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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 14, 2001 PIDP/CPIS)---Individuals caught with any form of weapon in school or on school grounds will be subject to severe punishment under a proposed law now before the territorial House of Representatives.

The legislation was introduced by representatives Fagasoaia Lealaitafea and Savali Talavou Ale.

Rep. Lealaitafea said the recent deadly shootings at schools across the United States prompted him and Rep. Savali to introduce the legislation.

Rep. Lealaitafea also noted with concern the number of students who have lived off-island and moved back to the territory. He said such students may have brought back "undesirable ideas."

"This is a preventative measure," he added.

He said that there already have been several local incidents involving students and others carrying guns onto school grounds.

"It’s time to implement new laws to protect students from other students and from outsiders," he added.

The proposed law states that "it is unlawful for any person to have in possession any kind of arms or prohibited weapons at anytime in school or on school campus grounds."

Exceptions are made for police officers, or any person summoned by the police to assist in making arrests or preserving the peace while actually engaged in assisting an officer.

Also exempt are members of the Armed Forces or ROTC while performing their official duties.

Violation of the proposed law is a Class B felony, calling for prison terms of not less than 5 years and not more than 15 years.

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