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New Gun Outcry As Boy, 8, Shoots Himself At US Fair

Nico Hines

Charles Bizilj said his son Christopher had fired guns for three years before the accident at Westfield Sportsmen's Club. (Associated Press Photo / George Ruhe)

MASSACHUSSETTS - Criminal charges were being considered by prosecutors today after an eight-year-old boy shot himself in the head with an Uzi submachine gun at a weapons fair in Massachusetts.

The Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo reportedly boasted in publicity prior to the event that there were "no age limit or licenses required to shoot machine guns", organisers even granted free entry for children.

Christopher Bizilj was one of the schoolboys allowed to shoot automatic weapons at pumpkins but the Uzi recoiled and a round was fired into his head as his father reached for a camera to photograph his son.

Charles Bizilj, the eight-year-old's father and the director of emergency medicine at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Connecticut, said: "This accident was truly a mystery to me.

"This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened."

He told the Boston Globe that his young son had fired handguns and rifles before, but Sunday's event was his first time firing an automatic weapon.

The child was attending the event with his father and his brother Colin.

William Bennett, Hampden County District Attorney, said he is investigating whether the gun fair violated the state's firearms law by allowing the boy to fire the machine gun, and also whether it was "a reckless or wanton act to allow an 8-year-old to use a fully loaded automatic weapon."

"At this point in the investigation I have found no lawful authority which allows an 8-year-old to possess or fire a machine gun," Mr Bennett said.

Police are calling the shooting an accident but are investigating whether everyone connected with the incident had proper weapons permits. Massachusetts requires licenses to own firearms, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issues different licenses to possess machine guns.

Local, state and federal authorities are also investigating whether everyone involved had proper licenses or if anyone committed a criminal act.

Daniel Vice, senior attorney with the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said his interpretation is that Massachusetts law specifically prohibits "furnishing a machine gun to any person under 18."

"It is unconscionable that the gun fair allowed and encouraged young children to fire machine guns," he said in a statement.

On Monday, Westfield police Lt. Hipolito Nunez said it is legal in Massachusetts for children to fire a weapon if they have permission from a parent or legal guardian and they are supervised by a properly certified and licensed instructor.

The section of the statute that mentions that exception, however, only lists rifles, shotguns and ammunition and is silent on the use of machine guns.

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