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U.S. Gun Laws Draw Criticism After Massacre

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SYDNEY, Australia (April 18) - The Virginia Tech  shootings sparked criticism of U.S. gun control laws around the world Tuesday. Editorials lashed out at the availability of weapons, and the leader of Australia - one of America's closest allies - declared that America's gun culture was costing lives.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the government hoped Monday's shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."

While some focused blame only on the gunman, world opinion over U.S. gun laws was almost unanimous: Access to weapons increases the probability of shootings. There was no sympathy for the view that more guns would have saved lives by enabling students to shoot the assailant.

"We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who staked his political career on promoting tough gun laws after a gunman went on one of the world's deadliest killing sprees 11 years ago.

The tragedy in a Tasmanian tourist resort left 35 people dead. Afterward, Australia's gun laws were changed to prohibit automatic weapons and handguns and toughen licensing and storage restrictions.

Handguns are also banned in Britain - a prohibition that forces even the country's Olympic pistol shooting team from practicing on its own soil. In Sweden, civilians can acquire firearm permits only if they have a hunting license or are members of a shooting club and have no criminal record. In Italy, people must have a valid reason for wanting one. Firearms are forbidden for private Chinese citizens.

Still, leaders from Britain, Germany, Mexico, China, Afghanistan  and France stopped short of criticizing President Bush  or U.S. gun laws when they offered sympathies to the families of Monday's victims.

Editorials were less diplomatic.

"Only the names change - And the numbers," read a headline in the Times of London. "Why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?"

The French daily Le Monde said the regularity of mass shootings across the Atlantic was a blotch on America's image.

"It would be unjust and especially false to reduce the United States to the image created, in a recurrent way, from the bursts of murderous fury that some isolated individuals succumb to. But acts like this are rare elsewhere, and tend to often disfigure the 'American dream.'"

Police started identifying the victims Tuesday. One was a Peruvian student identified as Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, according to his mother Betty Cuevas, who said her son was studying international relations.

Professors from India, Israel and Canada also were killed.

Liviu Librescu, 76, an engineering science and mathematics lecturer, tried to stop the gunman from entering his classroom by blocking the door before he was fatally shot, his son said Tuesday from Tel Aviv.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said. His father, a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel from Romania, and was on sabbatical in Virginia.

Indian-born G.V. Loganathan, 51, a lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was also among the dead, his brother G.V. Palanivel told Indian media.

"We all feel like we have had an electric shock. We do not know what to do," Palanivel said.

Canadian Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, a French instructor, also died in the shootings, said her husband Jerzy Nowak, head of the university's horticulture department. "We're mourning," Nowak said.

The killings also hit a nerve for Virginia Tech alumni abroad.

"I think if this does prompt a serious and reflective debate on gun issues and gun law in the States, then some good may come from this woeful tragedy," said British Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, who graduated in 1982.

Britain's 46 homicides involving firearms last year was the lowest since the late 1980s. New York City, with 8 million people compared to 53 million in England and Wales, recorded 590 homicides last year.

"If the guns are harder to get a hold of, fewer people will do it," said Michael Dent, a 65-year-old construction worker in London. "You can't walk up to a supermarket or shop and buy a gun like in the States."

But even in Germany, where gun-control laws are strict, a teenager in 2002 shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer at a high school. The shooter was a gun club member licensed to own weapons. The attack led Germany to raise the age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21.

"The instant I saw the pictures and heard the commentary, it immediately brought back our own experience," Gutenberg high school director Christiane Alt said of the Virginia Tech killings.

The Swedish daily Goteborgs-Posten said without access to weapons, the killings at Virginia Tech may have been prevented.

"What exactly triggered the massacre in Virginia is unclear, but the fundamental reason is often the perpetrator's psychological problems in combination with access to weapons," it wrote.

The shootings drew intense media coverage in China, in part because the school has a large Chinese student body.

"This incident reflects the problem of gun control in America," Yuan Peng, an American studies expert in China, was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.

Only 7 percent of the more than 26,000 students at Virginia Tech are foreign, according to the school Web site. But Chinese make up nearly a third of that.

In Italy, there are three types of licenses for gun ownership: for personal safety, target practice and skeet shooting, and hunting. Authorization is granted by the police. To obtain a gun for personal safety, the owner must be an adult and have a "valid" reason.

Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera's main story on the shootings was an opinion piece entitled "Guns at the Supermarket" - a critical view of the U.S. gun lobby and the ease with which guns can be purchased. State-run RAI radio also discussed at length what it said were lax standards for gun ownership in the United States.

"The latest attack on a U.S. campus will shake up America, maybe it will provoke more vigorous reactions than in the past, but it won't change the culture of a country that has the notion of self-defense imprinted on its DNA and which considers the right of having guns inalienable," Corriere wrote in its front-page story.

Several Italian graduate students at Virginia Tech recounted how they barricaded themselves inside a geology department building not far from the scene of the shooting.

In Mexico, radio commentators criticized the availability of firearms in the U.S. Others renewed Mexico's complaint that most guns in Mexico are smuggled in from the United States.

The killings led newspapers' front pages, with Mexico City's Dario Monitor reporting: "Terror returns to the U.S.: 32 assassinated on university campus." The tabloid Metro compared Mexico's death toll Monday from drug violence to the number of people killed at Virginia Tech, in a front-page headline that read: "U.S. 33, Mexico 20."

By PAISLEY DODDS
AP
Entry #1,089

Comments

1.
time*treatComment by time*treat - April 18, 2007, 9:51 am
Of course, Australia & Britain keep very quiet about the massive increase in crimes committed against their now unarmed populace. China is a wonderful example of the type of gov't you get when people cannot defend themselves, and Mexico conveniently left out the number of headless bodies that have been showing up lately, there. I wonder why they "tolerate" the continued machete violence? When Castro took over, the cry was "The revolution has been won!! What do we need guns for??" The people burned the guns in the town square. They soon had their answer.
All tyrants (throughout history) prefered a population that couldn't fight back. And they prefer situations that allow them to convince the population to unarm itself.
2.
justxploringComment by justxploring - April 18, 2007, 10:30 am
I'm on the fence about gun laws, although I believe in enforcing much tougher laws. I definitely believe that each State should run a criminal background check before selling a gun. After all, what's the big rush? Automatic assault weapons should be banned. Even President Bush promised to continue the ban imposed in 1994, but that was only one lie he told during his campaign and his current reign.

On the other hand I'm not sure a stricter gun law would have prevented the Virginia massacre. The University had gotten 2 bomb threats earlier, so there's always a way a disturbed, homicidal maniac will find a way, if he is determined to cause pain & suffering. In Oklahoma City a bomb killed 168 innocent victims, including babies, and injured 500 others in 1995.

We need to stop gun violence by making it tougher to buy assault weapons, and I believe we can do this without taking away our basic rights. After all, we've had so many rights stripped from us already over the past few years that I find it ironic that having access to dangerous weapons is one we've been allowed to keep.

3.
Comment by jim695 - April 18, 2007, 12:34 pm
Most of the criticism I've heard concerning American gun laws has come from the mainstream media. Very few politicians have been heard from, but that's only because the novelty of this latest tragedy hasn't worn off yet. In another week or two, they'll begin crawling out into the light and espousing their latest ingenious plan to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by passing some law.

The NRA (a basically worthless organization with a very powerful lobby) will not allow across-the-board gun controls to be passed in this country, and with good reason. Criminals, by definition, do not fall into the category of Law-Abiding Citizens. Therefore, and this is a concept that our elected leaders just can't get a handle on, they really don't care what the law says. Making an illegal act even more illegal is no deterrent to a criminal; if you want to deter criminal behavior, simply restrict their access to legal counsel upon conviction. This is no more arbitrary than stripping a man of his right to vote once he's been convicted of a felony. After all, criminals don't deserve the same rights you and I enjoy.

Let's play a game. Let's pretend that our elected leaders have come up with an anti-gun bill that uses magical words. Let's pretend that this bill sailed through committee, was approved overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, and became a full-fledged United States Federal Law. Now, because this law is written in truly enchanted language, all people with criminal intent are prohibited from even picking up a firearm. The criminals didn't believe the law would work, so they decided to run a test to see how effective this new legislation really was. The Robber drew the short straw, and was sent to procure a gun. The moment he touched it, a little light went off at the police station nearest to his current location and, within minutes, the criminal was taken into custody and jailed before a shot could be fired. Soon, all of the other criminals heard about the plight of the first, and so they held a meeting. Okay, fine; they held a meeting in the middle of the Crooked Forest (you kids and your fairy tales).

"Well," said the Murderer, "I guess we'll have to close up shop."
"Yep," the Rapist agreed, "looks like it's time to get a job."
"Too bad," said the Kidnapper.
The Robber, out on bail and feeling a little choked up, could only sigh.

They all gathered their families and their evil offspring. They left the Crooked Forest and went forth and joined Society. They all took low-paying, entry-level jobs and enrolled their evil children in public schools, and they all grew up to be Congressmen and Senators and Judges and Prosecuting Attorneys. And the best part is that none of them ever thought of using a knife or baseball bat or any other type of weapon to carry on their chosen life's work (I sure hope they don't read this; I don't want to give them any ideas); it just never occurred to them because of the magical language contained in the law.

The really, really best part is that, thanks to our lawmakers passing yet another law, the police only had to arrest check kiters, prostitutes and internet gamblers, and the rest of us lived happily ever after.

Meanwhile, in the distant and remote Kingdom of Jim, monkeys began to fly out of my butt ...
4.
four4meComment by four4me - April 18, 2007, 1:49 pm
No matter what gun laws are in place if a person wants to get a gun he can in just about and city in the US. Not from a dealer mine you but on the streets of any major city.
Keeping guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens isn't the answer. No one can predict what another person will do next. However in the Virginia case there were warning signs that were completely overlooked. So they say because of privacy issues. In other words a councilor in his school noted he has issues but they didn't act on them. Teachers and some students remarked he had written some pretty disturbing papers. When a red flag was razed they should have been monitoring every move he made apparently that didn't happen. So the system that was put in place failed miserably.

5.
justxploringComment by justxploring - April 18, 2007, 4:10 pm
"In Mexico, radio commentators criticized the availability of firearms in the U.S. Others renewed Mexico's complaint that most guns in Mexico are smuggled in from the United States."

I want to scream when I read that Mexico has the nerve to criticize the U.S.    Over $20 billion was sent back to Mexico by immigrants working here last year - and that's only the money we know about. That's more money than tourism, oil and just about any industry in Mexico generates. In fact, it's estimated that 15% (approx 1 in 7) of every Mexican worker lives in the United States.

By the way, I've considered buying a handgun. I hate guns, but home invasion is on the rise and we should be able to protect ourselves from bodily harm. I can't imagine killing another person, but it isn't murder if you are defending your family. My comment on gun control was about automatic assault weapons and how easy it is to buy them. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 signed into Law by President Clinton did not ban rifles and shotguns.

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