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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 14:25 GMT
Can guns ever be made safe?



The latest shooting in a US school is particularly disturbing - a six-year-old child pulled out a gun and killed one of his classmates in front of the entire class. But what can be done about what is becoming a shockingly regular occurrence?

President Bill Clinton suggested using child safety locks and challenged the next presidential candidates to make gun control an election issue.

Is this going far enough? Whose responsibility is it to make the classroom safe - parents, teachers or politicians? Is there such a thing as a safe gun? Send us your views. HAVE YOUR SAY There's only one relevant statistic in this debate - how many people per hundred thousand are shot and injured/killed per hundred thousand in the US, compared to the UK? Guns are banned here, so we don't have people dying on the streets every day.
Emma , UK



A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The US Constitution, 2nd Amendment
Guns are designed for one purpose: To hurt, maim, kill, or kill before someone else hurts/kills you. You can put all the safety measures you want, but you can not change the basic purpose. Abundant availability and use of guns in US earns the justified label of being a violent society. The root of it is how the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution is interpreted. Repealing an Amendment is just as tough, if not tougher, than enacting a law or adding one more Amendment to the Constitution.
Riz Rahim, USA

No offence towards the Americans, but they're so full of this constitutional stuff that they fail to see that they're digging themselves a hole. They don't seem to understand that it is the very right that they have to bear arms, given to them by this constitution, that is causing them all this grief. Society is full of violence as it is, but keeping guns and allowing people as young as 6 to have access to them only adds to the problem.
Matthew, Wales

Guns might have had a respectable place in the violent past. The question to be asked is if it has any relevance in a modern civilised society.
Vinod Dawda, UK

Banning guns won't work in the US - there are simply too many in circulation. The US could look at several other countries that have high gun ownership rates, but strict laws on their use, sale, type and storage, and ENFORCE those laws.
Paul H, NL

Depends who gets shot. I'd start with Charlton Heston...how about you?
Simon Bee, Brazil via UK

There are now so many guns distributed around the US that banning them or introducing child safety catches would have little or no effect in the immediate future. Whether it is written into the constitution or not, and no matter how many people shout for or against it, the gun is not going to disappear from America's streets in our lifetime. I can understand why Jefferson wrote it into the constitution because it was drafted just as the war with Britain was getting underway and he no doubt anticipated the following 5 years of bitter guerrilla-style warfare between loyalists and republicans in the countryside of the 13 colonies. It also has to be remembered that after the war, American settlements were spread out across a vast wild country and people needed weapons just to survive. Times may have moved on since then but a psychological dependence on the gun remains and it will be linked forever to America's independence movement and the opening up of the West.
I. Moseley, Germany



there will always be people, sane or insane, who would want to abuse a gun

Andrej, Russia
You may try to find reasons which drive high school students or six-year-olds to shoot classmates, but the thing is that there will always be people, sane or insane, who would want to abuse a gun. American legislators must pass an amendment to the Constitution which would clarify the meaning of the Second Amendment and adopt it to the present day, possibly limiting the sale of guns to individuals. This action needs to be taken immediately, or the American public and the entire world will be shocked by shootings again and again
Andrej, Russia

I think many of you Brits fail to understand the purpose of our American Constitution - particularly our Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights which affirms the pre-existing right to bear arms and bars government from infringing that right. It is about placing supreme power in the hands of the PEOPLE; to ensure that a tyrannical government (domestic or foreign) can never subvert the will of the people of the USA, as has happened throughout Europe and Asia in recent memory. Its to enable Americans to fight the Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos of the future. Who really thinks that banning guns(drugs) will result in lower crime (drug use)? All it will do, indeed all banning guns ever does, is disarm the law-abiding citizens who are inclined to obey such laws.
Charles Lancelotta, USA

No gun was necessary to kill the little Bolger child. However, we were horrified at this senseless act of murder by soulless children. No one focussed on the tools used by them. Why are you so intent on focusing on the instrument used in this case? It is obvious that no law, no child safety device could have improved the safety in the drug ridden flop house where this child found the stolen gun used, where no adult gave a damn.
Victor, USA



I do not enjoy going to school and fear that I will die there.

Carolyne Morgan, USA
All of the people trying to find a solution to the problem are looking at it from the adults point of view.. do you forget that it is the children committing the crimes? It is the children, as I, who have to go to school everyday wondering if it will be our last? The children know what is the problem, ask us. I know that I do not enjoy going to school and fear that I will die there.
Carolyne Morgan, USA

None of you moronic Brits are even answering the question as to why crime has gone up in the countries that have recently enacted absurd and excessive gun control laws (UK and Australia for example), and why crime has DECREASED dramatically in states which have enacted CCW laws here in the free United States. I expect it is because the answer is more guns = less crime, which you whining Brits don't want to admit. In America we are citizens and not subjects like you.
David, USA



We Americans won our independence with guns, and our guns insure that we will always keep our independence.

Brian, USA
I am a proud gun owner. I own a 9mm handgun and an AR-15 rifle. Many of you non-Americans don't get it, and you never will. The British especially don't get it. Our founding fathers gave us the right to keep and bear arms. It is in our Constitution. I, and millions of others, hold the Constitution of the United States of America in the same regard as the Holy Bible if not more so.
We Americans won our independence with guns, and our guns insure that we will always keep our independence. British and European people have traditionally been ruled, so maybe that is why it is so hard for them to understand. As for those that say the right to keep and bear arms is outdated, what will you say next? Will freedom of speech be the next thing that is too "old" and needs to be updated for "modern" times?
Brian, USA

It's the job of teachers and parents to make schools safer....Politicians?? Never...
Mark Edward Marchiafava, USA

It seems a straight forward solution to the problem is needed. All that the USA has to do is ban guns - simple as that. I know that they have the argument "we have the right to bear arms." Well, that right is killing innocent people everyday. It seems that a radical new way of thinking is needed.
Richard Beatson, Wales

There is no simple solution. It's too easy to suggest outlawing guns or to require the childproof safety locks that Clinton so shallowly is preaching. I'm not opposed to the locks, but it won't change a thing for the millions of guns currently on the street. And when there is a will there is a way to alter these devices.
I firmly believe in our right to bear arms. Amending the Constitution is not the answer. I'm certainly not a gun toting, NRA card-carrying individual. I own a firearm simply for protection. That's it. The majority of Americans are law-abiding citizens and those of us who legally own a gun are responsible and safety conscious.
Duncan, USA



All the children that have been killed over the past year and half, were they killed for self-protection?

Sonali, India
Saying people have the right to bear fire arms is fine, but is the American government blind enough to think that all weapons are bought for self-protection. If they do then it's time for a rude eye opener. All the children that have been killed over the past year and half, were they killed for self-protection?
Sonali, India

It takes a pretty stupid and careless adult to leave a dangerous weapon somewhere where a child has access to it. Before selling a weapon we need to make sure that the individual buying it knows how to keep it... Somewhere hidden, preferably locked. The ammunition needs to be kept somewhere else. And if possible, I wouldn't let my 6 year old kid even know I own a gun! Then there would be less trouble. Perhaps less violence in films would also help reduce violence among youngsters generally.
Vivien Cooksley, Cyprus-Austria

It is rather enlightening to read the comments of the knee jerk reactions of the readers who commented before all of the facts of this case were in. The boy's mother had sent him to stay with two wanted felons. The weapon the boy found was stolen.
No trigger lock, no law would have prevented this. Felons typically do not obey the law. If private gun ownership was banned in the USA, do you honestly think that criminals would not be able to get firearms?
Mike Kelly, USA



The real issue is what drives a six-year-old boy to kill a classmate.

Alex Stanway, England
Plenty of comments from English people ranting about how America needs to copy us and adopt strict gun laws. Our gun crime may well be lower than the US, but it's still at an all time high. Banning guns there would have the same effect it has here, pushing guns into the hands of criminals.
The much refereed to 'real issue' here is not why politicians won't confiscate guns off law abiding people, thank god they won't, the real issue is what drives a six-year-old boy to kill a class mate.
Alex Stanway, England

If only this was an isolated case, the US government could be excused from taking a back seat. Unfortunately, this is becoming rather a regular event. If adults cannot look after guns in a responsible manner, then it is up to the government to intervene and regulate/eliminate the use of guns.
I hear Americans cry about loss of liberty - but I ask you how many tragedies will it take to hear the voice of reason? I would rather LIVE in a regulated society than be KILLED in a "free" one. Guns kill - that's why they appeal to so many. They represent nothing but power. It's up to the government to readdress the balance between megalomania and life. Personally I value the latter.
Ben, UK

Rather than banning firearms or creating new laws, let's try something else that Clinton has avoided. Try enforcing the existing laws. Out of the hundreds of thousands Clinton says have been rejected by the Brady NICS check, there have only been a hand full of prosecutions - why?
Maybe Clinton is just giving lip service so he has an excuse for these new laws. As far as responsibility, our kids learn from the adults, what have they learned from Clinton, avoid responsibility at any cost.
Bob, USA

It is sad that the Americans can't see how dangerous it is to have such lax gun laws. The only solution is to have stringent restrictions on guns but alas the blinked gun lobby will never accept that.
Jason Thomas Williams, UK



Child safety locks are a band-aid solution that will do little to bring down the overall level of gun deaths in the US.

Nyegosh Dube, Poland
I find it absurd that the majority of Americans (and their political representatives) cannot get it through their heads that the only way to prevent future tragedies like this is to ban the private ownership of guns, especially handguns.
Child safety locks are a band-aid solution that will do little to bring down the overall level of gun deaths in the US. Waiting periods, licensing, and other such measures are further examples of non-solutions masquerading as solutions.
Nyegosh Dube, Poland

Many of the readers seem to think that crime rates, especially violent crime rates, are rising in the US. This is not true. Crime rates are falling, and have been falling for many years. Many States are enacting laws allowing people to own guns more easily, and to carry them for their own protection.
Compare this to England, Canada, and Australia, who recently either banned guns or at least strictly regulated civilian ownership. In all three cases, crime rates have RISEN immediately after the bans were enacted. In contrast, US States that allow concealed carry or relax laws on purchase/possession uniformly enjoy a drop in crime rates! If the aim is to lower crime rates, shouldn't we do what works?
Matthew, USA

All your life you think, America and the American dream and now I think, dream? Sounds more like a nightmare. Six-year-old children shooting each other is taking things too far. Sure the gun lobby is powerful but are peoples lives not more important?
Sonali, India.



I would rather keep my guns to defend my family than subject myself to an incompetent and corrupt government.

Steven, USA
First and foremost, you cannot "change" the culture. That is totalitarianism. The culture will be whatever the people lawfully decide. And the gun laws already in place (40,000 of them) cannot change irresponsible personal behaviour, nor remove the 200,000,000 guns currently in circulation.
All of you Brit utopianists who look down upon Americans as gun-loving nuts, keep in mind that freedom comes with a price. Second, you cannot legislate away acts of stupidity, and with a population of over 260 mil. and growing, there will be much more to come. I would rather keep my guns to defend my family than subject myself to an incompetent and corrupt government for the dream, which can never be achieved, of stopping all unfortunate accidents.
Steven, USA

This is a sick society. A gentleman in this forum expresses his anti-abortion feelings in defence of the right to own gun. The most troubling thing is if these ideas are exported to the rest of the world as it happens with American 'pop-culture'. Recently, a fourteen-year-old in Germany confessed that the 'actors' of a school shoot-out in US were her role-model and she was planning something similar. Can it be the reflection of 'American insecurity' to insist on owning a gun?
Tridiv, Germany/India

Reader Colin said "...if the public didn't have guns, they wouldn't need guns to protect themselves." Really? According to Gary Kleck, who conducted a comprehensive study of gun control and its affects on crime rates, found that guns are used to stop 2.5 million crimes each year.
In most cases, the gun is never fired; brandishing is sufficient to dissuade the criminal. Most of the criminals don't have guns. A gun is still the best defence against a large unarmed attacker, an attacker armed with a knife/club/sword, and a rapist.
Matthew, USA



It is child psychology to pick up things and use it. They don't always know the consequences.

Swati Biswas, USA
All the schools should have metal detectors, and there should be lot more control over the possession of guns by common people. It is child psychology to pick up things and use it. They don't always know the consequences.
The programs on TV sometimes also mislead them. There should be enough consciousness among the parents about how they are taking care of their kids.
Swati Biswas, USA

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. A gun is a tool, it is designed to kill. Gun's are not feather dusters, they are ugly and harmful. In Britain where ridiculous laws on gun ownership prevail, people still die on the business end of "illegal" handguns every year.
It would be nice to have the problem tackled instead of all this procrastination about the tools. No one is asking to have sales of B&O axes banned now are they?
Sion Beard, USA

David, US - how can you not see that this is a gun control issue? If you had effective forearm controls than the family of the child would not have been able to get hold of the gun in the first place. How can people be so blind as to desperately want to cling on to their "constitutional right to bear arms" when another American child is dead.
E Goat, England

While the shooting is a terrible tragedy, it should not reflect poorly on the millions of responsible gun owners who don't have accidents or problems of any sort in handling their weapons responsibly and safely.
C M Sanyk, USA

The gun problem will not be resolved because of this tragedy. Clinton's on his way out, so he won't be making a huge effort to change anything. The NRA will come out some idiotic excuse, telling us why this killing is not a reason for stricter gun laws, and the cowardly US politicians will swallow it for fear of upsetting such a powerful lobby.
Dave Roberts, UK

Yes, outlaw bullets.
Ernest Stephenson, UK

I think the solution is for the Americans to donate their guns to the British Army, to replace the current Army guns which don't work!
Allan M, UK

The shooting of this child greatly saddens me, so much life to live ended so abruptly. One child dead, both families and the other child's life ruined. What is it that the average American has to fear that they need to own firearms?
I will never understand that removing the right to gun ownership is a blow to civil liberty. I would have thought that the right to live in peace for all citizens without fear of being shot at is far more important and noble.
Mike Thomas, UK

If you buy a gun you have to use it. The purpose of a gun is to kill people. It's like buying a TV and never watching it.
Jonny, UK



The existing constitution needs to be buried and have a new constitution based on the needs of today's world.

Max, UK
Another tragedy, another round of "What did we do wrong?" in the US. The time has come for the politicians in the States to stop paying lip service to tougher laws and finally do it. The existing constitution needs to be buried and have a new constitution based on the needs of today's world, not that of 1787 needs to be created regardless of the protest within the USA. The question remains, is anyone in the US Government brave enough.
Max, UK

I don't even see how gun control comes into play in this case. Simply put, if the caretakers of the child had been more responsible and kept the gun in a safe place, this never would have happened. Whether child safety locks and whatnot really would've worked is really something you can't know.
David, US

Hand guns are made for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill another human being. They have absolutely no other use (and I reject out of hand the "target shooting sport" rubbish). This being so, what right do any of us have in taking the life of another without due process?
And by the way, I am not some goody-two-shoes liberal; I believe in the death penalty and meaningful jail terms. But allowing handguns to be as available as a loaf of bread is insane ... they are inevitably going to get into the hands of the young and the criminally inclined. What the hell does it take to wake our politicians up!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I am a young person who shoots, and how come in England pistols were banned and there was only one bad massacre in England and there has been lots of massacres in America and they still have pistols.
Tony, England



If you build safety locks into them what happens to older guns?

Daren, UK
Firstly, I'd like to say how deeply horrified I am by this most recent tragedy. Guns will never be safe, they're designed to kill things and destroy. That's what they're for, that's what they do, that's what they have done.
If you put them under lock and key, someone can pick it, if you build safety locks into them somebody can figure out the mechanism. (If you build safety locks into them what happens to older guns?)
A child of six may not have a fully developed sense of responsibility, so they should never have access to objects that require it.
Daren, UK

Speaking as a British ex-pat living in the US who also owns several rifles, I think that the means of keeping guns safe and out of the wrong hands has always existed. There are many ways to lock up weapons available from a simple padlock to elaborate gun safes.
Safety must always start with a responsible owner and gun owners that fail to keep their weapons out of the wrong hands should face the full measure of the law. I also think that the right wing nuts in the NRA do themselves no favours at all with their sometimes ridiculous policies!
G Welsby, USA



It is a feature of US culture that amazes the British - that a nation should force itself to retain the same archaic law as it had 200 years ago.

TIB, UK
One reader was quite right to say that this one incident cannot be expected to change the law on its own. But the law is nevertheless what caused the tragedy, so to get at the heart of the matter, I'd like to challenge anyone in the US to come up with a sensible, realistic and persuasive justification for gun-ownership in the States as it presently stands.
It is a feature of US culture that amazes the British - that a nation should force itself to retain the same archaic law as it had 200 years ago, when this law results in Washington having a homicide rate 17 times higher than that of London. It is insanity for a developed country in the year 2000 to freely allow gun ownership - or at best shockingly misguided idealism.
TIB, UK

Now this is interesting. According to Charlton Heston and the NRA "People kill people, not guns". Interestingly I've just read here on the beeb that no charges will brought against the child because "There is a presumption in law that a child ... is not criminally responsible and can't form an intent to kill".
So, Mr Heston - what was it that killed this six year-old girl?
Alex Parker, UK

Well as long as people in the USA are willing to accept the death toll, there is no problem. What if a few hundred kids die each year! As long as NRA-joe can enjoy a weekend of target shooting, in this country that it is perfectly acceptable! This is a society that has accepted the fact that in some schools kids have to enter through metal detectors.
They have accepted that one of the most common causes of death for kids/teens of certain minority groups are not natural (gunshots, abuse, etc). I guess they might need guns to protect themselves from their own police? I still don't understand why the right to bear arms is more important than the life of a single kid.
Javier Mesa, USA/Spain



I am aware of the deep connection between the right to bear arms and the preservation of liberty.

Malcolm Chisholm, USA
When I lived in the UK I thought firearms were better banned. Now that I have lived in the US for almost 20 years I am aware of the deep connection between the right to bear arms and the preservation of liberty. Children here are taught how a citizen army, largely self-armed, overthrew their rulers in the American Revolution.
There is no parallel in British history, although a number of British thinkers have realised that an armed populace is the surest defence against tyranny. In the US it is very difficult - philosophically - to explain to an individual law-abiding citizen that they do not have a right to own a gun.
Malcolm Chisholm, USA

An increasingly violent culture, coupled with free access to weaponry, means tragedies such as this will continue to happen: Change the culture or remove the guns from circulation¿it's as simple as that.
Stu, UK



Before I would take any of her kids overnight or for the day, I bought a gun safe and ensured that all firearms and munitions where locked up.

Matthew Kozak, USA
I am a legal gun-owner and I am outraged over our legal system and the parents of the boy. The parents of the boy should be held responsible for their lack of care in storing a firearm. I do not have any children myself but my sister has four, before I would take any of her kids overnight or for the day, I bought a gun safe and ensured that all firearms and munitions where locked up taking the responsibility of owning firearms.
If the parents of that boy would of done the same this would never have happened so under this circumstance they should be prosecuted and sorry stupidity in no excuse for letting a child have access to a gun and ammunition.
Matthew Kozak, USA

America: it's time to face reality and get a grip. You don't need guns and you don't have a right to guns. I hope this girl's death is the catalyst for change.
WGS, UK

Live by the gun
Die by the gun
They can't have any complaints in the USA...the world's "greatest" democracy continues to suffer from it's own doing...Stupid is as stupid does !!!!!!!!!
Jonathan, Denmark



There is no constitutional right to 'own bullets' which are in themselves not a firearm.

Andy Mayer, UK
One intriguing solution to the impasse in the American gun debate between the constitution and common sense is the notion of banning ammunition. Any credible attempt to ban firearms always hits the 2nd amendment firewall of the 'right to bear arms'. There is however no constitutional right to 'own bullets' which are in themselves not a firearm.
By all means let the NRA and other childish gun nuts keep their assault rifles and other inadequacy crutches but not the bullets. If nothing else, it'll certainly boost the scrap metal industry.
Andy Mayer, UK

This will no doubt be used by the anti-gun lobby as yet another excuse to ramp up their gun-control propaganda. The answer in this case, as in so many others, is education not legislation. But that doesn't have the media-friendly, emotional bite of "we're doing this for the sake of the children!", does it? When people start to talk about banning things, be worried, be very worried.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire UK

After the last round of shootings I remember reading that a child was more likely to be killed by a gun in the US than in any other country not actively engaged in civil war. I wonder what else has to happen before the American people stand up to the NRA. The only way to fight big business is with your wallets. Stop buying these weapons and their manufacturers will listen soon enough. Then there's only the massive number of weapons already in circulation that has to be dealt with!
Richard, UK



There have been more gun laws passed in the past 5 years then the past 200 years, but more kid-killing-kids are taking place.

Tredd Barton, USA
First, Clinton is hardly the spokesman for America citizens on the views of American's freedom. No other president has ever restricted the right to own guns as much as Clinton, and has it helped? A resounding NO. There have been more gun laws passed in the past 5 years then the past 200 years, but more kid-killing-kids are taking place. Why? There is a total lack of responsibility for ones action then ever before.
Has anyone checked out the murder rate in Texas and Florida lately? Way down, uhm, I wonder why? This person who killed a classmate should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and in Michigan, he can be tried as an adult. I would also prosecute his guardians if that is where he got the gun from.
Guns have always been available in American. Guns are not the problem in America, the moral decay of society and responsibility for ones action is.
Tredd Barton, USA

The president's suggestions will make little difference in country where gun culture is so ingrained.
Jon, UK



Why do we always have to learn the hardest way possible?

Bob, UK
If only the same amount of lobbying and the same amount of money could be spent on protecting people from guns instead of just protecting the guns, America would be a much happier place. Why do we always have to learn the hardest way possible?
Bob, UK

President Clinton's proposals have nothing to do with reducing violence, and everything to do with pricing guns out of reach of poor, law abiding citizens, which describes about 90% of gun laws throughout history. If Clinton was really interested in reducing gun violence, he would stop sabotaging enforcement of existing gun laws, which have been proven to be extremely effective when used properly.
Nathan, USA

The Gun was designed for one single purpose - To KILL. There must be something seriously wrong with a society that allows a six-year-old to get his hands on a gun. Possession of weapons should be outlawed. Guns for sporting use should only be kept and used at registered establishments. It's a sad world we are living in when something like this happens.
Toby, UK



The right to have guns, is synonymous to killing.

Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria
The United States should not shy away from big issue like "National Disarmament". "Child safety locks" won't do. I would rather propose a nation-wide ban on guns. There are limits to freedom of "Choice". The right to have guns, is synonymous to killing. May God Bless the Children of America!
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

It is time for the US gun lobby to understand that the fundamental human right to life takes precedence over the verbally-manipulated constitutional right to carry firearms.
If the US Drug Enforcement Agency is entrusted with wide-ranging powers with billions of dollars to safeguard the US citizens from the perceived dangers of Afghan poppies, Colombian cocaine or Myanmar drugs, it should not be too difficult for the US Congress to enact legislation to safeguard US citizens from the psychopaths of the Rifle Association.
Mohan Singh, India





It's time to rip up the part of the constitution which proclaims everyone's right to bear arms. How many more tragedies like this will it take?

Marco, UK
How did a six year old get hold of a gun in the first place? The child can't be held responsible and I don't think for any second that he should, but whoever was irresponsible enough to allow the gun into the boy's possession is guilty of manslaughter at the very least.
This is a tragedy of the highest degree but now we can hope that finally the US will move into the 21st century and bring in some sensible firearm law. It's time to rip up the part of the constitution which proclaims everyone's right to bear arms. How many more tragedies like this will it take?
Marco, UK

We had a similar debate on talking point last time there was a classroom shooting in America. If they don't want to help themselves by passing tougher laws on gun control then I for one am sick of hearing about their "anguish" when yet another child dies from gunshot wounds. They've made their bed - let them lie in it.
Kate, UK

I wonder what this will blamed on? Video games, movies, lack of Christian morals or parental control? I'll bet whatever it is blamed on it won't be the lack of gun control in the US.
Mark Davies, UK



I believe the problem is not guns but the attitude in the modern world.

Gulielmus Avis, USA
The right to own guns in the US has existed since the founding of the country. It has only been recently that children have been killing children in school with guns. I believe the problem is not guns but the attitude in the modern world which has now seeped into our children's psyche.
Children know that in the US if a mother does not want her child she may kill him with impunity (abortion). Therefore it does not surprise me that children now have claimed the right to kill their classmates if the classmates do not please them.
Gulielmus Avis, USA

Guns are machines made for one purpose only: to hurt others. We live in a society where they are tolerated and where children watch their heroes on the big screen shooting aliens, baddies and so forth. I think we have a responsibility to our children to ensure that this kind of event never happens again.
We all have this duty: politicians have to pass tougher gun laws, parents have to teach their children that guns are dangerous and have a responsibility to ensure that any guns they possess are placed in a secure place, where children cannot gain access to them. And society in general has to push for reforms in the media.
Selena Zafar, England



If the public didn't have guns, they wouldn't need guns to protect themselves.

Colin, Netherlands
Maybe Americans need to ask themselves why they still have guns. Tradition, history, constitution on one side, self-protection on another, but to what ends. If the public didn't have guns, they wouldn't need guns to protect themselves.
One thing is consistent, politicians can say how sorry they are, say time for change, gaining immediate support, but making political change... no chance, soundbites are more important than action.
Colin, Netherlands

Exactly how many deaths will it take before something is done? Clinton just does not have the bottle to annoy people with much needed restrictions, especially as an election is imminent.
Dave Eyrl, UK



Gun crimes have always occurred, the difference is we now get to hear of them.

Cheryl, England
In light of an innocent 6 year old girl being the victim this may sound cruel, but you can't change the American Constitution on this issue now. When it was written I am sure there were occurrences of 'accidents' or 'mad shootings' it just seems more shocking now because we get to hear about them through the media.
Two hundred years ago only the people in the next town or village would have learnt of the incident. I don't think the gun issue is getting worse, gun crimes have always occurred, the difference is we now get to hear of them.
Cheryl, England

Americans are simply burying their heads in the sand whilst they bury their children. Killing your future is not the sign of a progressive culture only an aggressive one.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

The pro-gun lobby in the US has always defended the right of Americans to own guns. But what about the rights of all those people who've died as a result? Americans preach to other countries about human rights, but they should practice what they preach - abolish the death penalty and impose stringent gun control.
David, England

I might be missing the point, but guns aren't really supposed to be safe (c.f. guns liberally distributed to soldiers during armed conflict).
John Adlington, Belgium (ex. pat. UK)



In any school in Britain this incident would have ended in, at worst, a fight which could be broken up easily with few consequences.

CSR, UK
People will always lose their temper, go mad, or seek retribution. Access to guns gives those people the ability to cause a lot of damage in a short space of time. We can't change the way people react to situations, but we can remove the ability to cause such damage by removing guns from society. In any school in Britain this incident would have ended in, at worst, a fight which could be broken up easily with few consequences.
CSR, UK

Never will there be such a thing as a safe gun, a gun was designed as a killing machine and will continue to do so. If a child gets hold of a gun the inquisitive nature of the young puts not only the child at risk but everyone around them.
Guns should not be allowed in the home unless they are locked away safe from young hands. A gun is the responsibility of the owner, the retailer and the government, let's try to do something about stray guns and make the world a safer place - there is enough suffering without carelessness adding to it!
Tim Cope, UK

Is there such a thing as a safe gun? Of course there is. All guns are safe until they get into the hand of a human being. The most effective safety catch there is the one between our ears. Any idea that mechanical devices will remove the problem is an exercise in futility!
N.Wareham, UK

This is yet another tragedy and once more the US authorities refuse to face reality. Bill Clinton talks of child proof locks on guns! Is it still not yet clear that to have guns so widely available is the problem. As long as US gun laws are as slack as they currently are this trend for school killings will only continue. Forget the "we're entitled to carry arms" argument. It isn't worth the number of lives it costs.
Lee Mason, UK

There is no such thing as a safe gun, period. I know it's a cliché to say "this can only happen in America", but where else could a 6 year old child have ready access to a loaded gun, not to mention being able to take it to a primary school? The Columbine tragedy should have taught the pro-gun legislators a thing or two, but it seems it hasn't - yet. How many more school shootings would make them sit back and think?
Nic, England

Guns are dangerous weapons. America needs to rethink its ethos on the right to bear arms. A gun in the wrong hands is a recipe for disaster. If you must have a weapon then make sure you are properly trained and treat it with respect, not as a plaything.
Doreen Boyd, UK

The only question that should be asked is "How did an unsupervised 6-yr old kid get hold of a firearm?" Outside of that, there is little anybody else could do to prevent this. Unfortunately, the gun control "nuts" have been exploiting this sad situation to advance their naive political agenda. In my home state of Texas, we have a law that states that any household with dependants 17 years old or younger must have its firearms secured-preventing access to them by kids.

Unfortunately, only a handful of states have that regulation. Michigan does not have this regulation currently. If it did... you could immediately go after the homeowner. As far as I can see, that's the best we can do without infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans to keep and bear arms.
Kyle M. Tate, USA

Obviously the boy's parents should take responsibility. How did a six-year-old get hold of a gun. How did he know how to load it, take off the safety catch and fire it without having been taught? And who is responsible for teaching a child that violence is the answer to a quarrel? The media? Who's responsible for what he is allowed to watch? Why won't people take responsibility for their own actions/inactions? Everyone seems to want to blame someone else, or some government body. My deepest sympathies to everyone involved in this tragedy, especially the little girl's family.
Pat, UK

Child safety locks for a generation of children that can program VCRs and surf the internet? Yeah, that'll work. Could it be that the people most in support of these sorts of suggestions are the gun suppliers themselves. People buy new guns with safety locks, safety locks become obsolete because children can pick them, people have to more new guns with safety locks, etc, etc. Clinton is trying to please everyone and not help the people who need it. Simple fact - less guns equals less risk. Work it out.
Ben, UK



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