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New England editorial roundup

September 6, 2014

The Recorder of Greenfield (Mass.), Sept. 2, 2014

The accidental shooting death of a gun-range instructor in Arizona has stupidity written all over it. What makes the incident even more senseless is just how easily this entire tragedy could have been avoided, had the adults in the story used just a little common sense.

Instead, we have family and friends mourning the death of Charles Vacca ... and a 9-year-old girl having to deal emotionally and psychologically for the rest of her life that, accident or not, she fired a gun that killed a man.

Locally, the incident calls up the memory of a very similar case that happened here in western Massachusetts, just six years ago. In that case, an 8-year-old boy was killed when an automatic weapon he was firing — an Israeli-made 9 mm Micro Uzi — while his father supervised him spun back and killed Christopher Bizilj, of Ashford, Connecticut.

In the Arizona case, events began when a New Jersey family on vacation stopped off at the “World Famous Arizona Last Stop” in White Hills. It’s a roadside tourist stop where besides postcards, trinkets, food and cold drinks, gas, the business has a rather bizarre attraction — a shooting range in which visitors who are at least 8 years old can fire machine guns.

The business offers a wide range of weapons to choose from, and in this case, the young girl was handed a Micro Uzi, a scaled down version of the military weapon first used by Israeli forces in the 1950s. The smaller guns are lighter and fire faster — 1,200 rounds a minute — than the military weapon, which makes them harder to control.

We don’t know whether getting a chance to fire the Uzi was the girl’s idea or whether she was urged to do so by her parents. We also don’t know if any of the adults involved gave serious thought to the question whether handing a short-barreled submachine gun, designed for very rapid fire — with a resulting strong, sudden recoil, wasn’t a good idea.

The answer in this case was, tragically, “no.”

When she pulled the trigger, the recoil was too much for the young girl to handle, and she lost control. The weapon spun back out of her grip, the barrel pivoted to the left rear, and the instructor was shot in the face.

It was a terrible accident that could have been prevented — and predicted, given the Bizilj case.

Just because handing weapons to children is legal doesn’t mean it is smart or safe. Certainly the people running the shooting range should have been fully aware of how these souped-up pistols act and whether children can be expected to grip them tightly enough to control them.

Our nation has all kinds of laws and regulations prohibiting children from activities that are appropriate for adults, ranging from driving automobiles to working in hazardous environments.

We believe one of those activities should be using dangerous weapons.

“These are weapons made for war, we give them to highly trained soldiers,” Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, said after the accident.

“I can’t think of situation we would give a child an Uzi or why that would be a responsible thing.”

We agree.

Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover (N.H.), Sept. 4, 2014

“Our objective is clear. And that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it is no longer a threat, not just to Iraq but also to the region and the United States.”

— President Barack Obama

These empty words come on the heels of news that a second journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been beheaded by Islamic State extremists, the same ones who murdered James Foley.

Obama’s words also come a week or so after he admitted having no strategy in place to deal with ISIL or this latest Middle East crisis.

To now believe what Obama preaches is to stretch the trust of the American people beyond reason.

In August of 2011, Obama said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.

Today — more than three years later — al-Assad remains.

In Ukraine, Obama has again proven beyond useless in stopping Russia’s invasion of that sovereign state.

To say United States foreign policy is in disarray under Obama is an understatement.

We, as a country, have no foreign policy other than to make it up as we go.

Obama has failed to think ahead as president and as a presidential candidate before that.

He came into office promising to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently ignorant of the political interrelationships that defy borders in that region of the globe.

Instead of having withdrawn, the United States is forced to straddle the fence of indecision, half pregnant with resolve.

With no plan in place or overriding foreign policy to guide the United States, Obama has settled for the pin pricks of drone strikes against the enemy of any given moment.

It is a policy that has been clearly counter-productive.

It is a policy that has Obama caught in political limbo between the appeasement notion promoted by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain before World War II and that of President Harry “Give ’em Hell” Truman who courageously decided to end the war in the Pacific by twice dropping the atomic bomb.

For some reason, Obama thinks he can have it both ways — a gentler, kinder war with no boots on the ground but one that scares the likes of ISIL into submission.

In reality, what Obama has done to is to empower the hate that has divided the Middle East and elsewhere for centuries thus turning its ire toward the United States.

Last Friday, the United Kingdom raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe,” the fourth highest of five levels, in response to events in Iraq and Syria, where ISIL militants have seized a large swath of territory, according to news reports.

Meanwhile the Obama administration was downplaying the notion that ISIL would be coming to American shores, despite news reports that now indicate hundreds of U.S. citizens have joined ISIL in the Middle East.

How are we to believe that when they return home, as some will, their message of jihad won’t follow?

As dangerous a game as Obama is playing with American interests and lives in the Middle East, it will be that much more dangerous when the jihad that spawned al-Qaida and ISIL comes to the shores of the United States.

That may not happen before Obama leaves the White House. But make no mistake, when it does it will be due to his indecisiveness while in the White House.

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