Variations of the word responsibility come up often in the conversation about gun rights, gun control and gun violence. It is used to describe the “99% of gun owners who are responsible.” It is used by those demanding gun control to “make gun owners, gun manufacturers and the NRA responsible for their actions and policies.” It is used to question just what the responsibility of gun owners should be. And, unfortunately it is demanded, by the people to the judicial system to make those responsible for gun violence and death pay.
And then there is this…
In October 2008, in Massachusetts EIGHT year old Christopher Bizilj, while shooting a fully automatic Micro UZI submachine gun blew himself away. He was at the Westfield Sportman’s Club at an event put on by the Pelham police chief, Edward Fleury. Christopher’s father Charles was fiddling around with his video camera when the incident occurred.
Those are the basic facts. The follow-up over the next three years defines “responsibility” in gun deaths. While not nearly as many deaths occurred as in Sandy Hook, and there was no flurry of media covering the story 24/7, it should be at the heart of any gun violence discussion.
In any incident like this the prevailing next step is lawsuits and charges…getting down to just who is responsible for such an egregious loss of young life…so the legal battles began.
Charles Bizilj sued the suppliers of the gun and ammunition they leased at the expo. They settled for $700,000.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed charges of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing machine guns to minors against Edward Fleury, police chief of Pelham and organizer of the C.O.P. Firearms and Training Machine Gun Shoot.
At the 2011 trial Edward Fleury was found innocent of all charges.
After Fleury’s trial the charges were dropped against Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Fleury’s Machine Gun Shoot.
The 15 year old range supervisor who was the “handler” for Christopher’s shooting experience testified that he twice suggested the boy’s father pick a less powerful weapon for the boy to shoot. The father insisted.
It bears repeating…THE FATHER INSISTED
Back to responsibility…who was ultimately responsible for this very senseless act?
- The Westfield Sportsman’s Club?
- C.O.P. Firearms and Training owner Police Chief Edward Fleury?
- Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Chief Fleury?
- Fifteen year old Michael Spano, son of Domenico Spano?
- The insistent Charles Bizilj?
Apparently the answer is NOBODY. It, like hundreds of other “firearms accidents” that happen each year will be blamed on nobody except very poor luck. And there-in lays the problem in a world where nobody is adjudicated “responsible” for an EIGHT year old boy’s ability to play with firearms that were too powerful for his untrained mind and body. And he paid the price.
If gun owners and the NRA want to contribute to this conversation on gun violence, this is a really easy place for them to start. And for those who want to regulate guns, this example of avoidance of responsibility by society is a good place to begin to work at the edges of the gun violence problem.