christopher was shot but said that because the gun is fully automatic, it likely shot off several rounds in a couple of seconds when the boy pulled the trigger.
Information found on Uzitalk.com, an Internet forum dedicated to the Israeli-made submachine guns, described the Micro Uzi as coming on the market in 1986 and having the capability to fire 25 rounds in less than 30 seconds. The guns, manufactured by Israeli Military Industries Ltd., are generally designed for military and police use.
The flier for the expo advertised that it was "all legal and fun -- no permits or licenses required."
Targets listed on the flier included pumpkins, vehicles and "other fun stuff we can't print here!"
The Boston Field Division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the accident along with the Westfield Police, Massachusetts State Police and the Hampden County District Attorney's Office.
James McNally, spokesman for the ATF's Boston division declined to comment until more information was available, but said "it's been awful."
Susan Gates, general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Children's Defense Fund, said the shooting in Westfield was a tragic reminder that there is not enough being done in the U.S. to keep guns out of children's hands.
"It just continues to illustrate why children should not have access to any type of gun," Gates said.
Most children killed by guns handled them in their homes, and accidents at expos and shooting ranges are much less common, according to Gates.
But even though Massachusetts law, and those of many other states, allow children to shoot weapons in a controlled environment, the Children's Defense Fund's policy is that those laws aren't strong enough.
"It is so dangerous, as well seen by this incident, to handle any type of loaded gun, never mind a loaded Uzi," Gates said.
William Hockla has lived across the street from Biziljs for years and said Christopher was very bright and active. He heard about the shooting on the radio this morning.
"I was hoping it wasn't true," he said.
He described Charles Bizilj and his wife Suzanne as involved parents who took their two boys camping, fishing and skiing.
"They were very polite, well-groomed," he said. "Terrific boys."