Today's Papers

School’s Outrage

War overseas takes a backseat to war at home as everybody leads with the massacre by gun and bomb of as many as 25 students and staff at a high school in Littleton, Colorado. The episode trapped hundreds of students in the school for four hours. Two students suspected of the crime were found dead in the school library; they’d apparently shot themselves. The New York Times says their bodies and those of several of their victims appeared to have been wired with explosives. Everybody reports that the two were members of the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” an outcast clique. All the coverage notes that this episode is the worst in a string of school shootings in recent years. The most searing quote comes from a young female survivor on CNN and is passed along by both the NYT and Los Angeles Times: “Everyone around me got shot and I begged him for ten minutes not to shoot me.” The tragedy produces dramatic photos for everybody’s fronts, with perhaps the most compelling on the LAT’s: a tight shot of a student overwhelmed by emotion.

USAT implies that there might have been others involved besides the dead gunmen, and says that a third student was taken into custody by police. The LAT says that student is not suspected of being an accomplice, but is a source of information on the two dead suspects. The NYT says that two other students, thought to be friends of the dead gunmen, are in custody.

The coverage includes emerging details about the “Trenchcoat Mafia.” USA Today says the group numbered approximately 12 students, and that they affected swastikas on dark clothes, and talked about Hitler a lot. The LAT and USAT note that yesterday was Hitler’s birthday. The Washington Post quotes a student saying that the group’s members were white supremacists. The WP and both Times report that the shooters targeted minorities and athletes. The NYT says that the students wore long black coats regardless of the weather, favoring the Gothic look popularized by Marilyn Manson. Both Times say this meant sometimes attending school in white face makeup. The WP says that school officials were aware of the group before yesterday.

Both the WP and LAT note that the Colorado state legislature is now debating whether to increase the availability of concealed weapons permits. Neither President Clinton nor the governor of Colorado mentioned gun control in their remarks yesterday about Littleton, but the NYT editorial page concludes that the shootings “are a grim reminder that guns are still too readily available.”

While NATO isn’t committed to ground fighting in Yugoslavia just yet, the Wall Street Journal reports that the alliance is planning to discuss whether it needs to consider preparing for using them. Got that?

With the war news moved mostly below the fold, the news that February saw a record U.S. trade deficit is buried inside.

The Journal runs a front-page feature describing how a leading gun distributor uses telemarketing techniques of the sort associated with Mary Kay to increase weapons sales to gun dealers. The story makes a point of mentioning that there is no indication that telemarketing was involved in the sale of any of the guns used in the school shootings. That comment seems a bit forced at this point. Today’s Papers rather doubts that the Journal has fully investigated the retail pedigree of all the weapons involved and so to make this comment in a news story without such evidence is merely to go the extra mile for the 2nd Amendment.

Follow-up: According to Aerospace Daily and various other publications–but not the major dailies–the Pentagon has in fact revealed what magnification binoculars its pilots are using: 9X. Which means that NATO pilots are trying to do good truck/bad truck sorting from a distance of more than five football fields.

The WP’s Al Kamen reports that some members of Congress are so dedicated to studying the Y2K problem that despite two postponements, they were able to pry themselves out of Washington to travel to Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii to do so. The baseline cost to taxpayers just for the Air Force plane they used was half a million dollars. Fortunately, these public servants were able to devise a way to reduce the cost per passenger–they brought their wives along.