Laws Are No Substitute to Vigilance

An earlier version of this blog post stated thast the handgun ban in the District of Columbia was struck down by the Supreme Court. In fact, the ban was struck down by a federal appeals court.

By Greg Ridgeway
The RAND Corporation

The shootings at Virginia Tech have prompted a discussion of America's gun laws. But while Virginia's gun laws have been criticized by some as being lax, even the toughest gun restrictions in effect anywhere in the United States -- such as those in California and Massachusetts -- likely could not have prevented this tragedy.

Research at the RAND Corporation and elsewhere indicates that some gun restrictions can reduce gun violence.

Background checks will prevent criminals, those with restraining orders, and the mentally ill from acquiring guns from legal sources. Waiting periods and safety classes might prevent an impulsive crime from occurring. But the patient, plotting person with no criminal record -- like Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung Hui --will have no problem buying a gun legally anywhere in America, just as Cho did in Virginia.

Gun control laws can be also immensely useful for educating gun buyers about safe storage and handling of firearms, for preventing guns from ending up in the hands of a felon, and for solving gun crimes.

But a handgun ban in the District of Columbia -- similar to those in force in England and Japan -- was recently struck down by a federal appeals court as unconstitutional. If upheld by the Supreme Court this would ensure that neither states nor the federal government could impose a similar ban.

Certainly, gun laws need a close look in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. But laws are no substitute to vigilance by all of us to look for warning signs that indicate someone may resort to deadly violence.

Greg Ridgeway is associate director of the Safety and Justice program at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

Posted by Michael Corones |  April 18, 2007; 2:25 PM ET
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"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 07:29 PM

"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

Posted by: C. Stevens | April 18, 2007 07:36 PM

What? We shouldn't advocate for gun control laws because the supreme court MAY strike them down? That is a stupid argument. We need courageous leaders to put a stop to this gun maddness. If this guy had a knife and not a gun, few would be dead. That is the reality of this tragic episode.

Guns kill people. The guns used by Cho are meant to kill humans and not used for hunting which is the typical argument used by gun nuts to argue for no gun control (but we need guns to hunt!). So allow rifles, muskets, but ban all handguns. And as we can see from Monday, "law-abiding" citizens do use guns to kill innocent people or themselves.

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

I was born and raised in Italy, which has very strict gun laws, just like most of Europe. In Italy, Cho would have slashed 32 tires or broken 32 windows. In the US he has killed 32 people. Every country, every people, makes its own decisions about what is important, and the US as a nation has decided that being able to own guns is important. However, do not be surprised if Columbines or Va Techs happen. Sadly, very sadly, it is a safe prediction that another massacre like this will happen again in a year or two.

Posted by: Paolo | April 19, 2007 06:25 AM

Greg Ridgeway wrote that "a handgun ban in the District of Columbia -- similar to those in force in England and Japan -- was recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional." That is factually incorrect. It was DC Curcuit that declared the DC law unconstitutional, putting the court at odds with every other Federal Appeals court and the US Supreme Court. Undoubtedly, the decision will be reviewed by the Supreme Court and, if the Court holds to precident, it will be overturned and the DC ban reinstated.

Mr. Ridgeway also wrote that "the patient, plotting person with no criminal record -- like Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung Hui --will have no problem buying a gun legally anywhere in America, just as Cho did in Virginia." Possibly, but not a gun (in this case, the Glock 19) that comes standard with a magazine clip that holds fifteen rounds of ammunition and which can be purchased with a clip that holds thirty-three bullets.

The President and then Republican-led Congress allowed the Federal Assault Weaspons Ban to lapse. Possibly the least well known but most important aspect of the assault weapons ban was a ban on high-capacity magazines. It isn't difficult to imagine that some lives could have been saved if Cho Seung Hui if his gun held fewer bullets and he had been forced to reload more often.

And, of course, if Cho Seung Hui had been required to prove that he was mentally stable before he was allowed to take possession of a firearm, maybe no innocent lives would have been lost.

The gun control agenda (e.g., registration, universal background checks, one-gun-a-month, ballistic fingerprinting and reform of the firearms industry) won't prevent every shooting but the 32 innocent lives lost at Virginia Tech are only one-tenth of one percent of the 30,000 gun-related deaths that will occur this year. Implement the policies that make up the gun control agenda and far fewer people will die.

Posted by: Douglas Weil | April 19, 2007 07:22 AM

Putting the blame on access to guns in general, handguns in specific, or high capacity magazines for the tragedy at Tech is like blaming the number of fast food restaurants, the existence of the Big Mac, and the "super-size option" for obesity. It is a question of necessary, but not sufficient. It's the person, stupid.

This kid was mentally unstable and hell bent on killing. If he couldn't get a handgun by legal means he would have gotten one by illegal means. (Where there's a will....) I currently live in the UK where, despite a "total gun ban" since the Dunblane tragedy in 1999, gun crime has RISEN. It is not hard to understand why: Criminals don't heed gun laws and will be armed regardless. It's kind of the definition of the word "criminal."

Given the greatest number of gun-related deaths in America is attributed to suicides (almost 60%... GOOGLE IT) and given Cho Seung-Hui was mentally unstable and fell through the cracks, I'd say that greater attention to these mental health issues would be the most effective way to reduce US "gun violence" as well as one that could be implemented without masterbatory new laws or repealing amendments.

--A physician in training and firearms enthusiast

Posted by: WS Carbonell, MD, PhD | April 19, 2007 07:47 AM

Gun Free Zones = Helpless Victim Congregation Centers.

Unarmed means the same as defenseless. Disarming law-abiding citizens is the first act of violence.

Posted by: Rufus | April 19, 2007 08:17 AM

Getting a gun legally or not, unfortunately is not a problem. He could have bought a similar gun on the street for a lot less. Gun laws are not going to change anytime soon nor laws that make (forcing) treatment on the mentally ill almost impossible.

Colleges can try to identify the future Cho's in their community, but will likely be sued with the ACLU's help for billion of dollars in so doing.

And if someone is intent on violence our laws generally don't allow any intervention until the act has occurred. How many women have had to default to a restraining order as their only alternative to viable threats against them to only find out that it provides no protection.

Practically speaking, in the interim until something can change (which I doubt will) in our laws on guns control and dealing with mentally ill issue -- the question is how do we stop ASAP the violence when it begins. CHO was not confronted by anyone with the ability to counter his deadly force and stop him. Should we have armed security within 60 seconds of all locations on the college campus who can immediately respond? Are we willing to pay for that? Can we make the campus a secure zone with a security screening of all to ensure weapon free at all times? Could society pay for that, let alone function at that level?

We realized that getting the heart attack death rate down included having quick response (citizens trained in CPR and now AED units available), quick EMT response, and specialized hospital intervention starting in the ER. But the key was someone to respond in minutes if not seconds on the scene.

From practical standpoint, right now, how can we as a society mitigate the mayhem such deranged people can inflict by confronting them with appropriate force to stop them as quickly as possible and not wait for an effective police force to be gathered which may give them 5, 10, 15 minutes or more to kill and maim with impunity?

In the airline industry following 9/11 not only did we step up the presence of sky marshalls on planes, strengthen cockpit doors, but also under certain circumstances have allowed pilots to carry weapons (if trained and certified). Is something along those lines required?

As Cho has honored the sicko's killers at Columbine, there is no doubt that other sicko's will see Cho as some hero to be outdone in their diseased irrational minds. If they are "insiders" in a college community as Cho was it will be very difficult to stop them under present laws. So, how to we get an early responder program in place - to counter them as their violence unfolds?

Right now that is what every College needs to figure out to counter what may be copy-cat attacks in the near future.

Posted by: Neil | April 19, 2007 08:17 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court DID NOT strike down the DC gun ban. That ban was struck down by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, by a 2-1 vote. The DC government has now asked for a full court review before deciding to take it to the SC.

But regardless, all these arguments for/against gun control is irrelevant as long as guns are available somewhere. To say that DC still has one of the highest murder rates even with a ban on handguns is an absurd argument when guns are everywhere right next door.

Guns should be banned, period. Everywhere. A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state is what our military and police forces are for. The reason we have the highest murder rate in the civilized world is because of our sick love affair with guns. I cannot believe for a second that this was our Founding Father's "original intent" when passing the 2nd Amendment that the conservatives so love to lecture us about.

Posted by: Chris | April 19, 2007 08:32 AM

It's odd that the Rand Corp which makes its living by rigorous analysis should shy away from what must be obvious to anyone who ever sat the statistics section of an economics paper at college. Frequent mass shootings of this sort are statistically inevitable when you give 300 million people, millions of whom have serious mental health problems, unfettered access to powerful firearms. Hardly a month goes by when one doesn't occur and because the numbers are smaller, usually in the 3-10 range, they pass largely un-noticed. Who remembers the Amish kids and that only happened eight months age. Take away the access and the problem largely disappears as is evidenced by the fact that gun homicides are a relative rarity in every society where handguns and other firearms are tightly regulated. 12,000 gun homicides a year (32,000 if we roll in the accidents and suicides) are the price we pay for the belief that there is an inalienable right to the free availability of guns. The American people seem willing to pay it and until they change their mind the monthly repeat of these incidents will continue.

Posted by: Otto | April 19, 2007 08:36 AM

Hand guns are the weapons of choice for all manner of criminal behavior. At the same time they are of no value for other purposes such as hunting and shot guns are more effective at protecting one's home. Guns such as those used by Cho Sueng Hui with their horrific killing power are dsigned to quickly kill large numbers of people ,not deer or waterfowl. In a civilized society why are such guns so readily available to even the mentally unstable? There is no reason other than that the gun lobby is too powerful and most politician with carreer ambitions are unwilling to cross it and work in the interest of the rest of the country. Banning automatic weapons is an obvious first step with no cogent counter arguments.
With hundreds of millions of guns in circulation it is often argued that a gun ban will do little to keep guns out of the hand of criminals. But since there is no legitimate reason to continue to sell automatic weapons why allow that to continue. Future generations will see the benefits of doing what is needed now just as future generations will benefit from taking reasonable steps to curb greenhouse gases. Politicians such as John McCain who vocalized his support for the second amendment on the same day that 32 young people were masaquered at Virginia Tech are not the kind of leaders we need to take thoughtfull courageous steps to solve problems such as gun violence.

Posted by: DHS Easton MD | April 19, 2007 08:49 AM

Forget the 2nd Amendment. You have an inherent right to protect yourself and your family. That right exists without regard to the 2nd Amendment or any interpretation of it. DC has about as strict a gun law as there ever can be. If DC guaranteed the protection of its citizens; that might supercede their inherent right, but it does not. In fact, when a citizen becomes a victim, those who wrote the law avoid any responsibility whatever. Condolenses is all the victim of the law receives. I'd say an absolute ban on firearms should be the law only when the authorities are held absolutely responsible for the consequences. That means sholdering the responsibility one way or the other....cash to the victims or cops on every corner. A cheap "sorry" card is hardly an adequate substitute.

Posted by: Tulsa1 | April 19, 2007 09:37 AM

"--A physician in training and firearms enthusiast"

Not a highly intelligent discourse you wrote. So by your reasoning, we should allow all kinds of dangerous things because anyone can get these things anyway. So lets make drugs legal!

There is no reason for anyone to own a gun except for law enforcement. You cite England's rising gun related crime--their death rate from guns per capita is so much smaller than that in the US as to make your arguement totally laughable.

Guns kill people. Sorry but the NRA is full of a bunch of nutcases. We need our leaders to stand up to this madness.


Posted by: | April 19, 2007 09:39 AM

I'd say comment 1 above is wrong. I've purchased guns (all kinds) in Virginia and at a variety of stores, and if you leave a blank where the form requires "yes" or "no" there is no sale. This "quote" is probably a fabrication.

Posted by: Tulsa1 | April 19, 2007 09:42 AM

The comments about the Founding Fathers' intents are fatuous. The word _people_ written in the 2nd amendment means individuals. Just like in the first and fourth amendments - there's no argument over their interpretation. There is no more succinct discussion needed on that point. You twist it to your bias, the rest of us live by the document that makes us free. The obvious slant from some of the posters here flies in the face of facts [especially adding the global warming bit, geez], but that's nothing unusual for that crowd. McVeigh did it with a bomb, 9/11 happened because of men with boxcutters. Where there is a will, there is a way. Until we recognize that there are threats all around us, each and every day, and that our own safety is about personal responsibility, and not dependent upon laws that are only meaningful after the fact, we will live a life of control by the few in order to portray safety and security for the many.

Posted by: Rob R. | April 19, 2007 09:44 AM

The comments about the Founding Fathers' intents are fatuous. The word _people_ written in the 2nd amendment means individuals. Just like in the first and fourth amendments - there's no argument over their interpretation. There is no more succinct discussion needed on that point. You twist it to your bias, the rest of us live by the document that makes us free. The obvious slant from some of the posters here flies in the face of facts [especially adding the global warming bit, geez], but that's nothing unusual for that crowd. McVeigh did it with a bomb, 9/11 happened because of men with boxcutters. Where there is a will, there is a way. Until we recognize that there are threats all around us, each and every day, and that our own safety is about personal responsibility, and not dependent upon laws that are only meaningful after the fact, we will live a life of control by the few in order to portray safety and security for the many.

Posted by: Rob R. | April 19, 2007 09:47 AM

Hope that people note (not that I am a fan of the NRA...but that's a political, not logical choice). The fact that the NRA may or may not be full of "nut" cases (Mr. or Ms. Anonymous) has no bearing on the issue at hand.

Posted by: Tulsa1 | April 19, 2007 09:48 AM

Again, in case you missed it - please note that the original author, a RAND researcher, provided seriously incorrect information. The District of Columbia handgun ban was recently struck down by the DC Circuit Court, NOT the U.S. Supreme Court. Was this deliberate misinformation, or sloppiness? Either way, it encourages the reader to discount and distrust the author's opinions.

Posted by: Bethany Hoffman | April 19, 2007 10:03 AM

I accept and agree that measures are needed far beyond gun control, but I am horrified, along with every conservative I have discussed this with, by those who suggest that disasters like this can be prevented by allowing guns on campus. Such suggestions obviously come from people who have no college in their background, or who didn't pay attention when they were there. Nationwide, college students have above-average incidence of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and depression. They are under periodic crushing stress, academic, social, and otherwise. They are at an age when the roaring of hormones is almost audible. And these people want to give them guns?

Posted by: Steve Wheelock | April 19, 2007 10:18 AM

Pro-gun advocates who argue that laws to restrict access to guns won't make a difference ("heck he coulda killed'em with a shovel!") are funny. They're usually the same folks who believe in longer prison terms and the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. In other words, they believe in the efficacy of laws only when these laws don't conflict with their personal preferences.

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 10:45 AM

Clearly strict gun laws will not stop human violence. It is, sadly, part of human nature.

The argument that in such horrific crimes the individual is solely guilty and the ready availability of murder weapons is therefore not to be blamed is, however vacuous, disingenuous and dangerous.

Cho was mentally ill, clearly. He had easy access to guns, equally clearly. It is the union of these two conditions that made such horror possible, not a single one in isolation. The absence of either condition would have been sufficient to stop him. One of those conditions - mental illness - society has no control over. The second, society does.

A second point: That even readier availability of (presumably concealed) weapons might have stopped him sooner -- well perhaps. On the other hand, just perhaps the even readier availability of guns might convince many more like Cho to act upon their - so far unfulfilled - impulses and set of more of those tragedies.

Even if we choose to believe that gun laws are no deterrent to such horror, but that readier availability of weapons might have stopped the slaughter sooner, do we truly trust that Cho might not simply have used the most powerful weapon he could given the situation. Do we trust that he simply stopped because he felt the carnage was just "bad enough"? Had he had access to a machine gun do we trust he wouldn't have used it? Why not high explosives? Surely he would eventually have been stopped, but when?

The issue with guns isn't that they kill and mame. We've seen that even box cutters - or bare hands - can do that. The real problem is how ruthlessly quick and efficient they are at doing it... This is the reason we simply don't trust anyone to have access to any weapon.

Posted by: P.A. | April 19, 2007 11:44 AM

The simple fact is that you can have as many gun control laws as you want. The only people that follow them are law abiding citizens not criminals. What gun control laws do is create helpless vicitms and give the attackers an ability to operate without a real fear of people defending themselves. If he had not been able to get the guns legally, he would have found another way. Anyone who does not believe this is naive. I do believe however that we need a stronger system for background checks as the one we have now does not give full and complete information on applicants, that goes for all states.

Posted by: Dan | April 19, 2007 11:49 AM

The least you can do is make all drugs legal, using the same logic. If I was high, I wouldn't give a darn.

We must love our guns so very much so that a tragedy like this doesn't cause the least bit of concern among gun lovers. APPARENTLY the gun lovers say we should all arm ourselves, 24-7, to help fight the good fight.

WELL I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD LIKE THAT, YOU MORON.

Posted by: tony | April 19, 2007 12:37 PM

I forgot one other point. The argument that the shooter would have used some other means is dishonest. He may have used some other means, but would it have been as efficient as the guns he used Monday? I'm not sure and so are many other folks who are FED UP with the NRA and its apologists.

Posted by: tony | April 19, 2007 12:43 PM

Tulsa1:

"I'd say comment 1 above is wrong. I've purchased guns (all kinds) in Virginia and at a variety of stores, and if you leave a blank where the form requires "yes" or "no" there is no sale. This "quote" is probably a fabrication."

OK, let's say he put "no" in the blank. There was still no way to check the truth of that because of the lack of adequate information for the gun store owner, was there?

Posted by: C. Stevens | April 19, 2007 01:05 PM

One word comment about gun laws: They will not stop every crime, but if they stop even one, then the law is worth passing. While laws may not be abided by they certainly function as a deterrent. If they didn't -- perhaps we should legalize murder. Clearly murders happen while being illegal. This argument is vacuous and silly.

Laws serve a purpose - even when they may be - and are - broken, they set a benchmark for society of what is and isn't acceptable, and the fear and deterrence - remote and imperfect as they may be resulting from them - do deter some from acting upon their base instincts, whether by sheer incapacity, or by disincentive.

The effectiveness of the deterrence - and the extent of its tradeoff with individual and societal rights - define the worthiness of a given law.

Certainly I, for one, feel that the deterrence of stricter gun laws is well worth the supposed sacrifice of not being able to purchase whichever weapon from anyone at anytime.

Gun controls aren't perfect, but they work!

Posted by: P.A. | April 19, 2007 01:13 PM

Anonymous et al,

I would just like to clarify my actual stance as I see my cheeky analogy has been grossly misunderstood...

I am for sensible laws based on empirical data or the best information at hand. Common sense gun regulations like simple or FBI background checks to prevent felons from purchasing guns and even ammo is a good thing. I think if you have had inpatient history in a psych ward you should not have access to guns. Further, I also believe people who own guns should be required to take a proper gun safety and training course and own a gun safe as I have. Ballistic fingerprinting... Hmmmm... I have no huge problem with this, but it is expensive to implement and inexpensive to circumvent (simply buy a new barrel) so it's not a very good use of resources (just ask Maryland).

As far as a total or partial gun ban.... Their effectiveness is obviously "controversial." And, obviously, I cannot support a law that makes target shooting, one of my favorite pasttimes to share with friends and family, illegal. Yes, I use both rifles and handguns. I am not a hunter, but not opposed. I am a member of the NRA because they protect my gun rights, provided my safety training, and sponsor our gun club (which the local police use for training by the way). But I do think for myself and don't agree with everything they do so your characterization is not constructive.

This gun debate is healthy, but again if there is any place we should pour more thought and money into it is in the mental healthcare arena... both awareness and intervention. I hope that is something we can all rally behind.

PS: Dr. Easton, just to clarify automatic weapons have been essentially illegal to own in the US since the National Firearms Act in 1934. The guns Cho used were semi-automatic. Finally, certain semi-auto handguns and revolvers are indeed used for hunting as a more challenging variant on the sport.

Posted by: WS Carbonell, MD, PhD | April 19, 2007 01:21 PM

"We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious." That quote just stopped me. I cannot imagine living in a culture where the purchase of a handgun (in this case a Glock 19 with 50 rounds of ammunition) is not, in itself, suspicious. What a strange and scary reality these people live in, and perpetuate. The bizarre, self-righteous dependency the States have on weaponry is so sad and deluded. I can't see how they will ever acknowledge or end it. My heart goes out to the victims of this national crime - they are living in a nightmare.

Posted by: JP | April 19, 2007 01:22 PM

I want to apologize for use of the word moron.

I have 2 teen-aged kids and the thought they could be shot down in their college classes due to lax law enforcement of current lax gun laws is about to make my head burst. Did any NRA members lose their children in this massacre? I hate to ask such a morbid question, but you have to wonder, don't you?

Look at our reaction to 9/11. So much of it was unnecessary and an inconvenience to our right to travel freely as we chose. Yet no one thought it unreasonable. We have so many home-grown terrorists, what's the point of frisking us down like petty criminals every time we fly?

Posted by: tony | April 19, 2007 01:56 PM

Glad the discussion on this post is more on topic than on bashing posters. Gun laws do work when abided by. And recent incidents only prove the point. Look at the the gun smuggling by an insider from MCO to Puerto Rico. Guns are banned in PR, and on flights - so long as someone has the ways, there will be the means. UK, same. Handguns have been illegal for 10 years now. Yet people are still being killed by them - it's an island. Glock doesn't manufacture there - how do the guns get in to that country? Bans don't work. Gun purchase waiting periods? Didn't work here - the shooter schemed for months or longer. It does come down to the individual, it comes down to awareness of other factors in behaviors demonstrated by an person. I don't know if we'll ever get to a point [or want to] where so much info is available to gov on a person. But at the same time, we can't throw away rights/freedoms based on fear. Tony mentioned 9/11 flight security. MOst of it is feel-good. Doesn't do much but give the appearance of security and block a few amateurs... and it is a hassle for the law abiding. For those that claim the founders never conceived of semi-auto pistols, do you think they conceived of the Internet as a communications medium?

Posted by: Rob R. | April 19, 2007 02:56 PM

The gun laws on the VT campus were enforced and working that day. No law-abiding citizen carried a gun. They obeyed the law. For that commitment to adhering by the gun control mandates of VT, they lost their lives. One person disobeyed that law. For breaking the law, he got to play God that day. How is that conceivable? That makes me stay up at night wondering about my family's security. It should be the same for you.

Posted by: Rob R. | April 19, 2007 03:00 PM

To Rob R and others:

Consider you're average college age individual, specifically one that gets drunk regularly. Lets say he gets in an argument, as drunk people are known to do on occasion. What may have been a fist fight easily becomes a homicide if every person there is carrying a gun. I know this would happen because one of my former roommates used to come home drunk to get his gun because he got in a fight at least once a month. Or take that one kid in class who thinks the teacher has it in for him, because there's always at least one of them. One bad grade later and that teacher is dead. Or do you honestly think that DC schools would be better with everyone armed, especially all the gang members, in the buildings? Every kid having a gun at school for the one in a hundred thousand chance this happens won't lead to more safe schools, it will lead to more schools burying their students.

Posted by: Lee M C | April 19, 2007 04:45 PM

Dear Readers - I really find this fascinating, this healthy debate about guns and American society. The antigun crowd is on the defensive, and it shows by their unabashed attempt to exploit this tragedy for their own utopian/dystopian purposes. Virginia Tech's policy (not a state law, but internal policy) to disarm peaceable students/teachers/employees enabled the killer to rack up the body count as he did. Let's say I had been a visitor in one of those classrooms, and therefore not subject to VT's victim disarmament policy, you bet I would have been carrying concealed. After assessing the situation, which would probably take a microsecond, I would have shot the killer. Self-defense is a human right, and I will exercise my rights as a human being to defend myself. People who focus on the tool used to kill innocents should think instead how to arm innocents so they can defend themselves. I think teachers should be allowed to carry concealed, like in Israel for example. There they have terrorists. Here, we have sociopaths, which is another form of terrorism in my book.
Again focusing on the tool is misguided. Look at us typing away on our computers. Why should I trust "you" to use your computer responsibly? For all I know, "you" are disseminating child porn over the Internet while trying to convince people to ban guns. Maybe "you" are sending encoded orders to terrorists in a web chat room. So, we need people to justify their use of computers, register them, limit the memory capacity and speed in order to prevent the horrific crimes committed by computers. Get it? Computers kill people. Ban computers! Same logic, or feel free to target automobiles, baseball bats, swimming pools, tobacco, food with trans-fats, unprotected sex, or any other object which can kill another human being. It would make the same sense as the arguments to ban guns. Whatever makes "you" "feel" better. I sleep better knowing I can point my gun and shoot a home invader in 10 seconds, versus being put on hold for 1 minute when I call 911. Which raises the question, why the video footage showing the police taking defensive positions behind trees as Virginia Tech? The shooter was in the building, so for God's sake, rush inside and put down the shooter as fast as you can. I know they want to be able to go home safely at the end of their shift, but I think the delay by the police added to this tragedy. Cho shot himself. I will guess he saved the last bullet for himself. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, let the gun be your constant companion. Good advice.

Posted by: C.Fan | April 20, 2007 05:57 AM

Tulsa1 (April 19, 2007 09:37 AM) wrote, "Forget the 2nd Amendment. You have an inherent right to protect yourself and your family."

Actually, its not well known, but in most states that right is limited. Generally (if you are not a police officer) you are required to retreat from an attacker if there is a way to do so, instead of using violent force to protect yourself. If someone breaks into your home and you can safely escape out the back door, but instead you shoot and kill the intruder, in many states you could be prosecuted for criminal manslaughter. Security guards assigned to protect private property often face this dilemma.

Posted by: BTMPost | April 20, 2007 11:56 AM

"Research at the RAND Corporation and elsewhere indicates that some gun restrictions can reduce gun violence."

Others have posted data showing that crime is down in states that allow widespread gun ownership compared to states that so restrict gun ownership that burglars have little fear of being confronted by an armed homeowner.

It would be useful to see a more complete comparison. How do these laws affect rage-induced murders of family members or of scorned lovers, deaths of children due to playing with guns, deaths due to mistaken identity (I thought he was a burglar)?

An organization such as RAND should be able to present such data impartially.

Posted by: BTMPost | April 20, 2007 12:08 PM

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Land_Social_Club

Anyone here for banning gasoline? In 1990, a small amount of gasoline enabled one evil person to kill 87 people at a club in the Bronx.

Pistols do have uses other than committing crimes. As some articles have mentioned, the Walther .22 cal. pistol is often used for target practice.

Some researchers (Kleck) estimates that handguns are used defensively over 2 million times per year in the U.S. Imagine if the US had laws like Britain where gus are banned, then we might have 2 million more crimes per year since people would be defenseless.

To the person who wrote "And as we can see from Monday, "law-abiding" citizens do use guns to kill innocent people or themselves."

When a person commits a crime, they are no longer "law-abiding". So sit in a corner for one hour and think about that before typing another anonymous piece of foolish drivel.

I wish the US was more like Switzerland where nearly every home has a fully automatic weapon and ammunition. The Swiss Army is a militia-type force where every male is enrolled with certain exceptions. I would be more than willing to drill for two weeks every year as long as every other citizen had to do the same.

Do you hear about the massacres in Switzerland despite the easy availability of weapons? So stop blaming guns and gun owners.

Posted by: C.Fan | April 21, 2007 08:36 AM

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