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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK


Teachers 'should pack pistols'

The aftermath of the shootings at Westside Middle School

Radical proposals to improve school security in the United States are being suggested as two boys have been convicted for gunning down four classmates and a teacher.

Mitchell Johnson, 14, and 12-year-old Andrew Golden have been convicted of gunning down four schoolmates and a teacher in the town of Jonesboro, Arkansas and sentenced to an indefinite period in a juvenile detention centre.

Another teacher and a further nine pupils were wounded in the attack on 24 March when they were lured from the building by a false fire alarm and ambushed.

At the University of Chicago, academic John Lott, who has just concluded the largest ever study of US crime statistics, believes "visible deterrence" is the way to prevent further such attacks.

Mr Lott believes that teachers should be given firearms training and should carry guns in school.

In the Arkansas capital of Little Rock, the state's Republican governor, Mike Huckabee, rejects Lott's concept of visible deterrence.

"Putting guns in the hands of teachers is going back to the Wild West," he says.

"What are we thinking of, making the essential kit for the day chalk, notebook and 45-calibre pistol?"

Death penalty call

The two boys were tried as juveniles and as a consequence could not be sentenced to life or condemned to death.

Suzanne Wilson's 11-year-old daughter Brittney died in the Westside shootings.

She is calling for the law on juvenile killers to be changed.

"Five years is not justice for ending someone's life," she says. "It's a slap in the face to say five years."

Four hundred miles away, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Republican congressman Mitchell Kaye has gained national exposure for taking the concept of deterrence further.

"Anyone who commits a violent crime should be treated as an adult even if that means the death penalty," he says.

Governor Huckabee is opposed to the use of the death penalty for children.

He says a bill has already been introduced to abolish the juvenile age limit, allowing children who kill to go to prison for up to 40 years, and he wants to lead a wider debate about the causes of juvenile crime.

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