Tragedy in California

School shooting: A gun in the hands of a troubled teen-ager is a roadmap to disaster.

March 07, 2001

GUNS DON'T KILL people. People kill people."

Tell that to the parents of the two high school students who died Monday in Santee, Calif.

Certainly, there's plenty of blame to go around: The alleged assailant had made threats that his peers seemed to take seriously -- but not seriously enough to alert their parents or authorities.

At least one adult, interviewed on national television, indicated that he was aware of the 15-year-old freshman's boast that he planned to shoot up his school. He, too, failed to act.

Inevitably, as San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst pointed out, the overriding question in the community is "Why?"

The how of the tragedy also deserves examination -- just as it did two years ago after the episode of school violence in Colorado and following other such incidents around the country.

How did a troubled teen-ager get his hands on the weapon he used against his classmates? President Bush called Monday's shootings "a disgraceful act of cowardice." It's more than that, though. Such episodes may be difficult to predict and their prevention is subject to no easy answers.

But working harder to keep guns out of the hands of young people seems like a no-brainer. Taking a fresh look at ways to do that -- despite his stated opposition to expanded gun control -- would be one thing the new president could do for his country.

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