Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime

By Jim Copland
The Manhattan Instituite

It didn't take long for the European press, foreign and domestic politicians, and anti-gun lobbies to react to the horrific Virginia Tech massacre on Monday by condemning America's "gun culture" and calling for new gun control laws. The reaction is predictable, but it simply doesn't follow from the initial facts about this tragedy.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech shows yet again man's capacity for evil and the dangers that the mentally imbalanced can inflict on the innocent in our modern society. But all the shooting shows about the gun control regulations passed in recent decades is that they matter little.

Waiting periods, designed to allow the angry to "cool off"? Here, Cho Seung Hui purchased one of the firearms in February and the other in March, cooling, waiting another month to execute his plan. Semi-automatic weapon bans? Here, the killer used mundane, traditional pistols, a 9-mm and .22-caliber. "Gun-free" school zones? If anything, Cho's crime was made easier by the absence of anyone else comparably armed.

While gun control advocates may argue that a ban on all handguns could have prevented the murders, there's little reason to believe that Cho could not have been equally deadly using long guns, like the high school killers at Columbine.

In the face of senseless tragedy, it's understandable to look for answers. The Virginia Tech shooting may prompt universities to reevaluate their threat response procedures, and we might take a hard look at the law and regulations that inhibited Cho's teachers from seeking more help for an obviously troubled young man. But gun control is a tired response that doesn't fit this crime.

Jim Copland is the director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute.

Posted by Michael Corones |  April 18, 2007; 1:47 PM ET
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"General District Court records show that a Montgomery County magistrate ordered Mr. Cho, 23, to undergo a mental evaluation in December 2005. The magistrate found probable cause that Mr. Cho was "mentally ill" and an "imminent danger to self and others" or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for himself."
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/18/us/18cnd-virginia.html?hp

"What is known is that when Cho signed his application at the gun shop to buy a Glock 19 handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition, he left blank the question that asked whether he ever been treated or examined for mental illness. There was no registry giving the gun shop owner that information because a registry had been rejected in Congress by pro-gun supporters."
http://www.cbc.ca/news/reportsfromabroad/champblog/2007/04/gun_control_and_virginia_tech.html

Posted by: C. Stevens | April 18, 2007 07:38 PM

Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime By Jim Copland - Er, excuse me, even your own article fails to say why not! You actually say that he could have used or not used another type of gun, as if murdering people with some sort of gun was the only outlet the guy had. I would much rather see a broken person like this put up his fists and threaten to break someone`s jaw. At any rate, 30 people don`t die in my scenario. Come on, Jim! You`re supposed to be a director! My gun ban doesn`t apply just to SOME guns, but to all. Then your sons or daughters don`t get to die. Sell your shares in the arms trade today.

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 08:31 PM

Since the previous poster chickened out and didn't leave a name or even a screen name, we should be able to ignore your comments.
However . . . as this seems to be compared to Columbine--something I am much closer to than you, anonymous--let me point out that Mr. Cho could just as easily brought in a few natural-gas canisters, like one would have on the outside of a trailer and similar to the ones that were found at Columbine, and blown everything up with many more dead and injured as a result. Or, for that matter, he could've driven up throught the front doors and KABOOM--car bomb. By your definition, do we then ban cars and natural-gas canisters?

Posted by: sleepy | April 19, 2007 01:19 AM

I cannot understand people in the US when it comes to the widespread availability of guns.

If we look at this tragedy from as a Health & Safety perspective and do a risk assessment, it is patently obvious that to eliminate access to powerful automatic firearms would significantly reduce to risk.

It must be terrifying to live in a society where at any moment some nut can produce an automatic weapon (which he just bought around the corner)to murder you or your loved ones.

Posted by: Brendan | April 19, 2007 02:52 AM


First of all the first reaction in the EU-Press was one of sadness and sorrow feeling for the families who lost the beloved ones and pray for the ones still injured.

Of course afterward analyzis will be made here with a cool head and this is our point of view. We see the gun-crazyness in USA as ONE of the issue who stands at the root of the ability to cause such big harm.

Oposite to the usa-press where it seems everyone is following some agenda, in EU we still have a big number of critic newspapers/reporters/writers, which will speak out (independent) what we might not want to hear. And of course there is no gun-lobby in EU.

If you cant see that your violence-praising society is making more problems then it solves then I cant help you.


Im disgusted by this article, deeply disgusted.

Btw cars and gas canisters are not made to kill quick. Guns are to KILL someone else. I doubt he could have walked in a building with 2 big fat canisters full with fuel. Get some grip of reality dude. If you think
you make a case just because there are tools around who can be used also for harming, then I must disapoint you.

What it bothers me is that it seems that anyone whos writing smth on the issue is haveing an agenda. Where is the independent analyzis where both parts will be pondered and debated upon?

bah

Posted by: laolae | April 19, 2007 03:56 AM

Inter arma, silent leges.

Posted by: Fernando Ollero | April 19, 2007 04:00 AM

Blame Creative Writing by One that does not have the Ability to be a Great Writer!

I think the media and the viewers need not get confused with the term Korean-American or Asian-American when referring to this insane Korean immigrant man that was a student at Virginia Tech. An Asian-American and/or Korean-American is one whom is either born in the United States; has at least one parent that is American; or has attained his American Citizenship.

Lay blame on Cho, not Asian Americans...He was not American? Why do you want him to be American so bad when you deny Americans of (Native American Hispanic origin) their nationality of being American? The American Nationality is not a freebie! If I went to live in Korea for 100 years they would not call me Korean... I would be an American. Use language the way it should be used or change your language.

This Korean immigrant man should not have been allowed to buy guns. The American Constitution proclaims the Rights of Americans (Citizens) to bear Arms not Residents! What's the matter, has everyone forgotten how to read plain English? Can foreign-born resident enemies (possible terrorists) buy guns at two for one at police blue-light-special prices?

We have enough problems with Home Grown Nazi Terrorists (Anti-American Germanic National Socialist Ideology Movement*) stocking up Arms in America to have Islamo-Fascists start up a copycat stockpile of American Legal Self-Defense Toys! What did Cho mean by the praise "Ismail Ax"... sounds inspired by anti-American Islamo-Fascism as does his tan vest on black shirt! Am I the only one that analyzes for free? Cho was avenging what Korean sex-toy for American Military troops stationed in Korea? Get what I mean??? This person did not feel American because he was not American, and he did not become American because of his political Anti-American Society viewpoints... Just like Bearded Bin Laden...

Oh so because he is Asian he is accepted as (almost) American and considered an intelligent person even when he can't speak or write English at expected university level. And after reading Cho Seung-Hui's Plays on Ian MacFarlane's web page ( http://news.aol.com/virginia-tech-shootings/cho-seung-hui/_a/richard-mcbeef-cover-page/20070417134109990001 ). I think Cho's professor(s), whom stated that Crazy Cho was intelligent uses the word without much reflection. One is not intelligent unless one can see reality, not crazy like a fox, just plain crazy! Banana Split baby! I am Cho, I am different, I am ? Use a little Chicano-Jew Psychoanalysis, why don't you, it might just wake you from a dream and help you avoid another nightmare!

This Korean immigrant scholarship/Grant hog was sucking up American financial aid for education and was angry because of what? See what educational financial aid an American living in Korea gets and this will make you go ballistic baby!!!

Anyway, I feel for the dead American Kids and am only sorry someone did not take Cho out on the streets of the hood before he attacked our sweet university babes!!! Cho did not belong at a university. If this were a case of a bitter inner-city barrio gangster kid, I do not think so many would be so eager to understand the mind of a kid defending his life on a turf-war night, I mean, have you ever been attacked by Nazi Skin Heads in your own neighborhood park in the dark for being a little dark? The Barrio has self-defense Sephardies, and a new holocaust will not be happening without blood on both sides! If this were a case of a bitter inner-city street gangster kid, I do not think so many would be so eager to understand a kid defending his life against a hostile Nazi gang! Cho was a Nazi* Korean considered American even though that is what he was out to kill! Oh so now I am racist? No, I like Asian-Americans because of their Nationality! (Did I say Sex?)

My name is Alexander living in Spain (born and raised in the Hood of America) but more American than the Average Cat! You can call me Alexander of the Natives!!! Long Live Zion!

*See World War II and Axis Powers = American Enemy

http://scfire-nyk0l-2.stream.aol.com:80/stream/1065

Posted by: Alexander | April 19, 2007 04:34 AM

Posted by: Alexander | April 19, 2007 05:06 AM

Is it reasonable in our society that someone can walk around with semi-automatic guns that can unleash 30 rounds within a few minutes, only to quickly reload within seconds with new clips?

It is recognized in our country that the second amendment has limits. We don't allow citizens to own grenades, LAWs or other weapons of war. I believe semi-automatic handguns are weapons of war.

Semi-automatics are not used for hunting. My father, who is a Vietnam War Vet, always told me semi-automatics make for poor home security guns, better to buy revolvers. Semi-automatics are unreliable and easily jam, they require more maintenance, and the spring triggers make it easy for children to discharge.

So why do citizens need to own these?

Should not we at least put a 6-round limit on these clips?

Posted by: David | April 19, 2007 05:48 AM

Guns are the main problem. The simple fact of the matter is this. Easy accessibility of guns means that guns are more prevalent in any social conflict in society - which again feeds into the notion that guns are suited for solving security problems. We can already see the effect where people are arguing that if more people at campus had guns this tragedy would not have happened. If we step back a little bit surely we can all see how ridiculous an argument that is. How in Gods name can a society where everyone has the instant ability to kill everyone else be safe. It would be a society filled of fear and life would indeed be short and brutish.

What we need to do is reduce the amount of guns in society because over time - not immediately - that will have a positive effect which can reduce the place that guns have in peoples consciousness - thus guns will not be seen as a problem solver anymore. Bringing more guns into society means escalation. The Europeans may be framing their critique in the wrong way - but they have a point. The prevalence of guns feeds into its perception as a problem solver - and thus again it's an escalating situation which the Europeans describe as "gun culture". The constitution provides for regulated militias akin to the swiss army - not that every citizen should acquire massive arsenals in an unregulated fashion. The NRA and other organizations do us all a great disservice. The simple fact is - most likely a similar student here in Europe would have brought a knife. This does not mean Europeans are inherently less violent, it is just that there aren't so many guns around so you don't grow up with a constant reference to them. - so that if you snap you are more likely bring a less lethal weapon. We must change the way we relate to guns.

Posted by: Anders | April 19, 2007 06:19 AM

Come on, it isn't difficult to imagine gun control policies short of gun ban that would have saved lives.

Cho Seung Hui was able to fire round after round after round, a fast as his fingers were able to pull the trigger. So how about a law that limits the number of bullets a gun can hold. How about one bullet per gun. Then, Cho Seung Hui would either have had to stop and reload after every shot fired or, he would have had to bring dozens of guns with him.

If this sounds facetious, it isn't meant to. When the President took office, there was a federal ban on certain "assault-style" weapons. A key feature of that law, which the President and then Republican-led Congress allowed to lapse, was a provision banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. The Glock 19 that Mr. Cho used is sold standard with a fifteen-round clip and can use a clip that holds thirty-three bullets. Why?

Mr. Copland is the director for the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute. Maybe he can explain why we should allow so much ammunition to be stored in a single firearm.

I was research director for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence for seven years and I can't tell you why any privately owned firearm should be able to hold ten rounds of ammunition much less thirty-three rounds. It isn't necessary for self-defense. The gun lobby has often said that a gun used in self-defense is rarely fired so thirty-three rounds of ammunition so surely we can agree that thirty-three rounds and even fifteen is overkill for self-defense but really useful when a gun is to be used for mass murder.

The biggest problem that I have with Mr. Copland's essay is that he is implicitly defining the gun violence problem in America as the crime that took place on the Virginia Tech campus and by doing so, essentially defining away the reasoning behind a gun control agenda that includes registration, universal background checks, purhcasing limits (often referred to as one-gun-a-month), ballistic fingerprints but that is a false definition of the problem, and reform of the gun industry.

The truth, of course, is that gun control agenda is designed to have an impact on the 30,000 gun deaths and 80,000 to 100,000 gun crimes that take place each year. The gun control agenda is designed to have a large and significant impact on gun trafficking. It is designed to make it difficult to break the link between the person who owns a gun and the gun. Do that and far fewer individuals will act as straw purchasers for gun traffickers, felons and the mentally ill. Do that and fewer people will be willing to use a gun to commit a crime. This is a major reason why gun violence is so much less common in Europe than it is in the United States.

Posted by: Douglas Weil | April 19, 2007 07:53 AM

Americans do the following for motor vehicles.
- restrict certain vehicles from use on roads.
- register all vehicles
- license all vehicles in use
- license all drivers
- require insurance for all drivers

Why can't the same be done for guns? If you are willing to control cars, which have a more common use in everyday life, why would it be so difficult to accept the same for guns?

Or at the very lieast, require liability insurance for the purchase of weapons. I guarantee you insurance companies would be more circumspect about who they insure for gun use liability, then the state does seems to be about access to weapons.

Posted by: R Paul | April 19, 2007 07:58 AM

I agree with Anders--guns are the main problem. However the kind of comprehensive gun control that our friends overseas recommend just ain't gonna happen here.

Which is exactly the problem. The violent hearts of too many of our young males, and our obsession with preserving gun rights at the expense of human life, both stem from the same root problem, the obsession with "protection," with having a long metal object that keeps some other Man from getting one over on you. A nice metal phallus. I recall getting in a debate with a coworker once--a 6'4" strapping athlete with lots of muscle and plenty more of other weight besides, who ended up shouting what a blinkered fool I was to be so cavalier about my security. What, pray tell, did he have to be so much more scared about than I? I am a 5'2" female, happier every day to be born into a gender that does not oblige me to obsess about my impending castration!

Those who say that allowing VPI students to carry firearms would have kept them from "dying like sheep" only reveal their own deluded terror with losing power. Ask a police officer. Even with regular training, police officers frequently end up shooting people who didn't deserve it, as in the tragic "bridegroom" case in NYC. Contagious fire is the name for this phenomenon--somebody starts shooting, the adrenaline flows, everybody else's limbic systems take over and they start shooting too. One of the detectives involved in this incident shot 50 rounds at someone who was innocent. Maybe having armed opponents would have stopped Cho sooner, but another highly likely result would have been exactly what we get right now in the inner city--even more innocent lives lost in a hail of crossfire.

So the problem is "gun nuts." Before you light your flame throwers, let me explain that there are two kinds of gun nuts. The "good" gun nut is like my late uncle Red Hayden, a decorated WWII veteran of the Marine Corps in the Pacific theater. He amassed a substantial gun collection, more of which never left his wall. He hunted, but he despised violence, suffering in silence (sometimes blunted by a haze of alcohol) for the horrors he had witnessed in the war. He respected this technology which had defended our freedom while understanding perfectly what its ramifications were.

The "bad" kind of gun nut is nothing like this. This person is usually male, usually young, socially incompetent, who have centered their lives around perceived slights and maintaining their manhood with violent retribution. It makes me sad to see the Korean community apologizing for this tragedy when the real culprit is the toxic culture of manhood in the United States. Although we'll never know for sure, I can't help wondering if Cho's mental illness would have taken such a murderous turn had his family remained in Korea. The uniquely American equation of the gun with manliness--the "when you pry it out of my cold dead hands" mentality--is exactly the problem. What I am saying is that the deeply emotional connection of many men with gun rights is a *symptom* of exactly the same problem that results in these senseless shootings. This tragedy, like all the like ones that preceded it, teaches us that high time we realized that our obsession with "security" and "protection" is nurturing a climate of fear, suspicion, alienation and hatred, the only fruits of which will be more outraged young men clutching their cold metal phalluses, spewing their contents into the bodies of the rest of us who are still struggling to keep the "civil" in civilization.

Posted by: Sally Hawkridge | April 19, 2007 08:48 AM

As a Canadian, I do not understand the gun laws in Virginia and other states. Why is it necessary to allow individuals to purchase handguns with virtually no restrictions? What possible arguments can be used to defend the necessity for private citizens to own and use handguns. Rifles are a different story as they are used in hunting but they are rarely used do murder others. If citizens want handguns for use at gun clubs,keep them locked up there!!

Posted by: Roger from Canada | April 19, 2007 08:50 AM

A lot of crazy people talking....

Since when do we deny Native Americans citizenship?

And what's with this whole "culture of manhood" crap? Cho wasn't a man; he was a beast. Psychos come in both genders.

The question here is whether this crime should lead to more laws. Eurpoeans admit that they don't understand our culture and the obsession with guns. Bob Dylan once wrote, "Don't criticize what you can't understand." I'll try to explain our culture...

The second amendment to the Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms. The intent of this was to allow Americans to defend themselves against tyrrany, primarily of the governmental kind. In the shadows of the Revolutionary War, this made sense. Now, while the rationale no longer applies (seriously, do you think any of us could defend ourselves against this government?), the freedom makes sense still.

We have a violent society. Whether life reflects art, or vice-versa, we are surrounded by constant reminders that at any time, another incident like this could happen.

Personally, I don't own a gun--I never have. But I believe that we should have the right to. If it makes some people feel safer, then so be it.

As for Cho, he was hell-bent on destruction. Guns were his method of choice. He could have picked another method. The descriptions of him coldly going room to room and calmly dispensing with his victims are telling.

As a nation, we're angry. But that doesn't mean we have to listen to male-bashing Ameriphobes who think that Europe and its culture don't stink. It also doesn't mean that we have to make gun control a higher policy priority than other, more important issues facing our country.

Posted by: Rick | April 19, 2007 09:35 AM

Two bags of fertilizer from WalMart and a gallon of diesel from the Petrol station would have caused even more devastation. Believing that evil will disappear by legislation is terminally naive. As in Columbine the police stood by outside while people were being murdered. There to investigate the event, not prevent or stop it. Everyone is responsible for their own safety and those who chose to make themselves and others defenseless as a response to voilence lack an understanding of the world and human nature. America is not Canada or Japan or Denmark. It is a society bound by economic ideals and little else, and as such, conflict is underneath the surface of most issues. We have allowed that conflict to rise into public discourse and in doing so, destroyed the ideal of a "single nation". How much of what troubled this monster were echoes of his upbringing, how much echoes of media harping on "the economic divide"? America's only choice for survival is for people to get involved with their community but as long as we seek quick answers via legislation where one group imposes their views on others, the fabric of the society will continue to decay. History is full of useful examples of the logical outcome of the present course.

Posted by: | April 19, 2007 10:10 AM

Why is it so hard for gun advocates to see that the murder rate is so much higher in this country because of the availability of guns? How much are gun advocates' love of guns driven by unacknowledged fantasies of violence? Pro-guns folks I've spoken with as often as not have deep fears and anger about "government oppression" and predatory black men. This needs to be studied.

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 10:30 AM

Rick, you make a number of sensible points about the origins and meaning of the 2nd Amendment. And when you said, "as a nation, we're angry," you made exactly the point I was trying to.

I don't hate men; neither was I advocating that we turn into Europeans. What I was saying, as a mother of a young boy, is there are aspects of our culture that are toxic, meaning quite harmful to everybody, so that certain vulnerable individuals such as Cho will be effected, and we all suffer.

I am saying that we need to question the prevailing American standard of what constitures "manhood." I question whether being manly necessarily precludes emotional and social intelligence, thoughtfulness, and warmth. And no, I don't mean that men must act exactly like women in order to be mentally healthy. If I thought that, I would indeed hate men. I insist that uncontrolled rage, paranoia, defensiveness, and social isolation are not inevitable by-products of testosterone but rather manifestations of a sometimes psychologically toxic culture. I question whether growing boys and young men should have to devote so much time to proving their manhood, i.e., forcing themselves to conform to an increasingly confining cultural straightjacket.

Posted by: Sally Hawkridge | April 19, 2007 10:49 AM

Please do not use the word- "Massacre"-
Tragedy- yes...

Posted by: c miller | April 19, 2007 10:57 AM

Sally,

Oh, then I concur, in part (standing by what I said about the Europhiles who post here). That's the beauty of blogging. It's hard to express your entire intent. I suspect this has always been true of language.

Yes, we have a toxic culture. We define manhood for young boys in a lot of different ways. I just hope that one of them will be that a man stays by his wife no matter what and that he devotes himself to loving his children. There's nothing womanish in that.

I also agree in part with Larry. Many pro-gun advocates have anti-government fantasies. While I don't trust that those running our government have our best interest at heart, I don't think that my own choice on gun ownership is going to persuade them to act differently. And I'm not big on revolutions in this day and age.

However, I don't agree with the predatory black men part; that sounds more anecdotal. Sure, maybe a few people own guns because they fear a certain race, but I suspect this is rare.

Posted by: Rick | April 19, 2007 11:01 AM

What would be wrong with being more like Europeans (or Japanese for that matter)? They have a much lower murder rate, live longer, have less illiteracy, enjoy lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases (and lower divorce rates), etc? What are Americans afraid of when they hear "European"? What dark fears about themselves lurk in their hearts?

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 11:13 AM

I agree, those statistical indicators are treasures of the EU. And if I believed that eradicating gun ownership would help America mirror those numbers, I'd be all for it.

Posted by: Rick | April 19, 2007 11:16 AM

Rick,

"Statistical treasures"? You are dismissive. Do you not care about a long and happy life? That's what I mean about something dark lurking in our hearts. What anger or hate makes us turn away from what's good for us? and it's not just Europeans, btw; it's the Japanese too, and soon most other advanced societies.

And reducing gun ownership is just a piece of this.

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 11:29 AM

Larry,

There's no fear. There's no hiding. I'm well aware of the pathologies in American society. And you're right; I am being dismissive. Each country is comprised of various subsets of cultures. Collectively, they make the larger culture what it is. There are a number of things I dislike about American culture on the whole. We obsess over violence and over celebrity. We celebrate ignorance. We forget history. And we reduce larger problems to the properties that symbolize them. My grandfather was an alcoholic, but I don't hate the whiskey. My parents are divorced, but I don't blame a system that makes divorces easy to obtain. NFL players make more money than teachers, but I still watch the games. The gun itself is never the problem. It's the shooter.

I could go on for hours, but my point is this: for all the flaws, I love this country. I treasure the collective values of it. And even though I might not like individual components of those values, I like the big picture. I'm not ready to make the leap to say that Europe, or any other region of the world, is doing better.

I read many publications, from my home state, from national papers like this, and from other parts of the world. I read commentary questioning American values all the time. And I just don't agree with the criticisms. To paint with a broad brush, I'd say they tend to categorize us as gun-toting, prurient, backwoods bigots who still inexplicably believe in God. Of these, I'll still cop to beliving in God.

Of the statistical measures of superiority, all I can say is that we each make choices. Why do we live shorter lives? Because everything tastes better with gravy and/or bacon. Why do we have less literacy than some other developed nations? Probably because of guns.

Posted by: Rick | April 19, 2007 11:53 AM

Well, this talk about Europhiles reminds me of how the European left talk about America. Maybe Larry has a point and maybe what Americans fear about the Europeans is what we recognize in ourself and vice versa. Lucky me then to have lived both places.

It is not my wish that we become Europe. That would be just as silly as if Europe was to become America. What I am claiming is that I cannot see how having this easy access to hand-guns and automatic weapons furthers security for anyone. I am not sure if this economic argument is the right way to attack the problem either. Why do we insist on making this problem more complex than it is. To link this with the economy or other aspects of society is doing the same mistake as Le Monde and that Italian communist newspaper Il Manifesto keep doing. It isn't inherently American to go shoot up your fellow citizens. I think it is extremely un-American. It is a consequence of having too many guns around and available. Don't make stuff more complicated than it is. I would say there isn't a country in the western world more friendly or open than the US. Friends are easy to make, people are easy to talk to and in general smiling and interested. If you want to go to a place where it's easy to get into a fight - go walking around Brixton or Camden in London. All it takes is eye-contact with the wrong person. Now, what guns do is that they make it easier to rob, steal and threaten people because you have the power to end a life. If gun ownership were as prevalent in Camden as in some parts of the US I wouldn't go there at all. Now I happen to live in Borough, London and yes gun crimes do happen. Last year a guy shot three people with an machine-gun at a bar nearby, but the simple fact is that fewer guns means fewer deaths - including innocent deaths. If there were more guns around such things would probably happen more here.

This idea that a society saturated with guns is safer is as big a lie as that diamonds are rare. Reducing the availability of hand-guns does not reduce the ability for civilians to oppose either domestic or foreign tyranny. Neither do handguns improve self defense. Over time it simply just means that more people have the ability to kill each other. Do we want that? Why not start trusting each other a little more?

I guess my point is just that things have cause and effects also in a social sense. And I believe that the prevalence of guns is causing more violence - not reducing it. American's aren't naturally more violent than others. Reduce the amount and availability of guns and you will see gun-related deaths, robberies and murders go down over time to.

Posted by: Anders | April 19, 2007 12:31 PM

Rick and Anders,

Well said both of you. I love this country too. We are at our best when we are practical and positive. We are uniquely skilled in cherry picking the best elements of other cultures. We should be able to outgrow our bad home-grown elements, such as guns. without losing our identity. We can have the best of all worlds.

And Rick, if what you want is life with spice and a little bit of risk, Europe (particularly Spain, France, and Italy) is the place for lots of good food and a lot more. Enjoy life but live longer too.

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 12:44 PM

When I finish perfecting my time machine I will bring the Founding Fathers together for a nice debate on updating the 2nd Amendment. I have often wondered how they, esp. that eminent Virginian Thomas Jefferson, might change it if they knew the conditions we face today: crowded cities, entrenched urban poverty, weapons of mass destruction they couldn't have dreamed of in their wildest nightmares.

Part of me suspects they would split along the same lines as do most modern Americans. I can imagine that great Quaker, Benjamin Franklin, becoming a huge gun control advocate. I can equally imagine Patrick Henry in the NRA. But Thomas Jefferson? God knows, but it would be interesting.

Speaking of God, if somebody told me that in Heaven you could go up to any dead person and ask them anything you wanted to, that would be the biggest incentive for living the clean life I could possibly imagine.

Posted by: Sally Hawkridge | April 19, 2007 01:01 PM

Some singular misconceptions, here. First, the Second Amendment simply memorializes a right that has existed since man first picked up a rock to hurl at another: that of self-defense. I can think of no right more basic than that. Now, in this "advanced" age, one could suggest that government should be the agency providing protection; that is one of it's mopst basic functions. And, if government were able to do so, I might even agree. However, the evidence does not suggest that government is better able to protect us. In recent years, Great Britain has successively removed the means of self-defense from the public (banning guns), and then removed the legal basis for self-defense, period. The predictable result has been a striking rise in violent crime, to the point that their rate is higher than in this country.

Here, we have chosen to retain our right to self-defense, which means that the tools necessary for such action must remain available. Research proves that states with liberal concealed-carry laws have lower violent crime rates. Think about it: who is the one party that is ALWAYS at the scene of a crime while it is in progress? The victim. Criminals rarely assault someone while a cop is standing nearby. The government of Great britain has proven sigularlt incapable of defending it's citizens. We recgonize that limitation, and allow citizens to defend themselves. This means that occaisionally some nut-job will commit an atrocity like we just witnessed. Had VTI NOT been a "gun-free zone," someone, like the student disciplined just this last spring for bringing his permitted firearm to class, might have been able to stop the mutt before the toll got so high.

Lectures from European sheep are simply not appreciated here. We know how to deal with nuts like this.

Posted by: greginsocal | April 19, 2007 01:58 PM

greginsocal, your facts are simply wrong. We have the highest murder rate of any civilized country period. In fact, governments are best at providing defense. Self defense is for primitive societies, without laws. So, these "european sheep" live longer healthier lives than us. Is that so bad?

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 06:46 PM

Life imitates fiction? The similarity cant escape peoples attention. Before and after photos, the striking difference how Cho looked as if characters from films like Taxi Driver and The Matrix. First Cho looks meek and anonymous then his drastic change to that of a commando brandishing various weapons, radically changes his appearance when he seemingly sets out on a mission, like those film characters Cho rails against the worlds moral corruption and rich peoples hedonism. It was a stunning twist in the Cho story, with his manifesto Cho mirrors The Matrix story line of fighting against the system that enslave us all. I wonder if Cho was influenced in any way by such films.

Posted by: siberiafire | April 20, 2007 12:59 AM

Larry,

You're in luck. The issue has been studied. But you need to check your facts about homicide rates in Europe. The homicide rate is not only higher but growing, despite gun bans. At the same time, our homicide rates are dropping - despite more access to guns.
http://www.hardylaw.net/FailedExperiment.pdf

While gun related homicide rates are lower, overall homicide rates are higher. But what we really care about is the overall homicide rate, not the rate per method. Would a gun ban have the intended consequence if gun-related homicides declined but stabbings increased to compensate? The murderers just substitute knives and other weapons. What next? A ban on all things pointy and blunt objects?

On the other hand, in instances where the gunman was met with armed opposition, deaths have been minimized.

Guns bans don't prevent mass murder either. Guns are banned in England but the 7/7 bombers had no problem blowing up public transport. Nor did Tim McVeigh and the 9/11 terrorists use guns. In fact, guns are a pretty inefficient method for mass murder. Mass murders involving guns (both long and pistols) kill far fewer people than the bombs that are easily made in a murderer's garage. As a rational person, I might argue that I would rather a mass murder used a gun against me - especially if I'm armed. I will have a higher probability of surviving. If guns are not an options for a mass murderer, he will use bombs. I have no chance against a bomb. It's more likely to kill me and I have no chance to minimize the carnage.

Posted by: Kat | April 20, 2007 10:34 AM

"Gun control laws" is too broad a sweep.

The US Constitution gives US citizens the right to own weapons. But the courts may continue to allow some limitations on those rights.

Already the gun dealers in Virginia were required to run criminal history checks and were not to sell guns to mentally unstable buyers. But how were they to make that judgment?

A minimal addition to the law would be to give the gun dealers some tools to use to make the mental health decision. There may be a way to generate a list of people to be denied certain weapons (rapid fire, quick reload) for mental health reasons (anger management, antisocial tendencies, etc.)while still protecting civil liberties and due process.

Another approach would be to require affidavits from people who know the buyer to the effect that the person has exhibited no evidence of mental disturbance.

Posted by: ed12340 | April 20, 2007 11:41 AM

"A minimal addition to the law would be to give the gun dealers some tools to use to make the mental health decision."

Mental health is complicated issue and gun dealers are not competent to judge mental health.

"Another approach would be to require affidavits from people who know the buyer to the effect that the person has exhibited no evidence of mental disturbance."

Sounds expensive and intrusive. What if one of those people has a grudge against you? What if you don't want to advertise to everyone that you're buying a gun for reasons of privacy? What if people don't know you're disturbed? What if everyone thinks you're "weird" but you're just painfully shy or super geeky? What if you're perfectly stable now at age 35 but when your were 19 you went through a bad mental health patch due to some recreational drug use in college?

The most likely reason the judge who declared Cho Seung-Hui "an imminent threat" didn't send him to mandatory counseling is because he didn't want to doom this kid to having a mental instability recorded in his permanent record. It's a trade-off. A lot of psychological stuff comes up in teenagers and young adults. This is a time in people's lives when the pace of change collides with emotional immaturity. Most people outgrow their angst. A tiny minority not only don't outgrow it but turn homicidal. It's almost impossible to predict with any accuracy who will eventually wig out and who won't and how much damage they might do.

But suppose Cho couldn't obtain a gun? Would he have decided not to kill anyone? Unlikely. He would have probably just used explosives

Posted by: | April 20, 2007 02:14 PM

Sleepy---Go back to sleep!!!

Posted by: Bill MacLeod | April 22, 2007 08:54 AM

Government - federal, state and local - cannot fully protect the individual. The right to life and to self defense is a basic human right. Why try to remove that with more ineffectual gun laws? Let people carry firearms to defend themselves.

Posted by: Segerrik | April 22, 2007 03:30 PM

For a time, we banned alcohol. Despite the ban, it remained widely available and well organized criminal networks sprung up to manufacture and distribute it. The same can be said for the current "War on Drugs". Banning drugs has not made them less available and, once again, the ban has resulted in wide-spread criminal activity related to their continued manufacture and distribution. I would even go so far as to suggest that the "War on Drugs" is directly responsible for a large share of the gun violence in America today.

As with the prohibition of alcohol and the war on drugs, banning guns will not make them less available. The only thing a ban on guns will accomplish is depriving law-abiding citizens of an effective means of defending themselves and their families.

Posted by: Mike | April 23, 2007 07:21 PM

After a similar incident here in the UK (the Dunblane massacre), the Government banned the possession of handguns, which was already severely restricted.
In the succeeding decade, firearms crime in the UK has more than doubled.
Will someone please tell me how removing law abiding citizens' means to defend themselves will make them safer, as criminals by their nature fail to obey those Laws already in place?

The ONLY thing that could have stopped Chou's rampage was a student or faculty member with a weapon & a firearm at that.

Posted by: Mike the Limey | April 23, 2007 08:08 PM

It is interesting to note that the people here who have never enjoyed the art of marksmanship are so quick to condem those that do. A gun never killed anyone, people do. America isn't a 'gun culture' as many attest. On a side note, when the premier of China said that we are 'gun crazy' a couple years back, I felt complimented considering the source.

When you look at history, and the reasons for the tyrannies of governments through the history of man, you realize it is the weapons of self defense, ergo the probability insurrection of same that gave currup or the unjust fits.

The Founding Fathers of this country knew this all to well, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War is a perfect example of this tyranny. The first battle was started as a result of the British marching to take away the powder and ball stored by the colonists. This was the most recent example of tyranny and was not lost on the framers of the Constitution.

The writers of our perfect document knew the pitfalls of past civilizations, and the reasons for their demise. They were true Renaissance Men. They all spoke in the classic languages and were as comfortable reading Homer as Voltaire. but as a result of this, they had a completely different repinsibility and opportunity tha had never been known in the history of modern man. The opportunity to create the first government from a concept, as opposed to a government created by a marriage, a death or being conquered.

They realized that the errors of past societies were primarily caused by those with a quest for absolute power. The buffer of that power is knowledge of their doings, ergo the First Amendment. And with the freedom of the press, they realized as well, that the first thing a despot will do is shut it down, as has happened in every country in Europe at one time or another. The 'teeth' of the First Amendment is the Second.

One only has to look at the decent of Zimbabwe and other 'progressive' African nations to realize in 'real-time' why our founders knew much more than any of you reading this that the Second Amendment is much more than a law about guns, it is defense of a God given right of his most precious gift to us, and that is our lives. We have an obligation to defend our lives and our loved ones, anything less is cowardice and denying the right to life of our children.

The tragedy at VT could have easily been prevented. Prevented by just one person, you. If you live in a country where that right is God given, not 'granted' to you as a serf. History is on my side on this. Simply take an honest look back into your own pasts, and realize why we wrote our own freedoms, not had them 'granted' to us. We'll accept your citizenship application if you can handle the responsibilities of our freedoms.

Mark in Medford, Oregon

Posted by: Mark in Oregon | April 23, 2007 11:03 PM

Larry:

You said: "In fact, governments are best at providing defense."

The government has no - zero - obligation to protect any individual. This has been upheld in multiple court cases all the way to the Supreme Court.

The government does not assign bodyguards to follow people around 24x7. Authorities take time to respond to an attack. In the VT incident they did not make it into the buildings until *after* the killer had already taken his sweet time murdering 32 people and then committing suicide.

And, in fact, historically governments have killed far more people than has crime.

I am increasingly convinced that the widespread reluctance to take responsibility for one's own self defense is just another symptom of the increase in general of people refusing to act maturely and take responsibility. People who refuse to accept that ultimately only they are responsible for their own well-being and safety, and who refuse to take steps to ensure such, instead calling on someone else to make their lives safe and comfortable for them, are still children, regardless of how many years they have.

Larry? Grow up.

Posted by: John Hardin | April 24, 2007 03:08 PM

John, too true. If one looks at the government's reponse after Katrina, it looks like the Keystone Cops without the humor.

For a true understanding from a student's perspective who was there, here's a very compelling and concise explanation of why we feel the way we do about firearms ownership.

http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/80510

Posted by: Mark in Medford | April 24, 2007 03:55 PM

"When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns." -Ronald Regan

You can outlaw anything you want, but a hateful person like this will never run out of ways to harm people. Additionally, law enforcement can be quick as humanly possible, but in any situation, the cops have to be called, drive there, and then react to the situation. Personally, I'd rather take a little responsibility for my own safety. It's reasonable to say that we need to limit guns to people of sound mind, but cops will never be able to react fast enough to make the second ammendment obsolete.

I myself do not presently own a gun; I feel comfortable enough in my town. But I can't speak for everyone, which is why I won't hold it against anyone who wants or feels the need to exercise that right. A free people have the right to defend themselves, and not just sit around while their loved ones are butchered, hoping their tax dollars have all ready solved the problem by training some stranger to take care of it.

Paying your taxes does not make problems go away. We can't throw money at the government and expect poverty to magically disappear, or any other problem facing society for that matter. People have to take responsibility, be it for people in need or a communitie's safety. Sorry guys, it's not as easy as just saying, 'I did my part; I payed my taxes.'

Posted by: Stephen | April 29, 2007 10:32 PM

Just a side comment: an earlier poster suggested the Founding Fathres would probably write the Second Ammendment differently today given the more evolved conflicts we face today (over crouded cities, urban violence, etc). I think you vastly under estimate these men and their time. Colonials were combatting the biggest, most advanced nation in the entire world. The largest army and most advanced navy in the history of man was amidst them. I think they new a little bit about conflict, and thus the importance of the right to liberty, and likewise the right to defend it.

Posted by: Stephen | April 30, 2007 10:59 PM

"Semi-automatics are not used for hunting."

Lol, you are ignorant, my friend. Before supporting a law that restricts do some research. Or at least a 30-second google search.

Posted by: | May 14, 2007 07:58 PM

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