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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
German shooting: A horror repeated
A shocked woman is helped in Erfurt
The shooting has brought back bad memories
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By Catherine Miller
BBC News Online
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The shocking murder of 17 people at a school in the east German town of Erfurt has revived memories at the other end of the country in Upper Bavaria, where in February a gunman shot dead three people.

"My first reaction when I heard the news was shock. I got goosebumps," said Elfriede Gintinrietier, the caretaker at Freising's economics school who was there when the gunman walked in, killed the head teacher and then killed himself.

"It brings it all back," she told BBC News Online.

That another shooting spree should have taken place just months afterwards is likely to spark a heated debate in Germany about how security in schools should take place.

It also focuses attention on gun ownership - just as parliament has passed new legislation.

Short-term measures

"He walked straight in, like normal, through the front door," said Mrs Gintinrietier, remembering how the gunman, dressed in combat gear and carrying several weapons arrived at the school in Freising.

He had driven there by taxi from the site in Esching where he had shot dead two men, one of them his former boss.


If someone like that wants to get in, he will. It's impossible to stop him

Elfriede Gintinrietier
After the incident, some schools did for a time take additional security measures, for example, putting checks at entrances.

But, say local journalists, schools had to do this on an individual basis - and pay for it themselves - and there was no action taken by the local or national government.

"It could happen again any day," said Mrs Gintinrietier.

But, she says, it would be impossible to make schools entirely secure.

"If someone like that wants to get in, he will. It's impossible to stop him".

Gun laws under scrutiny

Shooting is a popular hobby in small-town Germany and as military service remains compulsory, many adult men are used to handling guns.

By a twist of fate, the German parliament on Friday passed a new law on weapons ownership - just as 19-year-old Robert Steinhaeuser was running amok in the Erfurt school.

What was initially a standard piece of legislation aimed at tidying up legal anomalies, particularly in respect to the new anti-terrorism legislation introduced in recent months, will now be the subject of major scrutiny.

It aims to tighten up weapons ownership, adding new restrictions to how hunters and sportsmen buy and keep their weapons.

The 1996 Dunblane tragedy - when 16 schoolchildren and their teacher were shot dead by a gunman - provoked changes to legislation on gun ownership in the UK, but such action is unlikely to take place in Germany.

"Something like this could never be prevented," said Ernst Bahr, a Social Democrat member of the parliamentary committee on home affairs.

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The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"This massacre has a terrible similarity to other grudge shootings"
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