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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 18:20 GMT
US press outraged
Distraught parents gathered at the school
Distraught parents gathered at the school
The US press has expressed outrage at the fatal shooting of a six-year-old by her classmate, and called on Congress to take action.

The Flint Journal, published in a city near where the shooting took place, wrote: "The age of the boy who shot her, also six, has compounded the tragedy.

"It has made us feel bewildered, helpless and angry that a child so young could do such a thing, let alone have access to a deadly weapon."

The newspaper questioned whether gun control measures such as mandatory trigger locks would have been effective in this case, and instead said, "trying to spot children prone to such violence and getting them and their families help might be more effective".

The Detroit Free Press, published 65 miles from where the shootings took place, lead with the headline: "A child kills a child; a nation asks why."

Kayla Rolland
Kayla Rolland died after receiving a single shot in the neck
Free Press editorial writers said that "safeties, trigger locks, and gun cabinets that lock are available to people who insist on keeping guns in homes with children".

"What we don't know is why lawmakers haven't imposed more requirements on gun owners to restrict access to or use of their firearms."

The paper noted that since February 1997, a principal, three teachers and 29 students had been killed and 77 other people hurt in school shootings around the country.

"What we don't know is how to guarantee there won't be another one," the paper added.

The Washington Post wrote: "Gunfire in America's schools has been horribly frequent in recent years, but yesterday's story out of a first-grade classroom in Flint, Michigan, takes the grisly subject to a new level."

The New York Times said: "Americans should be outraged that any six-year-old could get a gun and fire it to kill another six-year-old in their first-grade classroom."

The Post noted that the county prosecutor in the case had said "we have a fully-armed society that doesn't take its responsibility to secure its weapons seriously", but the newspaper asked more fundamental questions about guns in America.

"Why do we have a fully armed society? Who's defending what anymore? Why are concealable weapons still manufactured and sold to the general public?

"And so long as they are considered consumer products, why are guns less regulated for safety than toys?" the Post asked.

Call for action

The Times said that responsibility must rest on the adults who allowed the child to get a gun, but the newspaper also said blame "lies with lawmakers in Washington who have blocked efforts to protect children from this kind of senseless death".

The Columbine shootings less than a year ago "shamed Congress into considering stronger gun control laws", but the Times noted that progress on the bill is stalled and that it has been greatly weakened.

Both newspapers called on Congress to enact reforms including child-safety locks on guns and laws holding adults responsible for allowing children to access guns.

The Times also urged Congress to explore "smart-gun technology", which only allows the owner of a gun to fire it.

Congress fails to act

But the press noted that there is little political interest in additional gun laws or new efforts at reform.

"Congress still refuses to get serious about curbing the outlandish flow of handguns, and nobody running for president dares suggest that handguns should have no place in general circulation," the Post wrote.

The Times wrote that the gun lobby tries to "divert attention from guns to issues like violence in movies and other social factors".

"But it is impossible, even for the gun lobby, to escape the clear meaning of yesterday's school killing.

"It happened because a very young child was able to obtain and fire a loaded weapon," it said.

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See also:

16 Sep 99 |  Americas
Analysis: Recent gun legislation
21 Apr 99 |  Americas
When children kill
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