- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

It wasn't supposed to happen. Not in Europe, not in Germany. Maybe in America teen-agers shoot their teachers and other students. But in Germany, where only 15,000 private citizens are allowed to own guns in a country of nearly 80 million, such an incident seemed impossible.
Such was the sentiment of German officials in response to a school shooting in Erfurt that left 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a policeman dead. Edmund Stoiber, Bavaria's conservative candidate for chancellor, called for a clamp-down on violent video games and violent media, calling the shooting the "worst crime in post-war German history." The Greens called for stricter gun control laws. But now that the impossible has happened, no parliament could have the power to console in the face of a loss this great.
The gunman, Robert Steinhaeuser, lived in a stately house near the center of the city with his parents and grandparents. His father worked for one of Germany's biggest companies, Siemens. When he applied for his gun license last June, the city found no irregularities on his record. Yet Robert, who failed his final exams last May, one month before he applied for his gun license, was expelled from his school in October for truancy and forging absentee notes. He then transferred to another school but dropped out by November. His parents, who wished him good luck the morning his original school had final exams last Friday, say they never knew he was expelled.
The rampage was months in the making. He warned several students not to be there on Friday. He trained to be a marksman at two gun clubs and had a permit for both the pistol, which he shot 40 times during the rampage, and the pump-action shotgun he had strapped to his back.
Residents of Vlasenica, Bosnia, were just as shocked when a 17-year-old shot two teachers on Monday and then killed himself the first school shooting ever in Bosnia. The International Herald Tribune listed other cities where gun-toting students had turned quiet offices and school rooms into bloodbaths: Nanterre and Tourcoing, France; Zug, Switzerland; the Netherlands. Slowly, Europe is having to open its eyes to the reality of increasing school violence.
In Erfurt, hope came in the form of a 60-year-old history teacher who risked being killed himself and stopped the rampage by locking the young gunman in a classroom.
"Let us transform our horror into strength, our suffering into understanding and our pain into love," said a sign in front of Erfurt's town hall. America mourns with Germany for the tragedy of lives lost.

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