The World Reacts to Virginia Tech Massacre and Asks Why

The tragedy at Virginia Tech University was front-page news around the globe. ABC News reporters pulled together this summary of reactions and coverage from their bureaus.

Britain: Will This End 'America's Love Affair with Guns'?

The Virginia Tech massacre is getting wall-to-wall coverage on cable news channels and is on the front page of every single newspaper.

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"Massacre on Campus" reads the headline in the Independent, under a photo of a wounded girl being carried by two police officers. Inside there is a map of the campus and a minute-by-minute account of the tragedy as it unfolded.

There is also an article in which a question, which is being posed repeatedly, is asked: "Will this terrible day in Virginia be enough to dent America's love affair with guns?" The answer, most here acknowledge, is probably no … but that doesn't stop it from being asked. Britain adopted some of the toughest gun control regulations after Thomas Hamilton walked into a gym at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland 11 years ago, killing 16 children and their teacher.

So strict is the law that even the U.K. Olympic pistol shooting team must practice abroad.

The Times ran the most contentious editorial, written by its U.S. editor. He argues that U.S. gun culture is perhaps the strongest element to distinguish the United States from other Western democracies, and looks at why the gun culture is so prevalent in the United States. He concludes that Americans themselves don't want to give up the freedom to carry a gun — and yesterday's horrific events will not change that.

"It's so familiar you could write the script yourself. Only the names change — Jonesboro, Columbine, Lancaster County and now Virginia Tech. And the numbers."

"The simple truth is that Americans themselves remain unwilling to take drastic measures to restrict gun availability. This is rooted deep in the American belief in individual freedom and a powerful suspicion of government."

"The sheer scale of the carnage yesterday may after all make the Blacksburg killings truly unique in American history. That will doubtless lead to more self-examination and perhaps calls for new restrictions on firearms. But it won't change America's deep-rooted and sometimes lethal commitment to its own freedoms."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed the concern of world leaders across the globe. "Like everyone," he said, "I am deeply shocked at the loss of innocent lives at the Virginia Tech college. I would like to express on behalf of the British people our profound sadness and to send the American people and of course families of the victims our sympathy and prayers."

Prime Minister Blair refused to be drawn into questioning whether the United States should reconsider its gun laws.

Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying that the queen "was shocked and saddened to hear of the news of the shooting in Virginia." Both the queen and Prince Philip are due to pay a visit to Virginia on May 3-4 as part of their first official trip to America in 16 years. They will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the English settlement at Jamestown.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said, "Can I first say how appalled everyone is by the terrible news from Virginia. Our deepest sympathy and our condolences of course go to that community and to all of those whose families are directly affected."

British Home Office Minister Tony McNulty studied at Virginia Tech during the early 1980s, and returned to the university two weeks ago. In an interview with BBC Radio Five Live, he said, "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."

France: Responsibility Lies With Congress and the White House

The midday newscast of France 2 opened with the news of the shooting, which took up the first 10 minutes of the broadcast. They had an on-location correspondent, and interviewed American journalist Ted Stanger about the easy access to guns in the United States, and discussed whether this tragedy would bring about any changes to the existing gun laws.

Le Parisien dedicated its front page (and parts of pages two and three) to the shooting. The paper's headline read "Massacre at the University" and the following pages included a recap of the day's events, an interview with a criminologist as well as the testimony of 23-year-old French student Valerie Grand, who was on campus during the shooting, and hid for hours in a lab awaiting clearance.

The Liberation newspaper showed a picture of cops carrying an injured student from the campus, with the headline "33 Dead at the University of Virginia." The paper also devoted pages 6 and 7 to reporting the day's events and publishing witness testimony from the campus.

The newspaper, Le Figaro, published a small picture with the headline, "Massacre in an American university" on its front page. They devoted page 3 to the day's events with two articles: a report titled "Carnage at the American University of Virginia Tech", and an editorial headlined, "This Violent America, in the name of its Rights," which read as follows:

"The NRA, powerful firearm's lobby, is making every effort to neutralize any thought of prohibiting the carrying of firearms. … 29,000 people are killed every year by a firearm in the U.S. … There were 410 murders in 2006 in Philly, almost as many as in France. The most tangible explanation comes from the number of weapons in circulation: 65 million guns and rifles are legally owned by 40 percent of American households. … The problem with America with firearms constitutes a political stake which is bound to the responsibility of the elected members of Congress and the White House."

French President, Jacques Chirac, issued a communiqué saying he was horrified and distressed to learn of the shootings at Virginia Tech. He offered President Bush, the families of the victims and the American people his most heartfelt condolences and his total solidarity, both personally and on behalf of the French people.

Germany: A Good Enough Reason to Reconsider Gun Ownership?

It's leading the news here -- not a single German newscast has gone by without informing the audience about the terrible massacre in Blacksburg, Va. Newspaper headlines and front pages expressed shock and horror over the terrible news.

ZDF TV anchorwoman, Hannelore Fischer, said on lunchtime news, "Almost 24 hours after the tragedy happened, people still can't believe what happened and why it happened." ZDF coverage continued with live coverage from Blacksburg, Va.

It did not take long for Fischer to raise the question of gun control and whether the United States might consider tightening it. "Every year some 30,000 people are killed in the U.S. in incidents involving fire arms that are readily available. Should this not be a good enough reason for the U.S. to consider tightening the law and reconsider gun ownership rules and regulations?"

Newspapers, such as Die Welt and Sueddeutsche Zeitung didn't shy away from asking, "Why does America still have guns? Why is it so easy to have a gun in America?"

"Shocking -- Bloodbath at US University -- Man Runs Amok, 32 Fatalities" read the banner headline on today's front page of the German tabloid Bild Zeitung.

"It's shocking: Attacker shoots at least 32 people and injures 56, he shot at everything that moved before he killed himself." The paper also showed a picture of a professor, who apparently was killed while he threw himself in front of the attacker trying to save his students' lives. "He's the Blacksburg Hero, Professor Saved His Students' Lives," the caption reads.

The terrible events in Blacksburg, Va., had a special impact on students and teachers at Darmstadt Technical University in Darmstadt, a sister university of Va. Tech.

Jochen Buchmann, Darmstadt University Vice President, immediately sent an e-mail expressing his condolences to the families of those affected, "I cannot find words for what was happening and I want to offer any assistance of TU Darmstadt. If you need any help, please let us know. We share your mourning and we are with you in this very hard time. Please be assured about our sympathies."

Another professor at Darmstadt University, Manfred Hampe, who has been lecturing in Blacksburg, told, "I've been to Blacksburg often, it always felt peaceful, it's been such a peaceful community there, it is hard to imagine anything like this happening there."

One of his students, Steffen Sachs, whose father is teaching as a guest professor in Blacksburg this year, said, "I got very worried when I first heard about this, but fortunately my dad is well. I'm truly upset by what happened and my thoughts are with the families."

Germany has a fairly strict gun control law and yet, almost five years ago, Germany experienced its worst school shooting in history, which shocked the nation.

Eighteen people died on April 26, 2002, when an expelled former pupil went on a shooting spree at his school in the eastern German city of Erfurt. The gunman took his own life after the shooting spree, when commandos finally stormed the building.

Italy: 'A Story So Profoundly American'

All the papers here dedicated at least the first two pages to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. University. Most of the papers highlight the ease of purchasing arms and the subsequent quantity of weapons in the United States.

The Corriere della Sera's headline read "Massacre in the Campus, America in Shock" and ran an editorial titled, "U.S., arms and the power of the lobby. Guns bought in the supermarket."

Il Messaggero ran an editorial that strongly criticized America's gun law.

" … It has been known for years in Hollywood that if you show a gun, sooner or later it will shoot. It seemed like America had understood this for a while but nothing changed. Except America. Columbine happened before September 11. Blacksburg happens in a world devoured by fear. … Weapons continue to circulate, in a country obsequious to a constitutional right which is jealously guarded in that part of the world. Yes. This news from Blacksburg is a story so profoundly American for once one wants to feel a shiver of satisfaction thinking of our country [Italy]; It has its problems but at least people are still only worried about whether to allow cell phones into schools … not about machine guns."

Pope Benedict XVI delivered a message of condolence to the victims, their families and the entire community via the Bishop of Richmond, His Excellency Francis Xavier DiLorenzo.

He wrote, "In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, he asks God our father to console all those who mourn and to grant them that spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love."

Spain: American Schools Becoming 'Battlegrounds'

Spain's most-read paper El Pais dedicates its first three pages to the massacre. It says that these killing are likely to unleash a new national debate over the possession of firearms, its dangers and its limits.

El Mundo describes Virginia Tech as "A Place More Cursed Than Columbine." The paper laments the spread of such violence in America, saying that university campuses and schools are being turned into "battle grounds." The paper also ran an editorial by a psychiatrist who tried to explain the mind of the killer.

Russia: Readers Say Guns Too Readily Available in America

Radio stations and television channels reported the Virginia Tech tragedy all day step by step from early morning. The three major channels being ORT, RTR NTV and Russia Today, the Kremlin English speaking channel carried it as the top story all day.

Most channels gave a history of similar incidents in America, and stated that this is likely to once again raise the issue of America's gun laws and if they should be reformed

Russia Today showed President Bush's speech responding to the tragedy.

The vast majority of newspapers carried it as front page news, expressing sympathy with the victims.

The Izvestia website carried a survey asking readers:

"Why are these mass killing in schools and colleges happening in America?" The results were:

27 percent: Guns are too readily available in America. 47 percent: Aggression is part and parcel of the American way of life. 22 percent: There are mad people everywhere. 4 percent: The authorities and police do not know how to combat this problem.

Some editorials mused on the state of humanity in today's society. One paper commented that such a disaster could have happened anywhere in the world.

Israel: Professor Who Survived Holocaust Hailed As Hero

The shock reached half way round the world to Israel, where an Israeli citizen, Va. Tech professor Liviu Librescu is being hailed as a hero.

Librescu, 75, had been teaching at Virginia Tech for more than two decades. He was a widely published mechanical engineer and highly popular lecturer at the school. One of his students says the shooter tried to enter the class and Librescu stayed behind to block the door and save the students. He was killed by the gunman.

His wife, Marlena Librescu, was informed by phone that her husband was injured. She searched for him in several local hospitals but was unable to find him. Later she learned that he had been killed.

Students have been sending e-mails to his wife detailing his heroic act. Librescu was born in Romania. He survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel in 1978.

He moved to Virginia in 1986. His sons are now trying to bring his body back to Israel to be buried.

Iran Expresses Condolences

Iran publicly condemned the killings.

In a statement issued today, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini condemned the killings and expressed his condolences to the United States and the families of the victims.

"Killing innocent people, irrespective of their race and nationality, is contrary to divine and human values no matter which group or person carries out such an act under any name," the statement said.

India: Democracy Is Not a License to Carry a Gun

In India, the Minister of External Affairs, Anand Sharma described the shooting incident at Virginia Tech as "shocking" and "a terrible tragedy."

The two leading news networks, NDTV and CNN-IBN led with the story of the Virginia Tech massacre.

With 700 Indian students at Virginia Tech, interest in the event continues to be high, following the news that Indian professor, G. V. Loganathan, 51, was among the victims.

His brother, Palanivel Loganathan, was interviewed by reporters with the Press Trust of India in Tamil Nadu, and said: "For us it was like an electric shock. We've totally collapsed today. Our parents are elderly and have broken down completely".

Since Loganathan's parents have no passports, the Indian authorities have been approached to help them make the journey to Virginia, where the professor wished to be laid to rest.

Concern continues to be high in the country as new reports say 21-year-old Indian student, Minal Panchal is among the missing.

Bloggers at and the Indian Web portal, commented on the gun culture in the United States:

S.A. Srinivasa Sarma wrote: "The shooting incident clearly indicates that democracy cannot be a freedom and licence for carrying guns and killing people."

Jignesh Vashi wrote: "As long as there are no tough gun control laws there and the gun lobby headed by Bush is allowed to have its way such incidents cannot be avoided."

Australia: Gun Culture Is 'Such a Negative' in the United States

In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard expressed his sympathy with the families of the victims at Virginia Tech. But he also expressed a rare difference of opinion with President Bush, a staunch political ally, when he noted that tougher gun laws could have prevented such a tragedy from taking place.

"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," he said.

Howard was responsible for the tough gun laws in Australia, established 11 years ago after a gunman went on one of the world's deadliest killing sprees at a Tasmanian tourist resort, leaving 35 people dead.

Asia: U.S. Gun Culture Shocking and Difficult to Understand

News of the horror didn't reach Asian audiences until the evening news reports. Because of the time difference, the story was still developing and still incomplete in the morning papers.

The reports on local news stations in Hong Kong and other major Asian cities lacked major independent reporting. They were almost completely dependent on agency, cable, and U.S. network reports.

Nearly all Asian reports, however, did point out the sad history of mass shootings on American campuses, from the University of Texas to Columbine and others. There was clearly an undertone of shock and revulsion with America's gun culture, as nearly all reports pointed out that President Bush reiterated his belief that all Americans have the right to own weapons.

This is expected to be a focus of editorials in Hong Kong in the morning. Most Asian societies, where firearms in the hands of civilians are forbidden, or strictly limited, do not understand the "gun culture" in America. Outside of civil wars and a wave of terrorism in some parts of Asia, violent crimes among civilians using guns are rare in most Asian cultures -- (the Philippines, a former American colony, being a notable exception). Mass shootings and murders using guns are not unheard of in Asia, but are still extremely rare. (As I write this, I've just heard that the Mayor of Nagasaki in Japan has been shot … this is amazing … but still VERY RARE).

When the initial speculation began that it could have been a Chinese gunman a spokesman for the foreign ministry was quick to point out that the story had not been confirmed, and went on to publicly offer his condolences to the students and faculty of Virginia Tech.

The government of China sent a formal letter of condolence to the United States. Meanwhile, the speculation about a "Chinese suspect" was widely disseminated on the Internet today. The Web is the dominant source of news for young people in Asia, and Chinese student blogs and chat rooms not only expressed revulsion, they expressed concern about how Chinese students might be viewed in the future. There was clearly concern that the shooting (if it turns out to be a Chinese student) could negatively impact other Chinese students applying for student visas in the months to come.

The news of the Virginia Tech shooting travelled quickly to Japan, making headlines across the country. All major Japanese television stations carried live reports out of Virginia. Many questioned the level of security at the school.

Although no Japanese student was hurt in this particular incident, the news concerned many families here as the United States is a popular destination for Japanese students seeking higher education. More than 38,000 Japanese students are currently studying in America.

South Korea: Concern Over International Relations

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officially announced that the shooter is a permanent resident, which means he has a green card, but holds South Korean nationality. The ministry noted the gunman immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1992.

"We express our indescribable condolence to the victims of this shooting. … The government is working on safety policies for the Korean Americans in case of emergency. We are closely cooperating with the local Korean American community and the authorities."

South Korea's largest newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports that the South Korean government is concerned that this incident might have a serious negative effect on South Korean-U.S. relations.

Some comments reported on its Web site include:

"I'm in shock and can't believe a Korean could be that cruel."

"I'm worried about our fellow Koreans studying abroad. What if Americans start boycotting Korean made products?"

Some were also concerned that the U.S. embassy may not give out student visas because of this.

South Korean television news (YTN and MBC) also mentioned "the fact that Cho is a Korean should not be overplayed by the media. He's been living in the States starting in 1992. This was a personal matter. It should not involve the Koreans as a whole."

Cho Byung-je the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "We here in Korea also were very much shocked at the horrific incident and we Korean people and the Korean government would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the victims and bereaved families of the American people.

President Roh Moo-Hyun is likely to make an announcement of condolence in the morning.

Joohee Cho, Fabiola Antezana, Phoebe Natanson, Anne Wise, Christophe Schpoliansky, Christel Kucharz, Mark Litke, Noriko Namiki, Ammu Kannampilly, Jean Fievet, Zoe Magee, Linda Albin, Alexander Nadezhdina, Tomek Rolski, Wilf Dinnick, Bruno Nota, Afshin Abtahi all contributed to this report.