Today's Hot Topic: Making Sense of Virginia Tech

Gun Control and Campus Safety: The WaPo argues that the nation should update its gun control laws after the Virginia Tech shootings, but admits that reform is unlikely to happen because of the gun lobby's influence and money. So instead, the editors write, Americans should "examine what can be done to deter, prevent or impede the recurrent episodes of deadly violence that afflict American campuses," and encourages school officials to "improve communications systems so the great majority of students, faculty and staff can be quickly alerted in the event of threats of violence and other emergencies" ... in the WSJ, David Kopel argues that university gun bans make campuses "attractive havens for mass killers": "Virginia Tech's policy only made the killer safer," he writes, "for it was only the law-abiding victims, and not the criminal, who were prevented from having guns" ... while the editors of the WSJ admit that "as a general rule" they "are not among those who think college students, of all people, should be advised to add guns to the books in their backpacks," they also argue that "any gun control crusade is doomed to fail anyway in a country like the U.S. with some 200 million weapons already in private hands" ... USA Today thinks that the lesson to be learned from this week's shootings is that "universities, no matter how big, must be able to quickly warn all their students of a life-threatening emergency," adding that "e-mail, text messages and other technologies" could provide the means.


The Rush to Analyze: WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson urges us to refrain from quick attempts to "make sense" of the Virginia Tech killings: "Don't try to make those involved into archetypes -- the gun-wielding loner, the valiant young heroes, the dithering college officials -- and fit them into a familiar, comfortable narrative. Don't rush to draw lessons about guns or alienation or funding for mental health services. Not yet" ... USA Today condemns advocacy groups on both sides of the gun control debate for "exploiting the tragedy as "proof" of the rightness of their side": "The impulse to score instant political points from tragedies might be natural, but it is also unseemly," the editors argue.

Cho Seung Hui: WaPo columnist Richard Cohen argues that the case of Cho Seung Hui illustrates a worrisome trend for modern society: Madmen's access to destructive technology -- like high-powered weapons -- is only increasing, and there is not much society can do about it ... in the LAT, Edward Taehan Chang explains his reaction to the shootings from a Korean-American perspective: "As someone of Korean ancestry, I feel a cultural connection and almost a moral responsibility for his actions. Many in the Korean community are already mourning the very idea that a Korean is responsible for these senseless deaths" ... USA Today wonders if the tragedy could have been averted "if Virginia Tech had put in place a more elaborate system for spotting problem students": "In Cho's case, the red flags were waving as briskly as Monday's winds," the editors write, but "involuntarily confining anyone for fear of what he might do, much less for the way he expresses himself in writing, is extraordinarily difficult, and for obvious reasons, it should be."

By Rob Anderson |  April 18, 2007; 6:44 AM ET
Previous: Today's Columns: The Strongest Case for Barack Obama | Next: Cross Country: More on Virginia Tech, Iraq

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



From my knowledge of what was posted on the news and other online sites, the English Chair at the University took notice to some of the "destructive" papers he was writing, reported them, and then put in to have him ordered for therapy. He denied, that's all the school could do. They tried to take action to help him but he wouldn't comply.

Posted by: Andy Horne | April 18, 2007 07:21 AM

I wish that it were possible to make sense out of nonsense, but it isn't. I agree with USA TODAY's belief that we should not rush to proclaim this tragedy as proof of anything other than that random acts of violence cannot be avoided especially if a shooter is willing to trade his life for another. I believe the PA governor made such a statement after the shootings at the Amish school last year.

Posted by: Mike Daniel | April 18, 2007 08:26 AM

About Gun Control and the Right to Bear Arms:

As Schools are easy targets, so are shopping centers, and urban areas. When having liberal laws about lethal weapons, are these circumstances accounted for and in their accounting, do these laws indirectly suggest that we should all then carry guns for our personal protection.

If this is the case, then how do local law officials and the police determine who is shooting in self defense, as opposed to one who is not ? Simply should the law be all or nothing, or should they be more conservative where guns are legal.

Americas history has in it the Kentucky long rifle, but does this mean that our history must also demonstrate negligent laws ?

You do not have to be a Constitutional Lawyer, to read the very clear English in the United States Constitution. But yet it can lead to confusion for law makers and judicial bodies.

In terms of the right to have guns as a personal possession, Amendment 2 is often referenced, but not Amendment 10. Whats more, Amendment 4 can also be considered part of this as well.

I see Amendment 2 for having a totally different purpose in that it is intended to serve the security of a State, where Amendment 10 enables 'Ad Hoc' laws to be realized.

Amendment 2- Right to Bear Arms "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. "

When I read this, I look at the terms 'Regulate, Militia , Security, State " as being the conditions for the "right to bear arms" .

The Amendment appears to intend that for the' Security of a State, that a well Regulated Militia' is called for, which during the times of the drafting of the Constitution, the people made up such militias.

Todays State Militias are the National Guard. This is supposed to be there only purpose. This is who I would want to see protecting our borders, and our ports, and when in full deployment nationally are quite capable of doing so for our Homeland Security.

I do not see Amendment 2 stating that we as a people may collect guns at will for the sake of collecting guns.

Amendment 10 , I would think can be used to make a stronger case for both pro and anti gun advocates. This is because it leaves it to State Law.

Amendment 10 - Powers of the State and People "The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people".

This Amendment enables each State to form its own laws. This allows Virginia to even allow a transient to purchase a 50 Caliber rifle, where New York State does not have to oblige this law.

So with a little imagination, the Constitution's Amendment 2 can likewise serve as a limitation to Amendment 10's latitude for having making laws. For the sake of argument, as a State, through Amendment 10 can allow one to have any kind of weapon, Amendment 2 then calls for the State Militia to prevent this from being a threat.

We can appease our desires for guns , and respect the laws of other States for not allowing them, and yet not have one infringe on the other. In each case, the State in question has to live with the consequences of its laws.

Guns for the Good Citizen: Personally I have no issue with people wishing to have guns in wide open spaces, but in heavily congested urban areas, I do. In fact the very concern of needing a well regulated militia can be called for in the case of Urban riots.

Here is what I mean. People should have the right to collect all the guns they want if that is what their lives amount to be, but it is not something for one's place as part of a sustained society. As much as Amendment 4 allows us our privacy, this is where our personal lives belong; and not in public.

For example, in a congested urban area, or even in a crowded subway, there would be more collateral damage if we all pulled our guns in the name of the good when thinking that another had pulled theirs. Hence, I would never advocate that students such as Virginia Tech arm themselves, as it would be pandemonium to all run around with our registered concealed weapons and mounting paranoia.

Do we have a mind set for this in the first place when considering road rage ? We live in a highly complex society, where this has to be accounted for when we all have our own little beefs.

For my own beef, in being located 10 blocks north of ground zero, I had actually looked for the local militia on 9 /11 as it looked like an invasion. I wanted to know if they were adopting a citizens unit. With my family at stak e with ashes and death all around us, I also looked at anyone, and I mean anyone to see what was in their eyes, an d what their hands were doing. It was instinct, and did not require thought. This is not a way to live, and let l ive; but is in a war zone.

Realistically, although we cannot control anything, we can manage things. With our young, we do have the opportunity as parents to help shape their views. Part of moral courage that I have taught my children is to live and let live, and help to foster that as a sustained way of life. That is regardless of their experience in 9/11 where instincts are required.

Live and let live, is also a fleeting reality if not regarded highly. To serve the people in our highly complex society, our laws must demonstrate this.


In Retrospect ,


Orion Karl Daley
Presidential Candidate for 2008
for the Strategic Future of our country
Balanced Party

Posted by: Orion Unity2008.org | April 18, 2007 08:43 AM

The answer is'nt more gun control laws.Like was said befor'it was the law abiding students that were killed,it was'nt the criminal'.College campuses need more awareness training,a higher ability to communicate to everyone in case of an emergency,emergency training,and tighter security.In high schools in larger cities they have more securty systems in place than I've seen in any college campus.What ever happened to dorm inspections,dorm mothers and rules?How about metal detectors in the entrance of parking lots for those who live off campus or for the dorms entrance ways?Security should not be approached as a punishment,it should be approached as a way of life.

Posted by: Diane Morris | April 18, 2007 08:49 AM

There seem to be a few things missing in the discussion.

Many campuses have evolved into small cities, and thus have all the same problems a small city might have. They have their own Buildings, their own governance, there own municipal services. Sometimes thay have their own hospitals. NPR reports that on a yearly basis, there are roughly 17,000 reported violent crimes on campuses nation wide, which is shocking, but not really surprising when you consider larger schools as small cities.

However, when gun advocates propose open gun policies on campuses, they must surely be forgetting prevolent campus culture and behavior. We all know drinking seems to be prevolent and even attractive on campuses. Students are also at the peak of physical shape and gumption. That does not sound like the type of atmosphere where you want to introduce an escalation of fire power. Doing so sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Secondly, I think we as Americans simply have to admit that we live in a more violent society than most. We do not like to admit this. But we are a country always at war. We attack nations who never attacked us. We reward violence in entertainment as shown by the success of violent movies and TV shows. We do whatever we can to assure that people have a right to access to instruments of destruction. We fund a lot of weapon research in the ideas that we are being peaceful. We ignore violence in inner cities that happens on a daily basis. Inner city violence is not even news.

Their will be no solution until we admit who we really are as a society. Then we can decide what we really want to do about it.

all the best
jerry h
www.peacedrum.org

Posted by: Jerry H | April 18, 2007 09:37 AM

We should bear in mind that EVERY mass killing that has taken place occurred in a "Gun Free" environment where the law- abiding victims had no effective means to defend themselves. If guns are the problem why are not mass killings and attempted mass killings taking place in police stations, shooting clubs, NRA conferences, gunshows, and even military units? The shooters select environments where they are confident no body will return fire. That does not mean everyone should be armed. We have plenty of retired law enforcement officers, trained and qualified firearms people, who should be allowed to carry firearms (concealed or otherwise). The possibility of armed citizens on the planes that struck the twin towers and the pentagon would certainly have given the terrorists second thoughts about the viability of their missions. Furthermore, we should realize that the police CANNOT protect us. They simply can respond to an incident (witness Virginia Tech). What is the justification for not allowing our citizens to defend themselves? The law abiding gun owners who leave their firearms at home simply become victims when assaulted by shooters in public areas where guns "aren't allowed".

Posted by: Kevin Hanley | April 18, 2007 09:43 AM

This sort of tragedy is occuring all too frequently in the U.S. Rather than the endless debates on gun control, screening systems and "precrime profiling" its time to start an national campaign aimed at teaching people what to do when trapped by a mad man with a gun. It could be conducted by the Office of Homeland Security. The military teaches its personnel how to react in an ambush,the airlines teach their passengers how to respond in an emergency, even NYC has the slogan, "if you see something say something" posted everywhere in multiple languages. I know it's easier said than done, but if we could get one or two to attack the gunman instead of panicking perhaps lives could be saved. It may even give "copy cat crazies" something to think about. It's not so easy to shoot accurately and reload when people are comming at you. This is the kind of problem that doesn't have a legislative solution.

Posted by: d. kidd | April 18, 2007 09:55 AM

What silliness most of the commentary on the Virginia Tech tragedy seems. Only the rationally impaired could conclude anything other than that guns are the problem.

Charles Dukes
Frederick, Maryland

Posted by: Charles Dukes | April 18, 2007 10:19 AM

Gun Crimes Editorial - Its about money, Stupid

So gun rights groups think people are going to come bang down their door and take their guns. Gun control advocates think politicians will do the right thing and limit who should and should not purchase guns. Politicians want to silence the issue it with a long barreled sniper rifle. The National Rifle Association says it's your right to own guns. Well, it really wasn't an issue until the Civil War gun manufacturers found out that the war was over and they didn't have nearly the market that they were used to anymore. The rest is advertising and constitutional spin.

They try to scare you in so many words that some day the Government might become so authoritarian that you'll need to keep them in check. They don't overtly state it, but its there between the lines. Hmm, didn't they support what is perceived as the most authoritarian President in recent U.S. history? Ah, there's that advertising again. It's your right to shoot a duck out of the sky with as many bullets per second as you can let loose. Right, that's what this is all about. Maybe its about criminals. They have guns and you should too. Well, if they didn't have the guns, you wouldn't feel that you needed one, would you?

National politicians say let the States handle the issue. Local politicians say it should be a Federal regulation. Everyone is looking elsewhere to solve this problem. It is a problem, isn't it? People use guns to kill other people. Problem is, the NRA has its gun money so deep into politics that they get what they want: no or little movement on the issue.

Let's look at the VA Tech situation. You have a young man who appears to be mentally disturbed. The police are aware of it. The school is aware of it. Some psychiatrist is aware of it (he was taking mediation for depression, right?). Yet, he was permitted to buy a gun. Even if Virginia kept a database and restricted sales within its borders, he could go to another state or a gun show to buy the gun. Just like national registry for sex offenders, there should be national laws to govern these dangerous materials. There are for chemicals, but people aren't squirting vats of chemicals at people even though they are available at any supply store. But guns, which can be more dangerous and portable don't really have many Federal regulations to offer states a consistency of protections.

Should cocaine be legal in one state and not another? No, the Federal government stepped in with national drug laws. But guns kill more people. Ah, but there isn't a cocaine lobby palming politicians, is there?

So, the problem is obvious, don't you think? Severe Campaign Finance Reform. What? Money? As long as groups like the gun lobby, aka 'special interests', sway opinions with money, you have people in a position of responsibility and power NOT doing what is in the interests of its citizens. It's a very _simple_ equation that leads to deadly consequences. You know the old saying, 'money talks'. So what are we going to do about it? Elect politicians that will move to severely limit the impact of money on elected officials. Over time, the rest should take care of itself.

Posted by: JR in Colorado | April 18, 2007 10:54 AM

More gun laws won't prevent something like this. Calls for arming the student body are even more silly. However, if a state allows concealed carry, and a student or faculty member jumps through the appropriate administrative hoops to legally carry a weapon, there is no reason they should be denied their means for self-protection while on a college campus. If only one person in that building had the means and the motivation to stop that gunman, it is likely that many would have been saved. Regardless, law enforcement must become much more aggressive in dealing with these types of situations. I'm really tired of seeing well armed police, usually with body armor, hiding behind trees while people are being shot. Without highly responsive and aggressive police action to protect the public, any calls for any reasonable gun control lose most of their traction.

Posted by: GBS | April 18, 2007 12:59 PM

I don't get this guns don't kill people retoric! Yes people pull the trigger, but if there were no trigger to pull...
The problem with everybody having a gun is that everybody has a gun-including the mentally ill, those who have problems with anger management, bullies,etc. Also, before you can legally drive a car, you have to take a test and get a liscense to show you know the rules of the road and how to operate the thing! No such rules for a gun! SO there's no requirement that the person who buys one knows how to use it or can hit the broad side of a barn!
Someone in an earlier post compared the number of gun related deaths to cancer, car accidents, malpractice; Gun related are the only ones on the list that are totally preventable.

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 01:31 PM

As a man nearing his ninetieth birthday, I know that I have seen this kind of tragedy many times before and have read the kind of useless comments that usually follow. Many try to "make sense" of what is, after all a senseless affair. The perpetrator was a certified nut case and nothing that anyone might have done in advance could have averted the tragedy. It is possible,of course, that very much stricter gun laws might have prevented him from obtaining the weapons he used, but given the tremendous division on the subject of these laws in the U.S. that is highly conjectural. So, I don't attempt to make sense of something so senseless.
What raises my ire is the whole bunch of politicians who have utilized this tragedy to appear shocked, horrified, and prostrate with grief. George W. Bush, for example, was quick to respond with completely ersatz sympathy, given the fact that he was elected in part on a platform and by a party wedded to the notion that gun laws are both useless and unconstitutional. He is, of course, responsible for many thousands more deaths than the relative handful killed at Virginia Tech and killed just as senselessly.

Posted by: C. M. Proctor | April 18, 2007 03:29 PM

The strangest thing about this whole Tragedy, and the comments made about the Shooter is that if his School work was so worthless, and he was such a poor Student, How did he pass his Test and get passing Grades to stay in School?

Everybody that the News Media talked to indicated that he said few words, or had almost no Conversation. When I went to School I had to get up in Class, and make a Speech, or the Teacher would ask me a question, and I had to respond orally, or else I got negative marks in my personal folder that would have an effect on my final grade.

So all of this stuff these people are now talking about don't make much sense, because if it did, he would have flunked out long time ago, and been expelled. That's the way School works. So the News Media should be asking the Question, why didn't he get kicked out of School?

leart2

Posted by: leart2 | April 18, 2007 04:02 PM

Thank you to everyone who mentioned the issue of gun control- and I agree whole-heartedly that we should not have guns so readily available for people to just kill other people.

Don't you think that it's interesting, howerver, that we get this big hullabaloo on the front of the NY Times and in a little corner is mentioned the death of 171 Iraqis due to a bomb going off in the marketplace. Why must we place the value of certain lives above others?

Posted by: pen.llewellyn | April 18, 2007 05:02 PM

I'd propose that instead of arguing about what is not going to happen, very strict gun control. We should instead look toward things that we can all get behind and make work better than the most draconian gun control laws.

Wouldn't the hundreds of millions of dollars, man hours, and energy, that would be spent "registering" all gun owners and guns, be better spent on mental health, education, and economic development? Really now?

If all the guns dissolved tomorrow, not a single one remained. Poverty, mental illness, loneliness, despair, drug abuse, ignorance, and worst of all, violent crime, would flourish unchanged.

We are not a violent people in the United States. Contrary to what the press and those screaming the loudest about this, in a country where over 80 million people own firearms, usually a few each, there is nowhere near the crime some would have you believe.

This was an awful, horrible tragedy. Some say it could be prevented by stricter laws, and would experiment with various laws and policies until eventually the guns would all be gone. That is the stated intention and policy of many people. That is exactly where the dogged refusal to compromise further among gun rights activitists comes from. They've seen this before.

Prior to the National Firearms Act in 1937, it was possible to order a fully automatic Thompson .45 caliber submachine gun, through the Sears & Roebuck catelog. My, we've come a long ways in our compromises. Bazookas were in fact, legal to own. Explosives were not regulated either... nitorglycerine, cannon... no laws regulating possession or use.

Alcohol was banned during the prohibition. Bugsy Malone and company formed gangs and smuggled liquor. They fought over territory, and in the process, chose the "Tommy Gun" as the "gangsters' weapon of choice."

Valentine's Day Massacre? National Firearms Act, goobye machine guns. Strict licensing requirements after 1937, and banned from further production and importation in 1986 by none other than the first George Bush. Until 1986, they were still be imported, made and sold, with a license, to the public.

Thirty or so years later, along comes the civil unrest of the 1960's, Vietnam War, racial conflicts... assassinations. Gun Control Act of 1968, "compromise". Gone, no more mail order firearms. Form 4473 to be filled out by every firearms purchaser in a licensed shop. Age limits on firearms established... 18 for rifles and shotguns, ammunition... 21 for handguns and ammunition.

Another 30 years passes, and what do we have? Drug gang wars... amazing. Now, instead of actual machine guns, we have semi automatic copies of machine guns being, the "gang's weapon of choice". Even though they were never used in more than 1-2 percent of any crimes, they had to be banned. Now, instead of an honest person being taken at his work on Form 4473, we have National Instant Check System. After spending millions of dollars and man hours establishing the system, we can not tell the difference between John Stewart the dirtbag in Washington state from John Stewart the upstanding citizen in Portland, Maine. So, John Stewart gets refused a gun purchase and has to go through hell to prove he's "not that John Stewart". Millions of dollars, wasted.

They claim to have prevented over 300,000 people from getting a firearm since firing this thing up. One question. Where are the 300,000 felony convictions for lying on Form 4473, and trying to purchase a firearm? If the refusals were legitimate and the people trying to purchase were in fact disqualified they lied on the form. The form has to be completed and signed before the call is made to NICS. If they are disqualified, the phone call is never made. If they lied, the committed a felony.

Use the laws already on the books, enforce them. Do not come back screaming for more, because it won't work. We know it won't work. We told you it wouldn't work. What you propose now won't work.

In closing. It's highly ironic that VT just dealt with the issue of concealed weapons permit holders carrying on campus. They disciplined a student for carrying a firearm a short time ago. The legislature met and voted on a measure to over rule the VT board and allow permit holders to carry on campus. The legislature failed to approve the measure, and VT's policy remained that to be caught with a gun on campus is an expellable offense.

We're not talking about hypotheticals here now. We've had an awful tragedy, and this is an important issue and question.

Might this have been stopped by another student, if they had been allowed to have a concealed weapon in accordance with their legally obtained permit? Do you really think the people killed and injured here should not have had the right and ability to defend themselves? Knowing that madmen cannot be denied the means of mayhem, you would still deny peaceable and law abiding people the means of self-defense?

Stunning. Truly stunning.

Yes, I know... "irrational", "idiot", "moron", "closed minded", "intolerant", "dumbass", "paranoid" oops... forgot one... "radical".

Yep... I suppose that is what passes for "reasonable and civil debate" in the liberal gun control crowd. Shoot your own mouth off, then malign and impugn the character and intelligence of anyone who dares question the Left Wing Liberal Thought Monopoly.

I'll debate you anywhere, and be more than happy to compare resumes and college transcripts with you. I don't need to get mad. I don't need to call you names, malign you, or impugn your character, to demonstrate the correctness of my position. The truth is the best defense when faced with lies, hysteria, and distortions of reality.

Paranoid is the one that I find most ironic. Are the people you live with and near all so crazy and dangerous to be around that you think the only thing between them killing you and not, is the lack of the means? If this is the case, they're not only crazy and dangerous, they're terminally stupid. If there is anything we've gotten much better at since we rubbed two sticks together to light a fire and lived in caves, it's killing and hurting ourselves and each other. It's been refined to a grotesque art form and science. We're not going to get more stupid, ignorant again.

The scenario where there are a few people armed and willing to use force to defend themselves and others but no desire to hurt anyone, is a heck of alot more likely than a few unarmed homicidal morons wandering around trying to figure out how to kill those around them.

With the rarity of available jet airliners, regulations, licenses for pilots, and security. We could stop four of them from being flown into buildings and the ground, killing thousands of us. What makes anyone here think we can do better with things you can put in your pocket and are so common in America already?

Posted by: Leon Richard | April 18, 2007 07:52 PM

One commentator makes a good point about the value of some lives over others. This is all too true. After just watching Hotel Rwanda the other night and recalling 13 years or so ago why the international community was doing very little to prevent the genocide of over a million Africans before it got into full swing was stunning to me. Those same people were driven into the Congo that has seen 4 million Africans killed in the past 10 years. Now in Darfur we have 200,000 Africans being killed in a similar manner. Mr. Politician, don't talk to me with your 'words of compassion'. Just get off your duff and _do_ the right thing. Problem is, as we saw with the initiation of the Iraq War, the right thing can be an elusive concept.

So I boil the equasion down to its bones:
Remove money from politics --> Politicians doing more of the right thing --> The right thing envolves focusing on educating our population to think for themselves and be smarter with their decisions --> who in turn elect politicians that won't start unnecessary wars --> those leaders will motiviate other world leaders to unite against emerging slaughters in other parts of the world (even if they can't make a buck off of it)

But maybe I've been sniffing too much gun smoke....

Posted by: JR in Colorado | April 19, 2007 10:03 AM

You know, this has nothing to do with guns! This has to do with the Politically Correct letting a man who is mentally unbalanced roam the around a campus when there were laws in place to have him comfinded and put out of the mainstream public! Why didn't the College do it! Virginia has the laws in place to have done it and all the signs were there????? But, oh no, we might offend someone and then what?????

We can get Imus fired over free speech, but let a madman run off and kill 32 innocent people! There is something very wrong with that picture, don't you think?????

But, remember the Hollywood types who think it is important to protect all the minority's feelings! And, let's not worry about who is in this country? Or, for how long. That is not Politically Correct. Tell that to the families of those now dead. See if that comforts them.

Before the Clinton White House we never heard of Politically Correct. Now we have a mass murder killing innocent people, mmm, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he would have been a white man displaying such homicidal behavior all during his time on campus??????

Posted by: Dr. Terri Hart Hunter | April 23, 2007 06:40 PM

Criminals will always be able to get guns! Get real! Just like they did in the days of of prohibitions!!!! Read your history!!!! If the Campus would not have forbidden weapons, there would have been others who were responsible people who would have taken out before he killed so many! Like a real cop!!!!

Posted by: Doc | April 23, 2007 06:45 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company