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Thursday, November 4, 1999 Published at 11:48 GMT

World: Americas

Clinton alarm over US violence

Nine people have died in two mass shootings this week

President Bill Clinton has warned Americans they are becoming far too tolerant of violence as the country reels from its second multiple shooting in less than 24 hours.

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    "I don't think we understand fully just how much more violent the United States is than other countries," Mr Clinton said as he expressed his shock over the Seattle and Honolulu shootings.

    "I don't want to diminish the agony of these two incidents, that they are truly awful.

    US President Clinton: "I don't think we understand fully how much more violent the US is than other countries"
    "But I think we have to acknowledge the fact that we have been willing to tolerate a much higher level of violence than we should have," he added.

    Mr Clinton was speaking as police hunted for a gunman who shot dead two men and wounded two others at a Seattle shipyard office.

    A man described as a "person of interest," rather than a suspect, was released by police on Thursday after being questioned.

    The BBC's Paul Reynolds: "Republicans in Congress have so far resisted the latest proposals"
    Reports said the gunman, dressed in camouflage gear, a leather hat and dark trenchcoat, opened fire without warning in the Northlake Shipyard building which houses several small businesses.

    [ image: Swat officers search for the Seattle gunman]
    Swat officers search for the Seattle gunman
    Peter Giles, 26, died at the scene and Russell Brisendine, 43, died from chest injuries at Harbourview Medical Center.

    Another man, who was shot in the chest, is said to be in a critical condition.

    The fourth victim, who received a bullet injury to his arm, said the gunman did not work at the yard. Reports said witnesses heard seven to 10 shots.

    The shooting came a day after another gunman went on the rampage in Hawaii killing seven people at the Xerox offices in Honolulu.

    Julia Bicknell: "This is becoming a depressingly familiar scene"
    Byran Uyesugi, 40, who surrendered after a five-hour armed stand-off with police, is expected to be charged on Thursday with the slayings - the worst mass murder in Hawaii history.

    Mr Uyesugi, described as a quiet loner and avid goldfish collector, was registered as the owner of 17 guns.

    Horrors of gun violence

    President Clinton offered federal help for both investigations and said the country had been plagued for too long with gun violence.

    [ image: Shooting suspect Byran Uyesugi was the legal owner of 17 guns]
    Shooting suspect Byran Uyesugi was the legal owner of 17 guns
    "Our nation continues on this day to be reminded of the horrors of gun violence. We need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children," he said. "Congress needs to send me common sense [gun] legislation."

    His calls were backed by US Attorney General Janet Reno and Vice President Al Gore.

    "This nation has for too long not taken a common sense, reasonable approach to guns," said Ms Reno.

    The vice president added: "The American people feel strongly that we need new laws to make guns less widely available to people who shouldn't have them."

    Congress has been deadlocked for the last six months, unable to agree on the mildest proposals for tightening up gun laws.

    Like Honolulu, Seattle has a reputation as one of America's most desirable cities to live in.

    But a University of Washington criminologist said despite its image, Seattle's murder rate was consistent with cities of a similar size. The city recorded 49 homicides last year, according to police.

    Halloween horror story

    Mr Clinton's comments coincide with the release from custody of a teenager who was detained for five days after writing about shooting a teacher and two classmates in a Halloween horror story.

    Police spokeswoman Pam McCammon: "He just started shooting"
    In his essay, Christopher Bearnon, 13, described accidentally shooting his teacher Amanda Henry.

    Ms Henry thought Christopher's work was so good she gave him an 'A' after he read it aloud in class.

    But he was arrested when alarmed school officials notified the authorities.

    A judge ordered him to be detained for 10 days, but released him early after the district attorney decided not to prosecute.

    "I was supposed to write a horror story. I don't think I did anything wrong," Christopher said on his release.

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