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Campus Shootings Draw World Scrutiny
By PAISLEY DODDS
LONDON â€" Expressions of sympathy rang out from Buckingham Palace to Beijing as the world absorbed the news of yet another deadly shooting rampage in the United States and questions grew over how such violence could break out yet again and whether lax U.S. gun laws are a case of freedom gone too far.
Criticism echoed across Europe where gun laws are some of the toughest in the world.
The front pages of the British national newspapers in London Tuesday April 17, 2007 covering the shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia USA. A gunman fatally shot 32 people in a dorm and a classroom Monday.
"Only the names change â€" And the numbers," read a headline in the Times of London.
Two professors from India and Israel were among the dead at the Virginia Tech shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history.
Liviu Librescu, 75, an engineering science and mathematics lecturer, tried to stop the gunman from entering his classroom by blocking the door before he was fatally shot, his son said Tuesday from Tel Aviv, Israel.
"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview of his father, who immigrated to Israel from Romania, and was on sabbatical in Virginia.
Indian-born G.V. Loganathan, 51, a lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was also among the dead, his brother G.V. Palanivel told Indian media.
"We all feel like we have had an electric shock, we do not know what to do," Palanivel said of his brother.
Few were surprised by the shooting â€" criticizing the availability of guns in the United States, lax gun controls and the number of Americans who cling to the constitutional right that allows them to bear arms.
"I think if this does prompt a serious and reflective debate on gun issues and gun law in the states then some good may come from this woeful tragedy," said British Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1982 with a degree in political science.
Gun crime is rare in Britain, and handguns are completely illegal. The ban is so strictly enforced that Britain's Olympic pistol shooting team is barred from practicing in its own country.
Britain's 46 homicides involving firearms was the lowest total since the late 1980s. New York City, with 8 million people compared to 53 million in England and Wales, recorded at least 579 homicides last year.
Prime Minister Tony Blair offered his condolences to the victims' families but stopped short of criticizing U.S. gun laws.
"I would like to express on behalf of Britain and the British people our profound sadness at what has happened and to send the American people and most especially, of course, the families of the victims, our sympathy and our prayers," Blair said.
In Sweden, civilians can only get firearm permits if they have a hunting license or are members of a shooting club approved by authorities and have no history of violent crime.
"What exactly triggered the massacre in Virginia is unclear but the fundamental reason is often the perpetrator's psychological problems in combination with access to weapons," Swedish daily Goteborgs-Posten commented.
In Germany, where gun-control laws are strict, a teenager in 2002 shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer at Erfurt's Gutenberg high school. The shooter was gun club member licensed to own weapons. The attack led Germany to raise the age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21.
"The instant I saw the pictures and heard the commentary it immediately brought back our own experience," Gutenberg high school director Christiane Alt said of the Virginia Tech killings.
Monday's shootings drew intense media coverage in China, in part because the school has a relatively large Chinese student body and because U.S. reports said the gunman may have been Asian.
Private citizens are forbidden from owning guns in China.
"People should think why an American-educated student would take revenge against America?" said a comment posted on the popular Internet portal Sohu.com.
Only 7 percent of the more than 26,000 students at Virginia Tech are foreign, according to the school web site. But Chinese undergraduate and graduate students comprise nearly a third of that.
In Italy, there are three types of licenses for gun ownership: for personal safety, target practice and skeet shooting, and hunting. Authorization is granted by the police. To obtain a gun for personal safety, the owner must be an adult and have a "valid" reason.
Several Italian graduate students at Virginia Tech recounted how they barricaded themselves inside a geology department building not far from the scene of the shooting.
"If the guns are harder to get a hold of, fewer people will do it," said Michael Dent, a 65-year-old construction worker in London. "You can't walk up to a supermarket or shop and buy a gun like in the States."
Associated Press Writers Charles Hutzler, Alexandru Alexe, Raphael Satter, Robert Barr, Karl Ritter, Nicole Winfield, Gavin Rabinowitz, Alex Braun and Courtney French contributed to this report.