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Monday, April 16, 2007

U.S. Gun Laws

U.S. Gun Laws Draw Heat After Massacre

The Virginia Tech shootings sparked criticism of U.S. gun control laws around the world Tuesday. Editorials lashed out at the availability of weapons, and the leader of Australia - one of America's closest allies - declared that America's gun culture was costing lives.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the government hoped Monday's shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."

While some focused blame only on the gunman, world opinion over U.S. gun laws was almost unanimous: Access to weapons increases the probability of shootings. There was no sympathy for the view that more guns would have saved lives by enabling students to shoot the assailant.

"We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who staked his political career on promoting tough gun laws after a gunman went on one of the world's deadliest killing sprees 11 years ago. The tragedy in a Tasmanian tourist resort left 35 people dead. Afterward, Australia's gun laws were changed to prohibit automatic weapons and handguns and toughen licensing and storage restrictions.

Handguns are also banned in Britain - a prohibition that forces even the country's Olympic pistol shooting team from practicing on its own soil.

In Sweden, civilians can acquire firearm permits only if they have a hunting license or are members of a shooting club and have no criminal record. In Italy, people must have a valid reason for wanting one.

Firearms are forbidden for private Chinese citizens.

Still, leaders from Britain, Germany, Mexico, China, Afghanistan and France stopped short of criticizing President Bush or U.S. gun laws when they offered sympathies to the families of Monday's victims.

Editorials were less diplomatic.

"Only the names change - And the numbers," read a headline in the Times of London. "Why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?"

The French daily Le Monde said the regularity of mass shootings across the Atlantic was a blotch on America's image.

In Mexico, radio commentators criticized the availability of firearms in the U.S. Others renewed Mexico's complaint that most guns in Mexico are smuggled in from the United States.

The killings led newspapers' front pages, with Mexico City's Dario Monitor reporting: "Terror returns to the U.S.: 32 assassinated on university campus." The tabloid Metro compared Mexico's death toll Monday from drug violence to the number of people killed at Virginia Tech, in a front-page headline that read: "U.S. 33, Mexico 20." - AP.