Virginia Tech

Of course the Virginia Tech shootings are a significant disaster, both in loss of life as well as public morale. It is horrible to see a single deranged individual pick up two commonplace handguns and end up killing 32 other people.

The question is what we will learn from it.

Already there are calls for more gun control, but it should be clear that gun control failed in this instance. He made it past the waiting periods, the background check, and laws making it illegal to bring them on campus. Of course, it's also illegal to murder people.

On the other side, what if one or two people had been able to have their own guns for self-defense? Would they have stopped the slaughter? History shows that while some victims are passive (rumors indicate that he lined people up and executed them), others take action to protect others while endangering themselves. Professor Liviu Librescu tried to block the killer out of his classroom and was shot for his trouble, but he may have saved his students.

I had believed that after 9/11 there would never be passive victims to such crimes again in our national memory. Now I don't know what to think.

Beyond guns there is a discussion about mental health. The warning signs of a troubled young man abounded here, with warnings from teachers and even court proceedings related to his mental state. Could we have understood him better and done something more in advance? There are limits, here, too. We can second-guess the judge that allowed him outpatient mental health care which kept the killer from being barred from owning a firearm, but what's the point? Dedicated individuals can find weaponry of any sort to act out their hate. Recall that dedicated Jihadis turn themselves or their cars into weapons or that Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer and diesel fuel to kill more than the VT killer did.

I believe that pre-emption against unknown threats is a fruitless endeavor and that the best strategy is improving our ability to react. In Iraq we dealt with a known serious threat with pre-emption. At home, where we don't know the threats, he harden the obvious targets and grow our ability to respond. The wrong response would be to soften obvious targets like schools and malls by prohibiting the very best tools of response.

Josh Poulson

Posted Thursday, Apr 19 2007 11:26 AM

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Among the many great discussions of our time is the meaning of mental illness. I think that the discussion would be advanced if we would differentiate between illness and evil. There is no distinction our popular culture. It is actually worse. We see evil and declare it to be illness. When we do that, we remove the responsibility for actions of the evil. Yet again, we have done so at our own peril.


Posted Friday, May 11 2007 01:46 PM

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