Atlanta Shootings: Yet another massacre, and a shocked nation asks: Just why did he do it?

AS THE United States reeled from the second mass shooting in three months, police turned up as many questions as answers as they tried to find out why Mark Barton shot nine people dead in two Atlanta brokerage houses after earlier killing his wife and two children at their suburban home.

And across the country the debate was rejoined about the prevalence of guns and the urgency, or not, of imposing tougher control.

A murderous Thursday in the bustling financial district of Atlanta had appeared to end with the suicide of Barton after he was stopped by police as he drove through the city's prosperous northern district of Cobb County, just hours after the shooting spree.

Even as he was apprehended, however, police had discovered the bodies of his family, his wife and two children, hammered to death in their home in a southern suburb of the city.

The authorities had also accessed Barton's police record, and unearthed reports about the hacking and beating to death of his former wife and mother-in-law six years before in the neighbouring state of Alabama - a crime that had never been solved.

Attention yesterday though, focused on the discovery of the bodies of his wife and two children at their flat in Stockbridge, and the release by police of a note left in the flat, and signed by Barton. The note made no direct reference to any plans for slaughter in the brokerage houses, but contained an oblique threat to people who, he said, had tried to destroy him. "I don't plan to live very much longer," Barton had written, "just long enough to kill ... the people that greedily sought my destruction."

He said he had killed the children, Matthew aged 11, and Elizabeth Mychelle, aged 8, to spare them the pain of living as orphans. Using a hammer, he said, "just seemed like a polite way to kill and a relatively painless way to die. There was little pain. All of them were dead in less than five minutes."

Police also disclosed that Barton's 27-year-old wife, Leigh Ann, had been killed on Wednesday evening, and her body hidden in a wardrobe to conceal it from the children. They were killed the following day, their bodies placed in the bath before being laid in their beds. A toy was placed on the body of each child.

Twelve people remained in hospital yesterday, seven of them in critical condition, being treated for injuries sustained in the attack on the two brokerage firms, All-Tech Investment Group and Momentum.

It also emerged that not all the dead or injured were shot. Some were hurt in desperate attempts to flee the gunman, who was firing at random across third-floor offices with windows that were sealed.

In the political arena, the shootings at the two brokerage houses prompted a resumption of the furious debate on gun control that had erupted after the multiple killings at Columbine High School in Colorado in April. President Clinton, who was in Sarajevo for the international conference on rebuilding Kosovo, issued a brief statement expressing his sorrow at this latest outbreak of shooting violence in America. Vice-President Al Gore was quick to offer the Atlanta authorities all the federal resources they might need in their investigation.

Both Mr Clinton and Mr Gore have been staunch supporters of stricter gun controls and Mr Gore last month cast the deciding vote in a tied Senate to approve additional checks on gun-purchasers.

The following week, however, the House of Representatives rejected new legislation after intensive lobbying by the National Rifle Association and congressmen representing mainly rural constituencies in the South, where the Second Amendment of the Constitution, the right to bear arms, is interpreted as a licence to carry all varieties of guns for personal defence as well as hunting.

Yesterday, Representative Nita Lowey, a Democrat from New York, said that the Atlanta tragedy "highlights once again how important it is that we enact meaningful gun safety legislation. The American people are demanding action."

A number of yesterday's US newspapers, however, did their utmost to bring gun control back into the forefront of national concern. "Latest senseless slaughter screams for serious gun debate," said the lead editorial in USA Today, the American newspaper that comes closest to being a national daily.

It was not clear, the paper said, how Barton had obtained his weapons, but the point is that more innocent people are gun-dead.

"And, as their names are added to the list of gun victims that will total 30,000 or more by year's end by accident or intent, it is possible to understand the growing public unrest with the failure of lawmakers to enact unified, comprehensive controls. This is a public-safety issue."

On the Internet, however, opinion was more evenly represented, with many contributors arguing for more guns rather than less.

If only one person in that office block had had a gun and opened fire on the killer, they insisted, fewer people would have lost their lives.

Even before the Atlanta shootings, the gun-control issue was already edging its way back into Congress. Yesterday the House was expected to name its members of a special committee being formed to consider firearms legislation with a view to getting the Bill rejected by the House last month on to the statute book in some form or other by autumn.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

News
The Bounceway, designed by Architecture for Humanity
newsLondon to add 'The Bounceway' to commuting options
Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
tech
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - IT Outsourcing - £70,000 OTE

£30000 - £40000 per annum + £70,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen / Interiors Designer - Maternity Cover

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company with a fast ...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Sales Counter Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This Market Leading Kitchen and joinery suppli...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Carpenter / Carpentry

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior Carpenter / Carpentry ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital