Large-scale incidents of gun violence like yesterday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech University are inevitably followed by gun law debate.
Today, some around the 'net are pointing to relatively relaxed gun laws in Virginia as a contributing factor to the killings. Virginia allows effectively unlimited purchase of assault weapons for anyone over 18 who passes a background check; it's ok to sell rifles and shotguns to children over 12, and a legal loophole makes it okay to buy second-hand guns at gun shows with no waiting period or background check.
But some pro-Second-Amendment folks argue the opposite. University administration and local law enforcement failed to protect VA Tech students from this and previous campus shootings, their logic goes, so there should in fact be more guns on campus -- in the hands of law-abiding students and profs alike, for self-protection.
BB reader Aaron Krowne says,
Virginia had just outlawed Concealed Carry on campus (At Virginia Tech's behest).
I am a VT alum.
The link is a blog writeup of mine pointing out that Virginia Tech had just "outlawed" concealed carry and reiterated its "gun-free campus" policy. In fact, in response to a scare last fall, the school had disciplined a student who was licensed and carrying a concealed weapon, and since then, agitated to defeat a Virginia law that would permit campus concealed carry.
I've quoted VT spokesman Larry Hincker, including an essay of his last year in a local paper. The stance now looks pretty foolish given the tragic result this zero-tolerance "no guns" policy has produced. Will people ever learn that becoming passive and relying fully on the authorities for protection doesn't work?
Those sentiments are echoed in items that appeared in local online press and blogs after an August, 2006 shooting at the university. Snip from "Unarmed and vulnerable," a Roanoke.com op-ed by Virginia Tech grad student Bradford B. Wiles:
On Aug. 21 at about 9:20 a.m., my graduate-level class was evacuated from the Squires Student Center. We were interrupted in class and not informed of anything other than the following words: "You need to get out of the building."
Upon exiting the classroom, we were met at the doors leading outside by two armor-clad policemen with fully automatic weapons, plus their side arms. Once outside, there were several more officers with either fully automatic rifles and pump shotguns, and policemen running down the street, pistols drawn.
It was at this time that I realized that I had no viable means of protecting myself.
Here's another related item at Roanoke.com
Gun bill gets shot down by panel: HB 1572, which would have allowed handguns on college campuses, died in subcommittee.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
After Monday's tragedy, it seems unlikely that more permissive policies around guns on campus for self-defense would win much support. And many argue this is not the answer -- metal detectors, tighter on-campus security, or better alert systems are among the alternate remedies proposed.
No matter which side of the gun debate you're on, one thing is obvious: anyone who is capable of and intent on killing 32 innocent fellow human beings will do so regardless of law. Homicidal maniacs can always be counted on to violate the boundaries set forth by others who want to promote a civil, peaceful society.
(thanks, Sean Bonner)
Snip from that Facebook group description:
WE UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT THIS IS, AND WANT TO HELP SHARE YOUR STORY.... DATELINE NBC URGENTLY LOOKING FOR ANYONE WHO KNEW SEUNG HUI CHO. WE HAVE PRODUCERS AND CAMERA CREWS NEARBY READY TO TALK TO ANYONE WHO CAN SUPPLY INFORMATION ABOUT HIM AND HIS MOVEMENTS LEADING UP TO THE TRAGEDY. WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO PRODUCE A THOUGHTFUL AND INFORMATIVE REPORT THAT MIGHT SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE TRAGEDY AND POSSIBLY HELP PREVENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN.
And *we* understand how difficult it is to remember to switch off Caps Lock while trolling Facebook for primetime TV sources.
St. Edward's University, a small, Catholic, liberal arts college in Austin, TX has closed classes until 5pm today as a result of a bomb threat. Students and faculty were evacuated but as of 11:21am CST no official information has been provided outside of that posted on the website.
Not surprisingly, there seems to be a strong police showing given the size of the school (about 5,000 students). If there *are* copycat events, hopefully this is evidence that law enforcement and school administrations will be more prepared for them given the heightened alert.
Wired News blog Threat Level has more: link 1, link 2.
Previously on BB:
Reader comment: Ted Brown says,
Sadly apropos, I finished watching this documentary--which condemns gun control--only minutes before reading about the VA Tech massacre. Penn & Teller's "Gun Control is Bullshit". It even touches upon theoretical events eerily similar to what happened yesterday. I was on the fence before about gun laws, but this is a one-two punch that's hard to ignore.
Here's what happens when there is someone with a gun nearby: Link.
This article describes the University of Maine's weapons policy. Students are allowedto have them on campus, but they must be registered and stored with Public Safety.
(Via Boing Boing.)