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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK

World: Americas

Press seeks lessons of tragedy

Editorials are asking why another school has become a war zone

Wednesday morning's American press reflects a nation reeling from the events in Denver and once again seeking reasons for another school shooting.

"School Terror Strikes Again" reads the headline in USA Today.

The Denver Post
, whose area includes Columbine High School, assesses the shockwaves caused by the shooting as the full scale of events dawned across the state.

Under the headline "Horror Ripples Across Colorado" the paper reports the sheer bewilderment over how such tragedies can be prevented.

Warning signs

Seeking answers for what sparked the killing spree the paper cites the opinion of local child psychologists that early warning signs may have gone unheeded.

"It's rare to impossible that the (gunmen) didn't have any problems before doing something like this,'' Neil Sorokin of the Colorado Mental Health Institute tells the paper.

But says the Post sometimes even the most violent children have conscientious parents who fruitlessly try to redirect their child's behaviour.

Anytown, USA

"Something is terribly wrong with America" writes one of the paper's columnists.

"The problem is that the most privileged among us - among the most privileged of the privileged in the history of human existence - still hate."

The Chicago Tribune warns that Littleton, the prosperous Denver suburb where the killings took place, could be Anytown USA.

If murderous school rampage could occur there, it could happen anywhere the paper says.

In its editorial, The New York Times says it is not too early to begin learning lessons from the massacre.

One such lesson says the paper is that schools should become more adept at spotting potential troublemakers before they resort to gunfire.

Gun law

Another urgent political lesson the paper says is the urgent need for concerted action by Congress, state legislatures and gun manufacturers to keep guns out of the hands of troubled youngsters.

It concludes: "Yesterday's blasts in Colorado are a grim reminder that guns are still too readily available."

The Los Angeles Times adds that the killings "came in ironic counterpoint" to an expected debate in the Colorado state Legislature over whether to allow the expansion of laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons.

The Dallas Morning News also notes that the killings come less than ten days before the National Rifle Association holds its annual convention in Denver.

In the wake of the killings the News says that advocates on both sides of the gun control debate are predicting that the event could turn into the most bitter confrontation yet on the issue.

Outcast students

Of the gunmen themselves the New York Times describes them as "students on the fringe" who found a way to stand out by banding together and dressing "in Gothic style clothing highlighted by long black coats."

Fellow students told Times reporters that members of the gunmen's group often wore white makeup and 'their tongues,' it says, 'were dripping with hatred for racial minorities and athletes.'

"Gunmen Recalled as Outcasts" says the Washington Post adding that the shooters "spent their entire adolescence deep inside the morose subculture of Gothic fantasy" and had been "a constant target of derision" at their school.

They were, said fellow students, "deeply into death - talking, reading and dreaming about it. "

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