Shooting revives US gun debate


Summary

President George W Bush led expressions of dismay saying he was "shocked and saddened" by the shooting rampage that left at least 33 dead and many more wounded at a university in Virginia.

VIDEO: mobile phone footage

"Schools should be places of safety, and sanctuary, and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community," President Bush said in a brief statement.

Chilling anniversary

The massacre came almost eight years to the day after the shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado, in which 15 people were killed, and six months after six people including the gunman died at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.

"Since these killings, we've done nothing as a country to end gun violence in our schools and communities," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement.

"If anything, we've made it easier to access powerful weapons," he said. "It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur."

Virginia's governor, Timothy Kaine, was cutting short a visit to Japan and said "it is difficult to comprehend senseless violence on this scale."

University president Charles Steger said they had received expressions of sympathy from around the world, but Gerard Toal, a professor at Virginia Tech, said the incident would deeply affect the staff and more than 28,000 students.

"This is a profound event obviously and it's one that will shake at the core of the university," he said.

Campus 'gun culture' blamed

The shooting came ahead of the busy exam season, when many students struggled to cope. "There's a lot of pressure on people, we're all feeling the pressure," he said. "Obviously the scale of this is shocking."

"You're dealing with the state of Virginia where there is a strong gun culture and you're dealing with a campus environment," he said. "There are lots of guns around on campus because there is a corps of cadets."

Virginia Tech is one of a few universities with a military training program.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the "horror this unprecedented carnage inflicts on our entire nation is unfathomable" as students in the University of Miami prepared to hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday for the victims.

Tighter gun control urged

Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said such shootings cast a dark shadow over the entire country.

"We still live in a society where gun violence is an overriding concern," he said. "We've had a series of these high-profile, very violent shootings that have taken a lot of victims."

His organisation campaigns for "sensible" gun laws, focusing on closing loopholes that allow people to get hold of weapons without background checks.

Helen Stubbs, associate director of the Higher Education Centre, which helps schools tackle violence and drugs on campus, said it was difficult for campuses to have watertight security because they were often so spread out.

US High schools, which often feature metal detectors at entrances, were more contained environments where security could be better monitored, she said.

Ian Ehrenberg, whose company Nice Vision specialises in school surveillance systems, said the shooting proved that there was insufficient security on some school campuses.

"I expect colleges and campuses in the US to increase their security systems after this horrible incident," he said.


President George W Bush led expressions of dismay saying he was "shocked and saddened" by the shooting rampage that left at least 33 dead and many more wounded at a university in Virginia.

VIDEO: mobile phone footage

"Schools should be places of safety, and sanctuary, and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community," President Bush said in a brief statement.

Chilling anniversary

The massacre came almost eight years to the day after the shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado, in which 15 people were killed, and six months after six people including the gunman died at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.

"Since these killings, we've done nothing as a country to end gun violence in our schools and communities," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement.

"If anything, we've made it easier to access powerful weapons," he said. "It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur."

Virginia's governor, Timothy Kaine, was cutting short a visit to Japan and said "it is difficult to comprehend senseless violence on this scale."

University president Charles Steger said they had received expressions of sympathy from around the world, but Gerard Toal, a professor at Virginia Tech, said the incident would deeply affect the staff and more than 28,000 students.

"This is a profound event obviously and it's one that will shake at the core of the university," he said.

Campus 'gun culture' blamed

The shooting came ahead of the busy exam season, when many students struggled to cope. "There's a lot of pressure on people, we're all feeling the pressure," he said. "Obviously the scale of this is shocking."

"You're dealing with the state of Virginia where there is a strong gun culture and you're dealing with a campus environment," he said. "There are lots of guns around on campus because there is a corps of cadets."

Virginia Tech is one of a few universities with a military training program.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the "horror this unprecedented carnage inflicts on our entire nation is unfathomable" as students in the University of Miami prepared to hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday for the victims.

Tighter gun control urged

Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said such shootings cast a dark shadow over the entire country.

"We still live in a society where gun violence is an overriding concern," he said. "We've had a series of these high-profile, very violent shootings that have taken a lot of victims."

His organisation campaigns for "sensible" gun laws, focusing on closing loopholes that allow people to get hold of weapons without background checks.

Helen Stubbs, associate director of the Higher Education Centre, which helps schools tackle violence and drugs on campus, said it was difficult for campuses to have watertight security because they were often so spread out.

US High schools, which often feature metal detectors at entrances, were more contained environments where security could be better monitored, she said.

Ian Ehrenberg, whose company Nice Vision specialises in school surveillance systems, said the shooting proved that there was insufficient security on some school campuses.

"I expect colleges and campuses in the US to increase their security systems after this horrible incident," he said.