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The BBC's Tom Carver in Maryland
"This is America one year after Columbine"
 real 28k

The BBC's David Willis
"If you're old enough to walk, you're old enough to fire a gun"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
One year after Columbine
sign outside columbine high school
Columbine High School: "A time to remember"
By Tom Carver in Maryland

One year ago on Thursday, two armed teenagers went on a rampage through their high school in the United States.

After shooting dead a teacher and 12 fellow students, the gunmen turned their weapons on themselves.

gun show
A gun show in Maryland
Yet one year after Columbine, a gun show is being held at a gymnasium in Maryland. It contains enough firepower for a small army.

Any adults can buy a weapon here. No licence or background check is required.

Three of the weapons from Columbine came from a gun show like this.

Crime that shocked

When the teenage boys opened fire inside Columbine High School, it stunned America's middle-class.

America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • Gun violence, people realised, was now a suburban problem.

    As a result of Columbine, the state of Maryland now requires all new handguns to come equipped with trigger locks.

    Columbine killers on security camera
    The killers caught on security camera
    But gun owners say even this mild proposal was an infringement of their freedom.

    A safe gun is very easy," says gun enthusiast Patrick Loughlin.

    "A safe gun is a gun that is unloaded and locked up. That is totally safe gun. It's also a totally worthless gun if you need it to defend yourself."

    Changing attitudes

    The problem for the gun industry is that Maryland is not an isolated case.

    America's relationship with the gun is starting to change.

    More and more states want to treat guns as ordinary consumer products, which have to be made safe for the public to use.

    gun show
    The Clinton administration wants tougher gun laws
    Twelve states, including California and New York, are now considering tougher gun laws.

    On top of that, 17 cities from Miami to Chicago have filed lawsuits against the gun makers.

    Under pressure, America's most famous gunsmith has already capitulated. Smith and Wesson have agreed to fit trigger locks on all its guns within two years.

    On Tuesday, a gun buy-back scheme was launched by a Clinton administration keen to take advantage of this national mood.

    The urban development secretary, Andrew Cuomo, explains: "There is a greater sense of violence and wanton violence and violence against young people.

    "I think the American public, if you were to take a poll, about 80% are now looking for some type of commonsense gun control."

    Removing 200 million guns from American life is not an option.

    But one year after Columbine, gun owners can no longer take their rights for granted.

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    See also:

    18 Apr 00 | Americas
    Swearing row sparks US shootings
    02 Mar 00 | Americas
    Aiming for the 'smart gun'
    01 Mar 00 | Americas
    Controlling America's gun culture
    02 Mar 00 | Americas
    Clinton calls gun control summit
    07 Mar 00 | Americas
    Clinton sets sights on gun control
    21 Apr 99 | Americas
    When children kill
    21 Apr 99 | Americas
    Timetable of terror
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