Atlanta Gunman Kills Twelve, Then Himself

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This time it wasnít a school in an upscale suburban community but an office park in an upscale section of a major city. At midafternoon on Thursday a gunman opened fire in two buildings in the posh Buckhead section of northeast Atlanta. Ambulances raced to the scene, police swarmed the buildings, and soon authorities began to confirm the worst. By late afternoon, Mayor Bill Campbell announced that nine people had been killed in the two buildings. The suspect, Mark O. Barton, 44, a former customer of a stock day-trading firm, later killed himself after being cornered by police at a north Georgia gas station. In addition to the killings at the office park, Barton is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of his wife and two children, whose bodies were found in an apartment in suburban Henry County. Those killings happened before the Buckhead shootings.

"Once again somebody with a gun has apparently taken out their frustrations on innocent people," says TIME Atlanta correspondent Sylvester Monroe. "Whoever the suspect turns out to be, the shootings canít help but add fuel to the nationís gun debate." That the latest tragedy occured in Atlanta adds a new local twist to the already very hot national argument. "Guns are a way of life down here," says Monroe, "and gun ownership is almost a given." Yet, he points out, Atlanta is one of several cities around the nation that are currently suing gun manufacturers for the havoc and costs that criminal gun activity inflict on municipalities. What happens next politically on guns in Atlanta, could provide some clues for the larger fate of gun control nationally.