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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Virginia Tech, Columbine and ZT

Such it is with the timing of world events: As you probably know, I write True on Sundays. I'm on the road this week and had already finished writing this week's stories -- with the lead story about a guy who shot himself in the head. Today I went to lunch with Leo Notenboom (who is also speaking at the conference where I am). It's one of those places that has TVs everywhere, and I finally looked up at the one over my head and see "22 Dead in Shooting" at Virginia Tech. Lovely. By this evening the count was up to 33, including the gunman.

Naturally, as the CNN anchors were desperately trying to fill airtime, showing the same photos and video snippets again and again and again, there were comparisons to the Columbine school shooting. When that happened, I lived about a half-hour away from Columbine. And when that happened, I got a crank from a reader saying hey, aren't I sorry NOW for my "cavalier attitude" against zero tolerance?

Yes, some people actually think that ZT is a solution to such things, completely missing that it's part of the problem that generates these situations. It's part of what creates rage against the arbitrary, unfair punishments for non-transgressions -- if pointing a finger is the same as pointing a real gun, then why not use that real gun? Why not "do something" to avenge those punishments? Columbine, after all, was really about powerless little boys raging against bullies at school.

I have no idea if that's part of what went on in Virginia, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if that turns out to be a factor.

20 April Update

Today, longtime reader David in Colorado sent me an item about a security consultant who appeared on the Today show. He wanted to make the point, the story said, that "cowering under a desk and waiting for help to come is no longer an option. American schools must teach their students to respond aggressively to attacks by people bent on mayhem." Yet obviously that's not what we teach kids. Allen Hill, the founder of the company Response Options, went on to say that society needs to "Get past this paralysis of fear over liability issues. Our country is so litigious and concerned about doing the wrong thing and about doing the politically correct thing that we don't do anything."

Sounds reasonable, except for two things: when you read my True Stella Awards book, you realize that indeed our country is litigious. Common sense very often doesn't cut it in lawsuit defense. And, secondly, what are schools teaching kids? Very simply that whatever they do is wrong. They cannot act. A bully threatens you, steals your lunch, trips you, pushes you, even fights with you -- and the school quickly suspends ...you. You shouldn't have fought back, they say. The message is clear: lie down and take it. Yeah, you'll probably still be suspended, but that's what they teach anyway. And we're shocked when 32 innocents are killed at a school? Sadly, I'm not shocked. Nor am I shocked that the comments on this story so far from readers are almost unanimous: not only is it OK that many of the students and teachers fought back, but that they should be allowed the tools to defend themselves.

- - -

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75 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Chris, Texas on April 16, 2007:

So he shot 32 people, one after one. There's only one way he could do that: they didn't have the ability to defend themselves. It sounds good to make schools "gun free zones" but all that means is a gunman knows no one can shoot back, so that's a good place to practice mayhem.

We had a shooting in this state (you may have heard of the Luby's cafeteria shooting?) where a lot of people were shot. That's when we passed a law to allow honest, law-abiding citizens to carry guns after a background check and safety training. And guess what? No more mass shootings -- gunmen know there COULD BE someone who can shoot back.

Heinlein was right: an armed society is a polite society. How many more school shootings do we need until we allow people to defend themselves everywhere? We're sacrificing our children to the altar of political correctness, the idea that if we take away guns that violence will suddenly go away. It doesn't happen, folks. If we allowed honest people to have guns, we wouldn't be mourning 32 innocent lives tonight.

Posted by cresty Renton, WA on April 16, 2007:

Well, if someone would have had a gun, maybe a lot more people would be alive today.

I carry a gun, but would I be allowed to carry it there? No, I don't think so. Don't all the people that were killed wish I were there, with my gun?

---

Wow: you can get gun permits in Washington? (Texas was no surprise....) -rc

Posted by Jim Sterling on April 16, 2007:

As a gun owner living in Va. I can tell you there have been numerous attacks on various campuses the last couple of years including Tech. Usually robberies and rapes but quite often deadly assualts. The Va Citizens Defense League, which is a Va. gun owners organization, tried to get legislation passed allowing students who had a concealed carry permit to be allowed to carry their weapon while in class without fear of explusion for self protection. The various schools all opposed it including Tech a school which said their campus is totally safe. The legislation died in the State assembly.

Texas is right -- we have set up shooting galleries for killers. It is also nice to see a Heinlein quote. Heinlein had the ultimate answers on how to run society. To quote Heinlein again we are living in the "crazy years".

Posted by Larry, Indiana on April 16, 2007:

Possibly, in this one instance, having armed students might have cut the body count down. Of course, how many other students might have been shot in the crossfire as everyone blazed away at each other will never be known.

I'm also quite nervous about having armed students on a college campus. Anyone remember college? Students are nervous (or panicking) over grades; they are depressed because of girlfriends dumping them (or failing a class); they get drunk or drugged out while partying, etc etc etc. Not the most mature of people.

Sure, we might have reduced the number of slain today...but how many more would die throughout the year as a student snaps and blows away a snoring roommate, or shoots his ex-girlfriend, or commits suicide? I'm not sure if adding more guns to the mix would make us safer over all.

Posted by Dawn, Lowell,MA on April 16, 2007:

Unfortunately for me, this shooting brings up bad memories from November 1, 1991 at the U of Iowa. A Chinese exchange PhD student did not win a prestigious award for physics and went on a two build rampage at my school. He killed 3 Physics professors, the student who did win the award, the VP of academics and her poor work study student who was the only survivor of what people in Iowa call the Gang Lu Massacre.

I had call in the physics building that day - but a couple of hours earlier and was in the library studying when it happened. When I got back to my dorm to go out (as it was a friday) there were five calls from my Dad demanding I call him right way when I got home. So I call and ask what was so important - his reply -O thank God. Turn on the news. I stil cant believe that to this day five people were killed, a young girl working work study was paralyzed from the neck down and this crazed guy died - all over some stupid physics pirze that he thought should be his.

The people he killed were Christoph K. Goertz (his advisor), Linhua Shan (a fellow PhD student from China), Dwight R. Nicholson (department chair), Robert Alan Smith (associate professor and Lu's co-advisor), and T. Anne Cleary (Vice President for Academic Affairs). A student employee, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, was shot in her spine; this permanently paralyzed her arms and legs.

It makes me sad that still haven't figured out in all this time how to protect college kids from these sorts of crazed gunman. A campus wide alert or something - at least the VT kids got that email - unfortuately it was too late to help them.

Posted by Paul, Queens, New York City on April 16, 2007:

This was an attack by a psychopath against what he sees as a uniform society, intended to hurt us by killing our kids. I attended VPI over 30 years ago and bullying wasn't tolerated by the students, not because someone policed them, but because it just wasn't a part of their campus culture. If there is an underlying reason why Tech was targeted it was because there is NO justification, any more than any other terrorist would have in bombing a nursery school.

If Randy had bothered to judge the subset of the student population interviewed on the basis of their composure and reason he would have recognized this. Exploiting this tragedy to score points in some pro-this or anti-that debate is despicable.

---

I find it interesting that you know the specific motives of this guy. Have you taken this vital information to the police? Or are you engaging in speculation that's even more banal than what CNN was doing today?

As for me, I've already said "I have no idea if that's part of what went on in Virginia." Too bad you're not as honest, preferring to use this tragedy to make your own pro-this and anti-that points. Mr. Pot, your attempts to call the kettle black ring a bit hollow. -rc

Posted by Jon on April 16, 2007:

Studies have shown that the people with CCW licenses are the most law abiding people in the country. No one has a reason to fear such people. If just one student, over 21 (as that is the law to carry a gun), had a concealed gun in the classroom, there could have been a lot less blood shed.

With regards to the constant shootout with more guns, one should do some research before doubting the safety. Read John Lott's books. Read the studies where crime has decreased in states that have CCW permits. It's an awesome responsibility to carry a gun. I don't know anyone who has a permit that doesn't view it as such. The wild west theory has been disproved many years ago.

Banning guns does not work. Ask the folks in Washington, DC and Chicago where they have the strictest gun laws in the country.....and to go with it, the highest crime rates. Criminals love "gun-free" zones.

Posted by Barry, Seattle, WA on April 16, 2007:

Just the presence of a gun stops hundreds of assaults every year. And the knowledge that someone MIGHT have a gun makes criminals think twice. Several years ago the Florida legislature passed two seemingly unrelated acts - "shall issue" legislation requiring the authorities to issue concealed weapons permits to any law-abiding citizen who applied for one AND a requirement for special license plates on rental cars. Criminals starting haunting rest stops, attacking people in rental cars. Anyone driving a rental was most likely a tourist and was unlikely to be armed.

It took about six months and several deaths of tourists before they saw the connection and resumed issuing standard license plates for rental cars.

Posted by Jeff, Kabul Afghanistan on April 17, 2007:

What happened to Virginia? When I used to spend time there in the early 70's if someone was foolish enough to pull out a gun to commit a crime so would everybody else to make them stop.

Shooting galleries. Good choice of words. The bad part is it's the schools indoctrinating the students with the horror of holding a handgun.

As far as the number of people that would be killed by armed students under pressure.... We have several armed cities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan with pressures a student couldn't imagine. We do not have random shootings.

Posted by Brian, Los Angeles on April 17, 2007:

The guy did do some planning. Evidently he chained the exit(s?). So in response to the more gun control crowd I'd like to say I.E.D. If this guy didn't have guns he could have easily walked into his Mega-Mart and bought all he needed and quite possibly killed even more.

To Larry in Indiana. Do you really think if some students had been armed it's realistic to consider more than 33 students could have died? Really? I suggest you do some reading up on the State of Florida and firearms. You'll find the regulations very lax there for over a decade. You'll find a drop in violent crime there. You'll also find very few people actually decide to carry and the record of those who obtain permits and then engage in a violent crime is almost nil.

Finally take note of this unfortunate point. The Campus Police arrived too late to make a difference in the first shooting. Then City Police arrived at the scene. While both were on campus grounds they still arrived too late to make any difference at the second scene of executions. No fault of the Police should be inferred. They most often just don't make it there in time.

Posted by Craig, Melbourne Australia on April 17, 2007:

I can't believe these things still happen. Ten years ago we had a similar mass shooting, but more killed. The government bought back all powerful guns, and banned their further sale (except if it was justified - farmers). Result, we haven't had any more mass shootings. Sure, people still get angry and will do crazy things, but the lack of available and powerful weapons can minimise the potential damage.

Why does the average US citizen need such powerful handguns, and with such large clips?

And don't give me the standard 'defense' response. Remove the guns from the street, and you don't need the same for defense.

Posted by Carter Clearwater, FL on April 17, 2007:

It will be interesting to see what, if any, medications the shooter was taking. About 90% of the school shootings are done by a patient taking anti-depressants, which are known to have various anti-social side effects. The question is, WILL the news media report the shooter's psychiatric history, or will it remain hidden (as the Columbine murderers' did) until some non-media group DOES reveal the cover-up? In the first well-known school shooting - the University of Texas tower shootings about 30 or so years ago, the shooter was on prescription amphetamines I believe.

Posted by Brian, Aurora, Ohio on April 17, 2007:

This sort of thing really saddens me but ZT would not have prevented this or any other gun crime. I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon and believe that if there were more of "us" (people who have been thoroughly investigated), the public might be safer.

My prayers go out to the families of the slain.

Posted by Don, Nevada on April 17, 2007:

School shootings will never be stopped by ZT! They may, however, be curtailed by the limitation of the use of drugs that make people crazy and want to kill, like Prozac, Zoloft, etc...

Check out this article on the subject from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a watchdog group trying to monitor/deal with the problem, "Another School Shooter, Another Psychiatric Drug?"

---

The article is no longer online, at least at the URL provided. -rc

Posted by Jan, California on April 17, 2007:

Randy, thanks for the reminder about the real problem with ZT. I am a member of the school board at our church and plan to address this issue tonight. Hopefully with my own research and your valuable input I can convince the other members that we need to be very careful about ZT and the impact it has on our students.

Posted by Paul - Queens, New York on April 17, 2007:

RC: "As for me, I've already said "I have no idea if that's part of what went on in Virginia.""

No. That was a COMMA, part of a larger context which you're conveniently avoiding:

"Columbine, after all, was really about powerless little boys raging against bullies at school. I have no idea if that's part of what went on in Virginia, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if that turns out to be a factor."

I said I had been there in the 60's and I had listened to Mondays interviews and that this was not a bullying culture.

In contrast you used "I have no idea if... but..." as a disclaimer for what was coming, followed by a second attempt to cover yourself from what you knew was an unjust hatchet job "it wouldn't surprise me".... Shades of "Some people have been saying...". So which is it? Do you take responsibility for implying the victims brought it on themselves because they were bullies? Or was this just _tasteful_ speculation about a community in shock?

RC: "Too bad you're not as honest, preferring to use this tragedy to make your own pro-this and anti-that points".

What point? What did you discover about my opinions on ZT or Gun Control or Jimmy Hoffa from my posting? Nothing, that's what, because I didn't make many. This is just an out of the blue attempt to try to blame your own tactics on someone else, and is a major indicator that, on some level, you understand you goofed here and need to fix it, not make it worse.

RC: "Mr. Pot, your attempts to call the kettle black ring a bit hollow. -rc"

And you're what? 9 years old here? I mention that you might not be infallible in prejudging this wounded community as a nest of bullies and your scathing retort is a variation of "I know you are but what am I"? You need to step back and mull things over for a few days. At the least, don't bother replying before Thursday. At most, never.

---

Everything is here, in print, in context. Nothing is hidden, so your protestations that I didn't reprint everything that I already said, that's already there, is silly. I wrote about what I saw from Columbine. You wrote about what you saw in the 1960s. Yet you reject my observations in favor of your own. *shrug* I'm guessing things have changed more in the past 40 years than they have in the past eight.

Your assumption that I'm blaming the victims is ludicrous. Even if 100% of the shooter's motives are from bullying rather than simply "a factor" (which is 100% doubtful), the shooter is still 100% to blame. To suggest that anyone could think the victims are responsible for their own deaths is obscene, and says a lot about your thought processes.

Last, it's no surprise that you would demand I take days to think about my response after you've immediately pounded out yours. You demand that others conform to your rules, but guess whose site this is? The only thing I need to do to win this debate is publish your words. -rc

Posted by Ian, England on April 17, 2007:

There are lots of questions about gun laws, and whether they result in more or less massacres.

My concern is that people on both sides of the argument will say "ah, but he was Korean, so it doesn't count" and if that happens, it will be another sorry day.

Posted by Richard, Louisiana on April 17, 2007:

God knows I'm never accused of hypersensitivity, and I can find something to laugh at in almost any set of circumstances. I nevertheless find it necessary to tell you that I wish you had not included the opening story about the suicide in this week's edition.

Do I think he was wrong to lie about his degrees? Of course. Do I think he should have shut down his career? Arguable, but probably. Do I think he over-reacted? Yes.

But speaking as an individual with a lifelong history of clinical depression, I can understand his response. And, frankly, anyone who cared about him as a person (wife, child, parent, sibling or friend) would be rightly appalled to see him as the subject of a "This Is True" story.

---

I would think about half the subjects of my articles (or their families) would be a bit appalled to see themselves featured. What's the point? To get people to think. So let's be specific about suicide: I find it constructive to ridicule suicide, since it is, in fact, a ridiculous way to escape problems, rather than facing up to them and helping to clean up the mess they caused. The subject of this week's lead story is a good example: he created a huge mess, but he would have survived the scandal. But he took an "easy" way out and left the mess for others to deal with without his help. That's not a reasonable solution -- and I don't think anyone would disagree, even if you can understand his impulse. -rc

Posted by James, Illinois on April 19, 2007:

Before the blood of the students had even begun to dry, the politicos came out of the woodwork to start using this to forward their agendas. Predictably, the ones who would blindly push 100% prohibition of private gun ownership saw this as an affirmation of their stance and renewed their push for trying to remove this right from the American citizenry.

It was an even more chaotic climate in Germany with a crumbling economy, rivaling groups fighting each other to take over the streets, and an ambitious politician who saw that as an opportunity for him to seize power from the democracy that had existed there. The amazing part is that Adolf Hitler was elected to his position of power and the people willingly gave up their right to protect themselves.

I'm not saying that this would definitely happen here in the United States, but I am saying that we should never give up the right to defend ourselves.

Should students have been allowed to carry firearms at school? Maybe not, I don't know. It would make sense though for the teachers to be allowed to carry weapons.

As in the days when teachers were allowed to paddle students, it wasn't the paddling itself that prevented students misbehaving but the fact that it could happen.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on April 19, 2007:

How could it happen? How can we keep it from ever happening again? The answer to both questions is that you will NEVER know. Oh, yes, many of you have ALL the answers; you always do. It doesn't matter which side of the political agenda you're on, you always know how to solve the problems of the world. Yet those problems continue. It's private ownership of guns. No, it's the overly restrictive gun control laws. Wait, it's the Hollywood movies. No, it's the violent video games, the comic books, the pre-sweetened cereals.... There have been guilty culprits going all the way back for more than 100 years.

Last year there were 16,000 murders in the U.S. Where is the concerted outrage? Well, that's because it's spread out over a whole year. Ifthey were all done in one day and we had 364 murder-free days, everybody would still be outraged that there were 16,000 murders.

Last year there were over 40,000 traffic deaths, around half of them attributable to alcohol. We've got some pretty tough drunk driving laws these days. Outside of shutting down all the bars and maybe outlawing booze, there's not much more we can do. But wait, if all those alcohol related deaths happened in one night, there'd be outrage and demands to do exactly that.

What made this particular tragedy into SUCH a tragedy is that 32 murders occurred in one afternoon by the same person. Spread it out over a couple weeks, by various people, and it wouldn't even make the news.

Restricting access to anything doesn't solve the problem. Nobody is allowed to keep the own personal bombs. That didn't stop McVeigh from killing all those people in Oklohoma City. In Europe, where gun ownership and especially bomb ownership is even more restricted, there are more incidents of railway, bus, and subway bombings than in the U.S. There is more murder daily in Africa, especially per capita, where the word "GENOCIDE" becomes spoken, yet there is not the concerted outrage as in America where such massacres occur every several years.

Lastly, guns, bombs, video games, movies, breakfast cereal, and comic books are only the symptoms. If someone contracts malaria and he dies from the fever, it's ridiculous to try outlawing fevers in the hope that the disease will be stopped. It is the disease of the mind that is the ultimate culprit when murder is committed. And nobody has figured out how to prevent that, even going all the way back to Cain & Abel.

Even certain anti-depressants, suspected to heighten paranoia, still are not to be blamed. Those drugs don't create paranoia, they heighten them. Again, a symptom, not a cause. Outlaw the drug and murders, along with mass murders, will still occur.

No, I suspect the biggest outrage is the realization that, in a world of 6 billion people, and a land mass of some 60 million square miles, that some people have been reminded that they are NOT in total control of their environment and that realization scares them silly.

Posted by Craig, Minnesota, USA on April 20, 2007:

To Craig in Melbourne: I suspect that you are going with your feelings rather than reality. Since Australia and the U.K. banned firearms, violent intrusions into occupied dwellings have increased almost 53% and violent street crimes have skyrocketed. The criminals are now bolder because the citizens', oops, subjects' ability to defend themselves has been virtually eliminated.

In the U.K., you are likely to receive a stiffer punishment for defending yourself than will the criminal for perpetrating a violent attack upon you. Criminals now fear almost no one and *they will* have weapons. Laws and signs do not stop them prior to their criminal act(s). Laws only become a factor if the criminal is actually caught. And prosecuted. And convicted.

Law enforcement is not capable of preventing violence unless they just happen to be present and inclined to intervene. Banning firearms has only taken them from the hands of those who obey the law. You are responsible for your own defense. Protection could be in your hands now or sitting at the donut shop. When a gang of armed thugs crashes into your home, hold up a copy of the law and wag your finger at them.

I am a professional firearms trainer and have been for almost 40 years. I instruct courses that qualify my students to obtain permits to legally carry a firearm in up to 35 U.S. states. I am not aware of any of my students having been involved in a criminal act.

On a sad note, last Monday's events appear to have awakened the sheeple, many of whom have been sleeping since shortly after 9/11. Doubtless due to the VT incident, my upcoming classes are filling rapidly. I'm glad for the business, of course, but I curse the Virginia legislature for specifically disallowing students, faculty and staff the means to protect themselves. In their twisted imaginations, "safety" means no one has a firearm -- an inanimate object totally incapable of independent action. As with any implement that could be used as a weapon, the hands of the operator that will determine its use. An ordinary garden rake could be deadly. Should we ban them as well?

Leave the emotional baggage at the door and really examine the issue. It's not the guns, it's the criminals. Banning guns only affects those who are inclined to obey the law anyway. The criminals are, well, criminals. By definition, they do not obey the law. Cho appears to have been seriously disturbed and obviously motivated. If no guns were available, he might likely have used an internet explosives recipe. His choice of implements does not condemn the implements. What he chose to do with those implements condemns him.

Posted by Dee-Ann LeBlanc, BC Canada on April 20, 2007:

I don't get why people keep blaming drugs like antidepressants. As someone who's on them, I will point out that you go on them because you're already unbalanced. They aren't magic happy pills, you have to work with your doctor and adjust the medications and levels until they're right. And often meds work best with counselling.

It may be that a high % of people who do particular types of things are on antidepressants or similar drugs, but that doesn't mean the drugs are the cause of the problem. It means they were probably trying to get help and it wasn't fast enough, wasn't working well enough, wasn't enough to get them to quit with bad coping mechanisms, or whatever.

As far as guns go, I don't see how turning campuses into the OK Corral is going to fix the problem. Nothing simple is going to "fix" it. In this case, this kid really needed some serious help and wasn't getting it. It's hard to say whether he would have snapped regardless, whether it was from bullying, or what ... we may never know.

My own personal thoughts on why we have such a problem with violence in the US (yes, I'm in Canada but I'm from the US and still spend a lot of time there) is that it's a culture where the loudest "majority" (I use the term loosely) are more okay with allowing violent, gory movies to be shown than they are with allowing expressions of love to be shown. Add in a culture that idolizes Bart Simpson much more than Lisa, and a love of reality TV shows where bitchy, nasty, aggressive people are highlighted as the most desirable and it's really not hard to see that we've got a lot of problems to deal with.

And as a species, we've been murdering each other since the day that primitive 1 picked up a rock and discovered he could make a dent in primitive 2's head with it. For all of our trappings of "civilization," unfortunately we haven't gotten past the caveman with rock thing. As an optimist, I keep telling myself that maybe one day we'll manage it, but sometimes it's hard.

Donning flame-retardant gear.

Posted by Holly, NB Canada on April 20, 2007:

Personally, I think guns are bad, in the hands of either the bad, or the good. But until we can get rid of them, all of them, the good should have guns to defend themselves against those who would use guns for bad. However, I think that guns should be registered- and a record of who has what kind of gun kept. Why? Because, then if, say a suspected drug dealer was seen with a gun, a Police officer could ask for proof of registration and if it was not a registered gun, have a way to get a drug dealer off the streets. And reason to search him. I know this is a long shot, but it could happen. I also know I'm assuming a lot - like that having an unregistered gun would be punishable by jail time. This wouldn't have prevented the tragedy that happened on Monday, but perhaps the registration required people to say if they had been involuntarily committed for a psychiatric assessment (as Cho was) or things like that. I don't think that this would have stopped Cho, who could have used the knives he had(as seen, many many times on CNN this week) or a bomb. we'll never know how many lives something like this could have saved over the past hundred years or so.

Posted by Bruce, Gisborne NZ on April 20, 2007:

Questions are being asked about making laws more restrictive concerning gun ownership, and it would seem sensible to consider such questions. But questions are not being put about the nature of a society which produces people who will act like the murderer in the Virginia Tech massacre. After all, at the base of such incidents is a simple matter of the lack of self-control so prevelant in the lives of so many people.

In the past such self-control was schooled into people during their early life, partly through encouraging their concern for the welfare of society in general, and partly through an awareness of the damnation of their individual soul should they lose self-control in such a fatal way. Now, many people don't seem to fear damnation and hell. The concepts are glibly labelled 'fundamentalist' and ignored.

Similarly, the concepts of 'fairplay' and 'sportsmanship' and 'seemliness' are belittled by a society that seems to teach only one (invented) commandment: "don't get caught".

As for the law: why do so many people live under the illusion the law has much effect on wrong-doers? Don't they realise criminals are people who ignore the law; that's why we call them 'criminals'.

Posted by William, Florida on April 20, 2007:

The one reader had it exactly right, we teach kids and adults today that they are not responsible for their own well being, the government will protect you from bad people, bad decisions, everything. Just sit back and let the government handle it, you aren't capable because you haven't had the specialized training needed. What bull.

Two loads of passengers sat back and let their planes crash into the World Trade Centers, I am convinced because we have been taught to let the hijackers have their way, the government will come and bail us out. One group of passengers fought back, and even though the plane crashed, they went out as heroes and prevented further loss of life.

I firmly believe we are each responsible for our own welfare, we have to protect ourselves even if it means endangering ourselves. There is no way a long gunman could have withstood an entire school or even a classroom of students determined to stop him. Instead, except for one professor who sacrificed his own life to keep the doors closed, no one else I am aware of took a proactive action.

Your example of school yard bullies is an excellent example, our society is being taught not to even fight back when attacked.

Sorry for the rant, it is just frustrating how the illogical actions of so called "educators" and school administrators are allowed to continue unchallenged.

As far as ZT, even the cop on campus couldn't defend the school against anyone, since he is weaponless.

Posted by Rachel, Australia on April 20, 2007:

Interesting how no one has commented on how things like this could be reduced if there were better background checks. Why would anyone buying a gun at a show be any more trustworthy then some one buying it at a shop? Why do they have to go through less background checks?

Rather then banning outright all guns - have a better look at the people buying guns. It might take a week to do a proper background check, but what is a week compared to 32 + whatever the number of others that get killed lives.

I am a university student. I wouldn't feel safe if there were guns on campus. Its just too easy to pull it out in a fit of rage....

Posted by Jeff, Maidenhead UK on April 21, 2007:

Whenever what used to be known as a 'Columbine-style shooting' happens in the US, just about the first thing our newspapers and news programmes mention is the lack of gun control. I've always felt that it must seem odd to a visiting American how obsessed we are with this aspect but I'm beginning to think we have a point. Unless you are affiliated in some way to the criminal classes it is almost impossible to buy a gun for your own use outside a shooting club and even then the legislation is restrictive. This has meant that there are really only two incidents involving such gun rampage: Michael Ryan in Hungerford and Thomas Hamilton in Dunblane. Both Ryan and Hamilton were shooting club members and that is how they got their guns.

This is slightly simplistic I appreciate, but over here if a disaffected teenager loses the plot it is more likely he'll (it's more likely to be a boy) go on a self-destructive rampage whereas in the US the kid merely needs to pick up one of the firearms next to his bed and start the revenge process. There are angry teens all over the world but only in the US are they provided so easily with the hardware for getting even with the world.

The pro-gun lobby will probably wheel out good ol' Charlton Heston - now one of the best adverts the anti-gun lobby has.

Posted by John, Louisa, Virginia on April 21, 2007:

Literally hundreds of students and instructors were confronted by that young madman at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In Virginia there is no statutory prohibition against carrying an otherwise legally concealed weapon on a college campus, only this particular school's policy. If only ONE of them had been armed, I have no doubt lives would have been saved. Even one fewer death would far outweigh any rationalized benefit of this policy.

Posted by Bruce, Nevada on April 21, 2007:

Institutions of all kinds do as much as possible to neuter their constituants. It is a power grab. People seek postitions that come with power, the more the better. So students are conditioned over time, don't do this, don't do that, until the default response of students is to do nothing. The institutions take on the burden of responsibility in their quest for authority, but that end of the deal gets ignored.

Bruce from N.Z. says, "Now, many people don't seem to fear damnation and hell. The concepts are glibly labelled 'fundamentalist' and ignored."

I say, it's not that simple. People have learned that these are tools of another institution, used to bring their constituants to heel. In the information age, the people hear all the stories of gross wrongdoing by clergy, and the credibility of those selling damnation and hell is shot all to... That, and realizing that the basis of those institutions is superstition only further discredits them. Another example of something for nothing, like so many layers of government that absorb tax money and provide nothing to benefit the taxpayer.

I believe that the mass murderers we are talking about are totally alienated by their institutions' foolish control mechanisms and failure to detect and respond to human needs. That does not mean that I don't recognize that killers are often insane, but I don't think it's impossible to see how they got that way. At V.T., that one was educated by some series of sources and events to believe some very perverted ideas.

Buying a gun potentially has serious implications for society. I think that gun sellers have a unique responsibility to insure that guns are not sold to nuts. The V.T. killer had a record that should have precluded him from acquiring lethal weapons. I know shop keepers are not policemen, but if they want to profit from selling guns, then they should shoulder the responibility of taking steps to protect the public.

Posted by Steven, Evansville, IN on April 21, 2007:

I am sure that if the U.S. had confiscated and destroyed every firearm in the country, like the UK and Australia, Cho would have found a way to accomplish what he did anyway.

He would have used an IED, a vehicle driven through a place of high pedestrian traffic, readily available chemicals to manufacture deadly gases, a crossbow, a ball bat and on and on. Not having a firearm would not have stopped someone as bent as this individual.

Maybe all schools should train and equip their faculty (not students) with handguns. This would ensure that there would be a "first responder" on the scene immediately, thus preventing any such event to spread to other areas of the institution and save many lives.

This one small act would go a long way in enforcing Zero Tolerance for campus violence.

Posted by Tena, Vancouver, WA on April 21, 2007:

I was raised by "Parental Gun Control". That meant that I knew if I touched the rifle that sat in its case in the corner of my parents' room, that I wouldn't be able to sit for a month. Having experienced a spanking by my father only once before, I tried my best to never have one again. But at the same time, both he and my grandfather took great pains to teach me the PROPER way to handle firearms.

Some say I was verbally abused by my father, who sometimes told my siblings and I that we were "too stupid" to do things when frustrated with our actions. I was a wall-flower in high school, and was sometimes picked on because I was shy.

Does that mean I'll someday pick up a gun and run amuck? No. That means I can appreciate being raised with "Parental Control", which meant I had parents who praised me when I did good, and showed me that there were conseqences for doing wrong. I never took a gun to school, even though I knew where my father's handgun was kept and had easy access. I was never even tempted to do so.

Gun control is not the answer, for when rules are against evil, then evil follows no rules. More parents need to take back their children, and teach them that there are consequences to every action. School teachers cannot do the parenting for parents; only Parents can parent their own kids!

The media doesn't help when it gives so much airtime to killers like Cho. ENOUGH on Cho!! Like others have said, let's see more about the heroics of the teachers and folks who died trying to save others! Killers deserve no more media coverage.

---

Hear hear. -rc

Posted by Marc, Santa Cruz, CA on April 21, 2007:

To Holly in New Brunswick: Regarding your point about the psychiatric assessment, if it had been an involuntary committal, Mr. Cho would have been prevented from purchasing the pistols. However, it appears that he signed a consent form at some point during the process, making it a voluntary committal, and therefore it didn't show up on the background check.

Then again, if the fellow who did the assessment had ticked the box that said "imminent danger to others" as well as "danger to self", he might have still been under supervision instead of being handed a prescription and released back into society. It's hard to tell and hindsight is always 20/20.

Posted by Kathy, Thibodaux LA on April 21, 2007:

Zero tolerance is useless.

School murders are a direct result of school administrators refusing to take action against bullying.

So consider this: If you're a teacher or school administrator and you witness kids getting picked on, and you do NOTHING, then YOU are the problem and it's YOUR fault if someone ends up killed.

Posted by Charlotte, Redmond Oregon on April 21, 2007:

Wait a minute, what about the mental health guys? If they saw a problem, why didn't they do something like get him on meds, or put him in a hospital and have some group therapy to bring out the cause of his sickness. I bet he was bullied in some way too.

In other words, this society creates very disturbed citizens. Cho was not part of the huge uneducated mass, but was probably caught up in a mental illness that caused vengefull attitudes that grew to rage. But many of our incarcerated are not educated, or don't have access to good health care. Of course there is a huge population that come under those standards and are not felons or criminals, but have terrible lifestyles. They might even be gun owners. I am. Although I am one of the educated, I am on a really low income now as a senior citizen. My little .22 is for defending my chickens from the racoons, or dogs who attack my livestock. I'm old enough now to probably not hesitate too much with shooting someone if they were trying to harm my family. I pray that will never happen.

Yes, this country is corrupt and in one of the final stages of societal rise and fall. We could be so great. Legal and Greed are the big roadblocks to quality lifestyles, with freedom to defend oneself and recognize our differences with respect.

Posted by Dean, Washington on April 21, 2007:

I am insulted by the mainstream media spouting off calls for more stringent gun/weapon laws and giving free air time to the various control groups around the country every time an event like this occurs.

If closer scrutiny is given to the statistics they use concerning gun use one comes up with an entirely different view of the issue. One most often used is the "number of deaths by firearms" lumping ALL deaths into the same category. Do authorized Police shootings and legal self defense shootings by average citizens really belong in this figure when talking about the "need" for more laws? I think not! It makes even less sense that a judge in this country would even entertain a lawsuit by a criminal assailant or the assailants family to recover damages from an intended victim who fought back with convincing force. There are publications out there that print accounts of private citizens thwarting criminal action against themselves or an unknown victim, yet these accounts are not reported as visibly in the national media.

Holly suggested registration. While it may sound good at first glance, I point to the use of such registration during WW II in Europe when the Nazi forces used such information in subduing the civilian populace. Such events still could happen today by external as well as internal forces with questionable motives.

Posted by Ryan, New Hampshire on April 21, 2007:

The one positive thing to come from this event, and the one positive thing I can say about the media's coverage, is that it gets everyone talking. Unfortunately, it takes high-profile tragedies such as this one to draw the collective attention of the world.

Unfortunately many people want to "feel" protected, and time and again the reaction is the same: we need to fix the law, we need new laws, we need to change the institutions' policies. All of these "solutions" only make the problem worse, and most people miss the point: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. We try to put the reponsibility on the government, on institutions - which is impossible! Institutions exist only as a collection of individuals, and individual responsibility is non-delegable.

If we forget to care about others and try to pretend it's "not my problem", no amount of legislation will prevent these events from occurring. Everyone says "Someone should do something." It should be, "I should do something."

The difference between life and death, in this case, could have been one human caring about one other human. No one wants to hear it, but: Who's to blame? You. Who can fix it? You.

Posted by John, Colorado on April 21, 2007:

The "safe zones" are just silly feel-good crap for parents to see when they drop their kids off to school. Instead of having GSG-9 and other anti-terrorist teams, we should just hand signs around ambassadors and and other VIP's that say: "Terrorist Free Zone". That way the terrorists will read the signs and quit kidnapping and executing in that area.

Posted by Jeremy, Tigard Oregon on April 21, 2007:

My personal feelings regarding 'gun control' are that ultimately, I am the only one I can rely on (and the only one I SHOULD rely on) for my own personal protection and survival. If that means legally obtaining a C&C permit and carrying a firearm then so be it.

A person with bad intentions towards me forfeits their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness the moment they move to forcibly deny myself my own.

[Tena - My brother and I were "physically abused" by our Dad, who would pull the car over and beat our butts if we didn't wear our seatbelts (way before mandatory seatbelt laws). We didn't grow up to be maligned sociopaths, either. My brother is a police officer, and I'm a (mostly) law-abiding upstanding citizen. Every time I get in a car I'm physically unable to move the vehicle until I fasten the restraint, and I thank my Dad every time for that.]

The bottom line is that I don't want society to take away my abilities and obligations to protect myself because of a misguided concept of the "greater good". By forcing me to be defenseless, the part of society that dictates that takes on the ultimate responsibility for protecting me; in a situation like V. Tech, that part of society failed miserably.

If I was at Virginia Tech that day I would've been eternally greatful to the one rule-breaker who was able to take down this nut before he did too much damage.

Posted by Mary, Port Aransas Texas on April 21, 2007:

A bully threatens you, steals your lunch, trips you, pushes you, even fights with you -- and the school quickly suspends ...you.

The last paragraph of the April 20 update is too true. I am a high school student, and when I, after several years of abuse by the same person, took it upon myself to stop the abuse I was the one suspended, not her. It didn't matter that she had started the fight, it didn't matter that I didn't even hurt her, I still got suspended and she got off scot-free. This is the effect of a ZT policy that as soon as I attacked her back, instead of rolling over and letting her hurt me, I was the one to blame and she the victim.

Posted by Scott, Oregon on April 21, 2007:

You wrote: "Columbine, after all, was really about powerless little boys raging against bullies at school."

I am so very pleased to see that at least a few in the working press are aware of that aspect of this tragedy.

Thank you.

---

I'm not exactly mainstream media, but it seems to me that if we don't understand the deeper meanings of such tragedies, then the victims died in vain. -rc

Posted by John, Michigan on April 21, 2007:

In your editorial you spoke of schools teaching us to not respond, "If the bully beats you, trips you up, steals your lunch money and YOU get suspended"

Been going on a long time. I don't fight by the rules so I lucked out but even as far back as the 1960's the rule for school yard fights was this: Bully hits you, NOBODY sees it happen (save you, and his gang).

But they hear it and sense FIGHT, so they all turn toward you just as you hit back. Result: Yours was the first blow seen and yours is the suspension.

I cheated. They lowered their head, charged like enraged bulls and when they got to where I was. I'd moved, thus they did not hit me, nor I them, though they DID hit the brick wall behind me. It did not feel the need to hit back. And neither did I.

As for the bullies, they also retired from the fight.

---

Yes, I do understand that this has been going on for many, many years. The problem is, it's no longer just a de facto, playground rule; now, it's becoming institutionalized as an actual rule, codified into law. The former is pathetic; the latter is unconsciable. -rc

Posted by Phil, Maryland on April 22, 2007:

The Virginia Tech tragedy will be compounded if we learn nothing from this situation. From all accounts so far, the gunman had lifelong emotional and mental health issues. As he progressed through school, he was teased and shunned for being different, but rarely was he helped. He was unpredictable, and grew more so in the last few years. He was not competent to seek treatment, but not imminently dangerous enough to warrant forced intervention more than once.

Despite all of the warning signs and all of the efforts on the part of Virginia Tech, it seems that there was nothing anyone could do to him or for him until he exploded. The laws are in place to protect individual rights, but at what cost? We need to evaluate our ability to prevent crime when the warning signs of mental illness are present.

A more personal note: I'm an alumnus of Virginia Tech, and went to visit yesterday, 4/22. There are many memorials on campus, including a ring of 33 stones on the drill field, which includes one for Seung Hui Cho, the gunman. The Virginia Tech community has chosen to include him among the lives lost. The students have grieved, have found some understanding, and are ready to get back to their normal lives, however changed. These kids, in the aftermath of this tragedy, showed support for the Virginia Tech administration, for each other, for the wounded and for the families of the victims, including the gunman's. I hope that the world follows their lead.

Posted by Udo, California on April 22, 2007:

I agree that CNN (and most all other media outlets) spent an inordinate amount of time on the shooting story. I mean, there's other things going on in the country and in the world, and these should not be preempted by repeat comments, photos, and interviews of witnesses etc. of the massacre. Such repetitions only go to inure the viewer to the horror of the crime, and to risk boring the audience to death.

Not that the media need to move away from the topic altogether, but if they can't bring us something new, they need to move on to other things. A daily half-hour retrospective in the late evening should suffice for those not able to watch during the working day.

Posted by Guy, Arizona on April 22, 2007:

I'm 63 years old, retired from the military after 20 years service with a one year tour of duty in Viet Nam.

This past week I was sitting in a local veteran's club watching a TV news channel that was trying to explain the events at Virgina Tech, and, mostly, give excuses for why it happened. Several of my fellow vets and I were making comments about what could have prevented the tragedy, when one man said that all college and university faculty should be required to carry a gun in the classroom. Several of the responses suggested that most teachers in these institutions were probably so liberal that they would refuse to comply, including mine.

My own feelings on the cause and effect: When I was in school, from elementary through high school, almsot every teacher had a "board of education" and was allowed, even encouraged to use it when students were unruly or disrespectful. I admit, I was the recipient of that lesson on more than one occasion, and if my parents were notified, the lesson was repeated when I got home. Teachers, and even parents are not allowed to apply corporal punishment to those that misbehave, at school or home.

With the help of mental health field, we all, from children to adults, are not required to accept personal responsibility for actions; ergo, no one feels bad when they do something that is socially destructive, from cheating on a school exam to gunning down dozens of victims to making, placing and detinating a bomb killing hundreds of innocent victims.

Posted by Mike (Burke, VA) on April 22, 2007:

I, too, am a former military man, a Viet Nam Era Vet (but not a "damaged" one, I think). I have made the point to many, since the incident at VT (and even at Columbine, though the difference between deliberately allowing HS kids to carry guns to school, and College students to do the same probably doesn't bear much discussion), that if one student in the room had been armed, and prepared to defend him/herself and others, there would STILL have been at least one or two dead students, but NOT the 33 that we have today.

Similarly, it was pointed out to me today by a friend, retired from the FBI, that if the Dorm Supervisor had been armed, it all would have ended not long after 7:00 a.m., and the dorm supe, and all the later students, would still be alive. Not necessarily so in any case, since a miss in the heat of the moment might a) have allowed the gunmen to finish the job anyway, or b) have hit someone else. But I would, had I been there and not carrying my .45, rather had either of those chances, with the chance of survival, than what the 32 innocents got.

Posted by Jerry (Corvallis, Oregon) on April 22, 2007:

Cho was nutters. He was misdiagnosed as a 'danger to himself' but not a 'danger to others'. That's how he was able to buy a firearm. In hindsight, we know that he should never have been allowed to be allowed to run around loose, let along buy a firearm.

Given that, there is nothing in current law that would have prevented him from committing this massacre.

At this point, the only thing that would have stopped him is if someone on the scene had the same power which he had; the power to shoot a mad dog in the street. Or, in this case, within a 'gun free zone'.

We all understand that laws of prevention can only stop the intrinsically law-abiding, and the laws don't stop this kind of atrocity because the law-abiding don't DO this kind of stuff.

The police will never respond in time to prevent it, for a variety of reasons. The only safeguard left is for us, the law-abiding, to demand the power to defend ourselves. The Constitution has already acknowledged that this is a right; it isn't something that can be 'given to us' because it has already (constitutionally) been "given to us by God."

And as long as the states are willing to enact 'feel-good' legislation for the sole purpose of acquiring political 'style points', we are at the combined mercies of politicians and maniacs.

But I repeat myself.

Posted by Ken, Falls Church, VA on April 23, 2007:

A simplistic focus on more guns misses the more interesting questions raised by young adults cowering under their desks as they submit to their fates. The instances of bravery and sacrifice at "Tech" were severely limited to a 76-year-old holocaust survivor and a couple students. And this at a school with a century-long history as a military academy.

I don't know the demographics of bravery, the expected hero-percentage in the population. Maybe three is the right number in this case. Obviously, it was too few.

Courage is the pre-requisite to action, not a piece in your pocket. We surely need to grow the population of brave citizens among our intellectual elite.

I don't pretent to know the means to achieve bravery, but approaching the question from this direction avoids the general instransigence surrounding discussion of guns.

Posted by Ken, SC on April 23, 2007:

Why are we surprised that people get killed in an area where EVERYONE knows guns are not allowed?

Count the number of school shootings and then check the number of shootings in places where people MIGHT be carring guns. We make a slaughterhouse available for anyone to kill in and then act surprised when somebody does just that.

Any teacher or adult student with a gun MIGHT have stopped the killings at anytime. They then would have been arrested for having a gun on school grounds.

We cannot change the fact that crazy people will do crazy things, but we can change the fact that innocent people should NOT have to die, when they do.

Concealed carry of handguns works, if done properly and legally.

Posted by Garret Kim, Texas on April 23, 2007:

Hmmm, a difficult question, yes? How to prevent mass murders? But it is so easy, no? Prevent them exactly the same way you prevent individual murders. Pass a law. Pass more laws. Make the punishments even more severe. Adopt Zero Tolerance stances.

That'll show 'em. This sort of thing absolutely will not be tolerated! The Third Reich shall last a thousand years!!! Wait, been there, done that, didn't work.

Very interesting thing, an odd concept of freedom and ability to make individual choices. It also includes the ability to commit crimes. I'm very certain that there have been dozens of authoritarian regimes in history where street crime was virtually unknown, but for some weird reason, those regimes didn't seem to last.

Posted by Wight13, Alabama on April 23, 2007:

I like the "primitive with a rock" analogy so I thought I'd expound upon it a bit.

I think even the gun control advocates would agree that it should be everyone's right to defend themselves from violent aggression when it occurs. There are already laws against violent aggressions but when it occurs merely apprehending the culprit and rehabilitating them is not enough. Prevention of an immediate and eminent threat is definitely more desirable than vigils and memorials?

Back to the primitives and rocks... A physically aggressive primitive threatens me and is likely, due to the fact that he is larger and stronger than me, to be able to successfully follow though with that threat. For me, at this very moment, society's enforcing authorities' ability to apprehend this man and rehabilitate him after he's successfully carried through with his threat is a moot point. I opt for prevention and pick up a rock and hurl it at his head, thus stopping the attack before it began. It's a revolutionary idea, because it equalizes the natural size and strength advantage the criminal learned he could exercise against smaller individuals such as myself.

Of course he gets the idea and realizes that he can pick up a rock and use it in the same fashion, but my rocks hurt him just about as much as his hurt me so the equality is established. His ability to victimize others is greatly diminished by the equalizing factors of projectile weapons used in self defense. But society views this new application of rocks as projectile weapons as dangerous and outlaws their use declaring certain areas to be "rock free" zones. In here they say, you cannot carry a rock because it makes the place unsafe as anyone can get mad and throw rocks at anyone else. Inside this safety zone they have taken away the law abiding citizens' ability and right to defend themselves.

Then one day a undiagnosed homicidal primitive chains us all in and proceeds to kill 32 of us with in an environment which guarantees that he can do so safe from any preventative measures since the governing body took away our ability to defend ourselves and failed to take up its responsibility to do so.

I don't know if I'll get any support from Randy on this one but I'm thinking that there should be some legal liability for an institution that denies you the ability to defend yourself but fails to adequately provide the defense it has denied you for yourself. VT turned those people into victims just as our society is turning us all into victims by perpetuating the myth that we have no right to defend ourselves.

---

You don't need my support. The idea behind TRUE in general, and this blog, is to stimulate thought and discussion. You did that, so mission accomplished whether others agree with you or not.

Interestingly, your starting premise -- I think even the gun control advocates would agree that it should be everyone's right to defend themselves from violent aggression -- is a problem for many people. Not everyone agrees with that. And to be sure, I have no problem with them deciding they won't fight back. But I have a huge problem with them deciding you can't, or I can't. And many of them think they should have the right to make such decisions. -rc

Posted by Vicki, Colorado on April 23, 2007:

I am very ambivalent about guns. Never had much to do with them personally, but spend 20 years as a paramedic in urban areas trying to put the pieces of GSW victims back together again. Still don't see the sense in handguns....made for one thing and one thing only....to kill people.

Now that I live in rural Colorado, I see a different view of guns, for hunting, among other things (I prefer Costco, frankly) and there is that pesky 2nd amendment, the one both sides read incorrectly. Conservatives forget about the "well-regulated" phrase and lefties forget about the "right to bear arms" part.

I just have one question for those that advocate for widely available concealed weapons. In this one incident, suppose you are a student, armed and seated in class. You hear gunshots in the hall and leap out of your seat and towards the sounds. In the hallway, you see 6 other people with guns. Who is the bad guy? Who do you shoot? Who do the cops aim for when they get there?

I have heard this scenario posed to several concealed carry advocates and have yet to hear anything but sputtering and a quick change of subject. I am truly interested in a logical answer.

And what about other situations? As sad as these school shooting are, and they seem to be growing in number, they are still a tiny percentage of shootings. And what about the other situations? The depressed student who turns it on himself, or maybe his roommate. What about the abusive relationships where someone picks up a gun instead of stomping out? I understand that the assumption is that concealed carry permits would come with education, but I don't see that as necessarily stopping someone enraged, and with ready access to a gun. I feel that further arming people would result in unintended consequences, but yet, I can't see people continue to try to hide under desks.

---

The "several concealed carry advocates" you've talked to are idiots. I hardly consider myself one, but I'll answer since they didn't -- from my perspective as a former deputy sheriff who has sat in on quite a few classes for civilians.

First, your premise was wrong. If I was in plain clothes and carrying a gun, and I heard shots in the hall, I most certainly would not run toward the ruckus! And in the training I've been in, students were certainly not encouraged to do so. That would be, plain and simply, stupid. The point is to avoid dangerous situations, not rush to greet them.

Second, for honest citizens who carry guns, it's about defense, not showdowns. The first thing I was trained to do was retreat if at all possible to a safe position. Guns come out only as a second-to-last resort (pulling the trigger is the last resort, and the training includes to never put your finger on the trigger unless you are justified and ready to shoot, despite what you see on TV -- actors rarely get good training). In the situation you describe, the gun comes out only when you're cornered in a classroom, and the gunman is pushing his way in.

The bottom line is the statistics: how many honest citizens thwart crimes with a gun per year? The estimates I've seen range from 750,000 to 2 million in the U.S. alone -- every year. How many get shot by cops because they've rushed into a bad situation with their guns drawn? I've never even heard of such a case, though I'd be surprised if there weren't a few, since even honest people can be dumb sometimes. But the number by comparison is, I'm sure, vanishingly small. -rc

Posted by Bob, NJ on April 23, 2007:

First, I'm encouraged that there are a couple of Heinlein fans here. RAH explored the idea of concealed carry and self defense in several of his books. His bottom line was that self defense was a wonderful idea. While "Friday" was a bit on the wild side, Lazarus Long was a wonderful example of an armed citizen.

Second, Cho's ancestry is nearly immaterial. This type of nut case can come from any background. Get over it. The man needed help and he did not get it. The social safety net failed him and us.

Third, we do not need to have everyone armed to prevent this type of episode. The mere knowledge that he might have faced an armed teacher or student might have been enough. If the posability did not prevent the attack, one or two people carrying would have lessoned the extent of the event. Based on the published bios of several of the victims I would not have had any problems with most of them being armed.

Fourth, the comments about trying to avoid problems is part of the training that anyone should have. Running towards the gunfire is stupid! Holing up behind a baricaded door and defending themselves if the problem came to them is more realistic. Leaving, if there is a safe way of doing so is ideal!

Finnaly, I think that no one is against reasonable background checks for carry permits. Likewise, safety training before getting a carry permit and occasional refreshers would be in order.

Posted by Craig, Minnesota, USA on April 24, 2007:

Vicky, Colorado: You have one critical (and common) error in your observation regarding the 2nd Amendment: "Conservatives forget about the 'well-regulated' phrase...."

Our language has changed since the 19th Century. You have to read the Constitution with the meanings attributed to words of that era if you expect to understand its intent. This is why the "Living Document" position is inherently wrong; the Constitution can be changed by adopting new definitions for some of the words it contains.

In the military of those times, there were militia (citizens called to arms in time of emergency) and Regulars (professional soldiers). "Regulars" derived from being regulated - trained. Regulated did not mean what it often does today - controlled.

"Well-regulated" does not mean that the government can control (regulate) arms and the "shall not be infringed" phrase clearly dispels any argument to the contrary.

As an aside, many argue that "assault weapons" (whatever that term means) were never intended by the framers because they could not possibly have envisioned such arms.

If you accept that argument, then you must allow that the government can "regulate" freedom of the press to quill pens and manual printing presses because the framers could never have envisioned high-speed printing presses, television or the internet.

Our Constitution establishes and limits the government and preserves (not establishes) the rights of The People. Technological innovations are simply inconvenient to those with ulterior motives.

Posted by George, Hampton, VA on April 24, 2007:

52 comments so far - and one from someone with a "connection" to Va Tech. My son is a third year student there, I know dozens of current students, and many of my colleagues at the local NASA Center are "Hokies." A girl from Hampton is dead - my wife worked with her mother and taught the young lady's brother and sister in a home school high school art class. Another girl from Smithfield, VA (15 miles away) is dead. My former boss has known her parents since before she was born and shared in her life for many years in her young life. Yeah- I think I have a "connection."

Almost every comment says- "let's arm everyone". That way when the occasional nut case shows up, we can all shoot him together. Of course, the "accidental shootings" that happen to kill and wound "law abiding citizens" every year in the USA don't really count in the equation held by the gun advocates - just "collateral" damage? We all are armed to "protect ourselves," too bad that 6 year old kid shot himself with his dad's gun.

What about a response of "love your neighbor?" Maybe that means keeping an eye on him, like most of us do in airplanes since 9/11. We have all seen the "moody" guy around us. Did we all ignore him and try to avoid him? Do you ignore the people sitting around you in an airplane, or do you keep an eye on the comings and goings of people? I guess many of you would feel more "comfortable" if you were "carrying" while flying.

Two cents from a "Hokie" dad - the students want to get back to class and move forward in their "education." Unfortunatley, they have gotten a lesson no one wanted, but they WILL learn and care about their fellow man a bit - no a LOT more.

Thank you Arcie for the forum.

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You're welcome. Your emotional involvement shows: "Almost every comment says- 'let's arm everyone'. That way when the occasional nut case shows up, we can all shoot him together." Actually, they don't say that. Not even close. But you don't want to hear it because what you see is too raw. The actual statistics don't matter. Your emotions are valid, but they make your conclusions suspect. -rc

Posted by John, SC on April 24, 2007:

I can sympathize (a little bit) with people being bullied. I was an Army brat and we moved around a lot when I was young. I didn't have any problems until we moved the summer before I started 5th grade. From then on, my life at school was a living hell - I was picked on constantly and I never understood why (to this day I still don't understand why). You might want to say it was because I was the new guy, but this was a military school - most people in it had been there at most a year or two.

My older brother told me it would continue until I fought back but I was always afraid to fight back, so I just ran. What was worse was when I started 7th grade: I sat in front of a girl who also took a dislike to me. Fortunately it was only for the first class of the day. She would pinch me; I don't mean a little love pinch, I mean a get-some-real-skin-and-squeeze-as-hard-as-she-could pinch. If I had had my today attitudes back then I would have turned around and slapped her into next week. I was brought up to not hit women, though, so I couldn't do that even if I had wanted to.

All this bullying kept up until the about half-way through 7th grade when somebody picked on me on the wrong day and I went after him and kicked his butt (literally). Of course, I got to go to the principal's office and get my butt beat, but it was worth it. After a couple more fights I was pretty much left alone. I was still afraid but it sure felt better to see the guy with a black eye the next day. I'm sure it helped that I finally started growing, too.

I guess my point is, I have never felt like killing people at all, let alone just because I was picked on. It never entered my mind that I should take a gun or knife to school to get even.

---

You missed my point. I'm not saying it's reasonable for those who are bullied to take up arms -- far from it. I'm saying that the institutional response to bullying is partly to blame in many of these cases, including Columbine (though it's too early to be clear about VT). That response is: shut up, don't fight back, sit back and take it or else. That is simply wrong. YOUR rage is clear, even from here so many years later. You were able to fight back. If you had no ability to do so, or were too afraid to (you barely overcame that fear!), your rage would have been significantly larger. One can understand that rage without condoning turning it upon innocent people. The point is not that we should arm people so they can act out their rage, but rather that we should fix the root problem so the rage doesn't exist. We have been unwilling to do that, so I can certainly understand the call to defense against the inevitable result. -rc

Posted by Barry, Iowa on April 24, 2007:

As usual, thanks to Randy, This is True readers are ahead of the pundit press. There are some great opinion pieces running by other columnists in the newspapers now which could well have been sparked by Randy's editorial and reader reactions in this blog. Examples:

  • "After Virginia Tech" in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which notes "our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance. And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense." and

  • "Let's be realistic about reality" in the Chicago Sun-Times (no longer online), which notes there was a law proposed in Virginia that would allow students with permits to carry guns on campus, but that was defeated -- after lobbying by, yes, Virginia Tech itself! It's an astounding read.

---

It's definitely thought-provoking. Columnist Mark Steyn even notes where part of the blame lies: Zero Tolerance! He even (in effect) replies to some of the objections raised by other readers in this space: what chaos would have resulted if some of the VT students did have guns? The answer: "Had the Second Amendment not been in effect repealed by VT, someone might have been able to do as two students did five years ago at the Appalachian Law School: When a would-be mass murderer showed up, they rushed for their vehicles, grabbed their guns and pinned him down until the cops arrived." That is exactly what many posters here have been saying would happen.

If I knew about that case, I had forgotten it completely, so I went looking for details. This article discusses how the two students (both off-duty cops, who would not be allowed to carry under VT's rule) subdued the gunman after he "only" killed three people -- a student, a professor and a dean -- and how most newspapers purposefully omitted the simple fact that the students who "tackled" the gunman were armed. -rc

Posted by Bergman, Washington on April 24, 2007:

To answer Vicki in Colorado: Word meanings change over time. "Well-regulated militia", however, is actually a legal term, defined in legal dictionaries of the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written.

Put simply, to be well-regulated, a militia must have officers, hold drills, and be competent in the use of their weapons. How those officers were appointed was irrelevant. By that standard, members of many paintball teams are well-regulated militias, since they usually have (team) officers, train to shoot guns well, and hold drills to improve their skills.

As for the question of who is in the militia, there's a fairly simple test: Are you elderly or infirm? Can you fire a rifle? Can you vote? If the answers are No, Yes and Yes, you are a member of the militia.

Posted by Angie, Los Angeles on April 24, 2007:

To everyone who goes into an uproar when we speak of bullying as the cause of this violence, and think we are blaming the victims or are somehow missing the point, well that is just ludicrous. I don't blame the victims themselves any more than I would blame a rape victim because she was raped by an individual who was abused as a child.

The point IS every school shooter has this profile - and let me tell you I myself was a school bully, who the school protected, and instead of getting to the root of my anger issues chose to chastise my victims. I grew out of that thankfully despite the lack of action by the school. I had a lot of my own anger and was a troubled child that should have been dealt with. It is just obscene that the school systems are allowed to sweep students' abuse of one another under the rug. Some kids can learn to fight back, but it is just not in the nature of some others, we are all different and some of us are more sensitive than others.

We need to mandate that school administrations, teachers and students are trained and made to enforce a ZERO TOLERANCE TO BULLYING, be it physical or emotional. We are all responsible for this society and we have created this mess. We are our brother's keepers.

Posted by Vicki, Colorado on April 25, 2007:

Point taken about well-regulated and the change in meaning off language over the years.

Doesn't really do much to change my feelings about guns....I just don't see the point in today's society. And may I point out to you, Randy, and others, that you are making giant assumptions about the training and common sense of all people that may get concealed carry permits. The training you had as a cop would be not only cost-prohibitive (but frankly, probably impossible to achieve politically) to require for concealed carry permits and I still believe the original question is a good one. The shooting at the law school does not really prove the point....the students were off-duty cops who HAD the training you assume everyone will get. There will also be idiots with guns, legal or illegal, crazy or not and I still think further arming will create unintended consequences.

---

I'm definitely not trying to change your feelings, but I (and the other posters) are trying to clarify some of your impressions. For instance, proper training is definitely not politically impossible. In fact, that's how they get the permit laws through -- the laws require training! Paying for it, and taking the time for it, is simply left to the person who wants a permit. Would I, with my experience, be totally comfortable with someone who had no training or practice other than the legal minimum? Probably not, just as I'd not be terribly comfortable with a driver who got a license with the bare minimum of training and practice.

My guess (no data) is, most people with such interest get much more than the legal minimum simply because they are interested, and want to be proficient and safe. It would be definitely be interesting to see what the "average" person gets as far as training and practice. I do know one thing: the percentage of cases of wrongful shootings is higher for cops than it is for citizens who use firearms, which at least implies not only decent training, but good thinking among those civilians who use firearms for defense. -rc

Posted by Trevor in Arkansas on April 25, 2007:

I applaud the sentiments about needing more brave individuals in our society.

The VT shooting is the kind of thing that makes me (and I suspect I'm not alone) ponder how I would have responded. Wondering what I should and actually could do in such a situation. Hopefully I wouldn't forget everything except self-preservation, but would try to help others if possible. But at the same I wouldn't want to be stupid.

It also makes me think about the gunman's previous experiences, and whether I would have tried to be a friend to a person like him.

Anyhow, I also agree that our society has problems, and could be better, and we each should do what we can. But at the same time we should realistically expect -- and, to a practical degree, prepare for -- problems with members of this society.

I do not disagree with the comments to the effect that citizens should be allowed to protect themselves with guns. But I would add that guns are not the only method of self-defense. Non-lethal implements such as Tasers have some advantages. For one, they could be used by persons unwilling to wield a firearm. Also, being less dangerous, they warrant less regulation.

Maybe every head of household should have a Taser. Of course, Tasers have their limitations too, and are expensive.

My father, unbeknownst to the rest of our family (including my mother), used to bring a small revolver on our camping trips. It was his responsibility to keep us safe from dangers, whether wildlife or other. (He kept blanks and small shot in the first chambers, before a bullet or two).

Posted by Mike from Dallas on April 25, 2007:

With great power comes great responsibility. One of the precepts of martial arts is that "it is not important that you win, only that you do not have to lose." We teach mental discipline along with the art for this reason: If someone picks a fight with you and you use superior ability to beat him into a limp bloody pulp, not only are you likely to be arrested for excessive force, but also sued in civil court for the same reason.

The same applies to carrying a gun. A permit to carry does not grant unlimited authority to use it. In fact, one may be arrested for shooting the wrong person, or even for shooting the right person for the wrong reasons.

And in martial arts, we remind our students that, no matter who wins a fight, both sides get hurt. Again, the same is true with a gun. Pull out a firearm, risk getting shot yourself.

Posted by Phil, Maryland on April 27, 2007:

Are people reading nothing more than the headlines before they decide that they know why the VT massacre happened and how it could have been prevented? Do some people really think that students died because they weren't brave enough, or that they didn't fight back because they were afraid of getting in trouble? NO ONE knows for certain what they would do in that situation, even if they had time to react, which many at VT did not.

We're all sitting on our butts at our computers, blaming the victims, the institution, each other, politicians, and everyone else we disagree with. It's easier than trying to make sense of the complexities that caused Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the next one, and the next one....

Certainly a contributing factor to Cho's downward spiral was the way other people treated him his entire life. In one account, he was bullied by kids in his Christian youth group. Think about that for a moment. Then imagine if those kids were the ones who wanted to carry guns to school. Now imagine a world in which weapons were carried by college students like the pothead, the drunk pathological liar, and the unabashed bigot who lived on my hall in college. I think folks imagine that with the right and privilege of carrying a gun comes maturity and responsibility, as if the armed students suddenly sit upright in their seats and refer to the professors as "Sir" and "Ma'am," while the defenseless slackers spout liberal talking points about the 2nd amendment. It's just not that easy.

---

It's interesting that you would criticize other posters for judging the situation from afar, as if you know what they know or have read, and then go on to judge the situation from afar. Yes, the issues are complex. The only way to deal with that complexity is to raise the issues and discuss them, rather than assume that the solution is obvious. If it were obvious, these things wouldn't keep happening. So criticizing that very effort -- yet participating in it with the same breath, is rather silly and, worse, diminishes the power of your own points. -rc

Posted by Liz, Houston, TX on April 28, 2007:

I don't get why people keep blaming drugs like antidepressants. As someone who's on them, I will point out that you go on them because you're already unbalanced. They aren't magic happy pills, you have to work with your doctor and adjust the medications and levels until they're right. And often meds work best with counselling.

It may be that a high % of people who do particular types of things are on antidepressants or similar drugs, but that doesn't mean the drugs are the cause of the problem. It means they were probably trying to get help and it wasn't fast enough, wasn't working well enough, wasn't enough to get them to quit with bad coping mechanisms, or whatever.

-- Dee-Ann LeBlanc, BC Canada

Thank you very much for saying that; it was exactly what I was thinking. I also take antidepressants (in my case, prescribed for their anti-anxiety use) and very likely will for the rest of my life. It's certainly true that, sometimes, a medication makes the situation worse, or fails to make it better, or only makes it a little better –- and I've known people who went on antidepressants not fully understanding that it might take weeks before they started feeling a positive effect, didn't feel any better, and decided that meant they were hopeless or they'd been tricked and became even more depressed and angry -– but I think that, in a large majority of cases, psychiatric medication does more good than it does harm.

As for allowing or even requiring guns on college campuses... I don't really know what I think about that. I don't have anything against gun ownership and am looking forward to the day I have the time and money to get a permit, get substantial safety training, and own a gun myself.

But I'm a college student, and while there are certainly students and instructors who I'd be perfectly content to know had a gun, there are also a lot of students, and even instructors, who I'm glad don't have guns. My next-door neighbor whose greatest crime is a tendency to listen to really loud country music when he's feeling down, or the very normal, rather genial archaeology professor? Sure. The guy who lives down the hall and celebrates the end of finals by getting rip-roaring drunk and setting a textbook on fire, or the English professor who occasionally flips out and screams at the class with no provocation? Not so much, thanks.

Like all issues that become political, gun control is more complicated than either side usually makes it out to be, and I feel much the same way about it as I do about most of those other issues: namely, I have no idea what the best solution is, and I kind of suspect that no one else does, either. But I'm pretty sure that just being able to have a gun isn't likely to make anyone that much better equipped to handle a crisis like this one. As the security expert quoted in the April 20 update said, and as I think was suggested in the editorials another commenter linked to, it's going to take a more substantial change in the way we think and the way we teach our kids to think.

Posted by Cheryl, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on April 29, 2007:

It's really sad the things that are happening with our young people today. I think kids today are pushed way too fast to grow up. Let them be children. When I went to school, very few people worked. We went to school and that was it. It was enough. Also, one or two people had a car. The rest of us walked or took a bus. There is so much pressure for young people to have what everyone else has. Some people can't handle the pressure and they explode.

Last week, in Delta, British Columbia, Canada, my nephew's school had the same thing happen to them. Fortunately, the student's mother found out what her son was planning and she called the school to warn them. My nephew's class was locked in their classroom until the teachers were absolutely sure that there was no more danger. Apparently, before he even made it into the school, this student fled when he saw police cars, etc. at the school. Thanks to his mother, nobody was hurt. They just found the shooter today.

Things need to change. I don't know how we can change things, but we have to somehow find a way to let students understand that they don't need everything right now. They should do what every other generation did before them and wait until they are fully employed. I also think it would be a good idea to go back to uniforms. That way students won't feel like outsiders if they can't afford the brand-name clothes that some students wear.

Young people today are spoiled. However, we have the parents to blame too for this.

As for Zero Tolerance, I believe it's a good idea IF they use it properly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a 4-year old child isn't trying to seduce his teacher when he gives her a hug. THINK first before you punish.

---

If you think before you punish, it's not zero tolerance, it's thinking, common sense, and ...yes... sometimes tolerance. That's why we pay school administrators professional-level wages -- to make those decisions, to have that common sense, to exercise judgment. With ZT, we get none of that. So we're paying for their expertise ...why? -rc

Posted by Matthew, Hungary on April 29, 2007:

I'm a bit surprised to see you Randy saying more people should have guns. Of all the people you should know best, that there are lots of nuts out there. If everyone would have a gun, there would be a LOT more shootings.

And as for Virginia Tech, I think the killer would not changed his mind if there were other people with guns around. He shot himself in the end, so I think he didn't really care about his life that much. But if dozens of people would take out their guns and started shooting, there might have been a lot more casualties.

Here in Hungary, it's illegal to have a gun. And guess what, there were no shootings in schools ever. I don't care if I can't have a gun, so long as I can be sure that noone else has any, so no one can shoot my children or family members.

---

I definitely did not say more people should have guns; please read more carefully. I don't know about the history of gun ownership in Hungary; have civilians had the right to own guns at any time since the Nazis came in and confiscated them so the population could be more easily controlled during their occupation? Or was that done before the Nazis arrived, making their takeover that much more simple? -rc

Posted by Carlton, Miami Florida on April 30, 2007:

Randy, I know your methods and realize that you're trying to provoke Matthew in Hungary to think outside his fairly narrow worldview, but I wonder if others will realize that's what you're doing. I'm also reasonably sure you know you chose an appropriate example in Nazi Germany, that they indeed used gun registration to then confiscate firearms from their opposition so that they could take over more easily, and that is why pro-gun people in America are so suspicious of registration schemes.

But Nazi Germany was an abberation, right? Wrong! We have seen it again and again in country after country. But I doubt others will realize that, and just think you're being mean.

---

Savvy long-time readers do often "get" that I sometimes push people a little bit to provoke thought. But you're also supposed to know that I roll my eyes over people who think they're the only ones smart enough to understand that, and no one else will get it. Matthew in Hungary might bristle at the method, but even so it will be difficult for him to miss the point. -rc

Posted by Melanie (BC, Canada) on May 2, 2007:

I live in Canada and thank god we have not had to deal with alot of this which is very surprising considering the ZT method that they are using. My son for example has been a target for bullying for the past three years and I have always told him that NO ONE is to put their hands on him in a uncomfortable way (fighting, sexually etc...) as all parents would do and the consequences to that is my son is the one whom gets suspended for defending himself. I have always told him heaven help him if he starts a fight or ever picks on someone else for any reason but I will be damned if someone is putting their hands on my son and nothing done about it.

I have fought the school many times on this and I believe that this has created a environment of prejudice against my son as they seem to have issues all the time (Issues meaning that he does not take beatings anymore without reacting, he helps out any other kids that are being bullied) and instead of commending him for his compassion they redicule his actions. We as a society both Canadian and American need to stand up for our children, our future and say enough is enough. Maybe they need to open the school up more to parent involvement cause obviously the teachers and their counterparts aren't doing what needs to be done.

Posted by Chris, Scranton, PA on May 9, 2007:

There was a time when kids (especially boys) were allowed and even encouraged to settle their differences themselves. That was back when it was expected that any normal kid would get at least one broken bone (probably a greenstick) before he was 12 and any normal boy would get into at least one fistfight/wrestling match on the playground every term. And, guess what? There were NEVER any guns in schools in the 1950's and '60's! It's exactly like Prohibition. The more you restrict something, the more Americans want to do or have it.

---

Actually, there were plenty of guns in schools in that era -- especially the high schools. At least, there were during hunting season, when many kids went out after school to get food for the family. But yes, I understand your point: these kids didn't go rushing out to the pickup to get the shotgun to settle scores with their classmates. -rc

Posted by Keith on May 20, 2007:

It is wrong to state that the solution to gun violence is arming everyone, or even allowing those who choose to do so, to get and carry firearms on campus, or in society.

Gun deaths will go up. Kids are experimenting with alcohol, drugs, and relationships in college. Guns don't mix well with any of those. And if every civilian were armed, all those crazy aggressive driving incidents would end with bullets flying.

Besides a liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment, there is no reason for a citizen to own a gun. We have police for crime-fighting, we have a military to assert our political will against unwilling countries, and we have the ability to defend ourselves with knives, pepper-spray, hand-to-hand combat, tasers, and spoons (if you're really talented).

Guns are for the police and the military. If you think you will ever need to employ a gun to defend yourself against your country, you are contemplating treason.

I went shooting with a few friends about a month before the Virginia Tech shootings, and I fired 2 .38s, a 9mm Glock, and a .45. It wasn't my bag, though I was consistently deadly accurate with the Glock. Then, on May 4th, my girlfriend and I went to the Netherlands. Drugs and Prostitution are "tolerated" in the Netherlands, which basically means they are non-arrestable offenses. Sex shops are everywhere. As are good restaurants. Nice hotels. And churches. It was very free, my friends, and very safe. Not even the police had guns.

Perhaps if, as a country, we could unclench our collective gluteus maximi, there wouldn't be as much violence here. But a gun is a tool for destruction. It is not a deterrant to criminals. Criminals are stupid or insane anyway, and deterrants only work for the smart and sane.

Posted by Jason, MN on May 21, 2007:

"It is not a deterrant to criminals. Criminals are stupid or insane anyway, and deterrants only work for the smart and sane."

It is, however, an absolute deterrent to recidivism.

To toss an old cliche into the mix, when only the police and military are armed, you're in a police state.

Also, the police have no legal responsibility to protect anybody. Your safety and well-being is your responsibility. My safety, and the safety of my family is my responsibility.

The average adult can cross 21 feet in 1.5 seconds. That's larger than my living room. A bullet can travel 1200 feet in 1 second. The average response time for a 911 call is 8 minutes. How is that supposed to protect anyone?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 23, 2007:

"If you think you will ever need to employ a gun to defend yourself against your country, you are contemplating treason."

Yup. Consider that some 75% of the colonists objected to the war with England. Had we lost, Geo Washington would not have been our first President but just another treasonous traitor hung at the gallows, along with many others.

"...the police have no legal responsibility to protect anybody."

True. I'd have to look it up, but it was a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Funny how the police are not obligated to protect us, but we're admonished not to take the law into our own hands.

The 2nd Amendment is a lot like insurance. You don't expect to need it, and hope you never have to. But it's still good to have, in case. And while the ramifications (like paying those ever-rising premiums) is expensive and a royal pain (like random shootings), many eastern European countries have learned the hard way that such 'insurance' may have been a lot less expensive.

Posted by Larry, Tampa FL on June 5, 2007:

SIX MILLION JEWS would have not died if they had weapons.
There was only 950,000 SS murderers. You do the math: six jews to one nazi = no genocide.

Promoting gun control is great if you like genocide. Ask the Jews, Cambodians (as in the killing fields), Armenians in Turkey, Native Americans, etc if they wish there was a 2nd Amendment for them.

Posted by Barbara in Maryland on June 8, 2007:

I started to respond several weeks ago to this blog but there are so many issues leading to Cho's decision to go on a rampage and massacre all those people, that I don't think it's possible to come up with all of them. I think Cho's problems ran as much to mental illness as anything else, but I haven't really seen a convincing analysis on the bullying issue from this point of view so here's my 2 cents worth.

Cho's problems with school bullies were obviously far worse than anyone suspected and his videotaped manifesto was a chilling shocker, but I still wonder what exactly happened. Bullying is a problem, but as an educator, I have to say it's way more complicated than it seems. Everyone wants to boil everything down to a formula for success and I see it as having the potential to become another chapter in the Zero Tolerance movement. One-size-fits-all solutions are usually disasters.

I work in public schools and I've observed both bully and bullied. It's not always a simple category of behavior. Adolescents are in the process of changing from child to adult and aren't exactly big on reasoned reactions to things they don't like. For this reason kids I've previously thought are very personable and well-behaved can surprise me with some ugly behavior that's clearly bullying. If I can walk through it with them, they often explain they're reacting to something highly annoying and perhaps even threatening from another kid.

For example, (names are changed) Jason is a whiner and blames everyone but himself for his problems. If the class is working on group assignments, no one wants him because he doesn't pull his weight, and the whole group sometimes gets docked. Jason is convinced other kids hate him and pick on him for no reason. Tiffany is a drama queen and drives everyone nuts with her daily sagas. Soap operas don't have that many problems and most of hers sound like she's got an over-active fantasy life. No one else believes she has so many implausible experiences and she makes up new ones trying for the sympathy angle. Tommy does rotten celebrity impersonations trying to impress people. He wants to be cool and popular, and he's striking out every time he launches into another embarrassing performance. Alan has terrible body odor and bathes every day, but doesn't believe in deoderant. Thinks it causes allergies and Alzheimers. He sees his BO as a variety of free speech but everyone else sees it as olfactory assault. When it comes to picking up on even the most direct statements, Alan has a hide like a rhino and considers his BO a badge of individuality and independent thought. I kid you not. Angela has a gross skin condition that creeps everyone out because they think she's contagious and they're going to wind up with oozing and flakey skin and their hair is going to fall out. Mike had cooties back in 2nd grade and half his class got them too. They're in high school now and no one's ever gonna let him live it down. It doesn't help that he rises to the bait, gets flustered and his voice cracks.

Then there are other kids who choose some bizarre ways of dressing or walking or mannerism. Last year I had 2 female students who are tall, BIG girls who're about the right size to play defense on the school football team. They try to minimize the size and overweight issue with tight clothing, mince when they walk, use exaderated gestures, and speak in high pitched Marilyn Monroesque voices that sound like a cross between helium for breakfast and fingernails on a chalkboard. One day I saw one of the girls react to a note so I confiscated it. The unsigned note referred to her backside spillover in the tight, low rise pants she had on that day and said "just say NO to crack!" Apparently half the class read the note before it got to her so when she had a hysterical meltdown in class, everyone was in on the joke. Add nebbishy, socially inept kids who pick their pimples or noses or cuticles or scratch places that polite people don't do in public. For some reason, the problems and solutions just don't compute for most of these kids.

The list can go on and on, but all these kids catch a lot of static about this stuff, so where to draw the line between heavy handed peer counseling and bullying? I suspect this is one of the reasons why it's tough to hone in on a usable strategy for bullies. A lot of times, bully is a matter of perspective.

In my experience, bullies don't see themselves as bullies, and most of the victims don't really see how their behavior sets themselves up for trouble. Once upon a time, kids understood better how to work out their interpersonal problems. If you had a problem, other kids gave you grief until you were cured or pretended to be. It was a little less unacceptable to get into fights, but probably the worst development is that kids these days copy the smart mouthed brats on TV. Everyone wants to have the best comeback and the meaner it is, the funnier the audience finds it. Much of bullying is all about the audience reaction. A single behavior can be seen as bullying from one point of view, or peer social advice from another. A bit simplistic here, but in a lot of cases kids really need to figure out what they're doing to make things worse and figure out how to change and deal effectively with their problems. That's for both bully and victim and I don't see it happening like it should.

Unfortunately many education professionals often have this value neutral approach to conflict resolution that says you can solve any interpersonal problem as long as you're willing to work it out together and see things from the other person's perspective. This probably works well enough for mild and moderate cases, but it's not going to work for the really hard ones. When this approach fails, the greater tragedy is the victim winds up feeling like more of a loser because bullies are not seeking understanding. Hard-core bullies are in it for the enjoyment of tormenting another human being and no amount of coaxing without some negative consequences is going to make it stop - it just feels too good!

Yes, there are some seriously toxic little sods who genuinely enjoy inflicting pain on other kids and fall into the extreme end of the bully scale. Numbers-wise, there aren't that many, but they've got a far higher profile than the others. No one knows how much of Cho's experience fell into which category. I know I'm projecting in the absence of hard data, but that Cho's response was mass murder implies he experienced some extreme bullying. But what if he just didn't know how to put things into perspective?

Posted by Paul from Long Island on March 29, 2008:

In 6th grade my son was beaten up by 2 kids and they wanted to suspend all of them. When I demanded a meeting with the school authorities for an explanation, the principal patronizingly explained to me that they have "zero tolerance for violence in this school and there was nothing he could do." (HE was being the bully in further brutalizing a shy 10 year old).

I told him that that policy was interesting but he should know that I also had a policy: "I have a zero tolerance for assholes anywhere" and told him that the last time I checked, curling up in a fetal position while 2 kids kick the crap out of you on the floor of an unsupervised locker room is not a "fight". That is assault and I handed him the police incident report number (he was stunned that I had filed the complaint but held off on asking for an arrest waiting instead for an appropriate school response). I told him to reconsider his decision or I was calling the media and would press charges against the school for child abuse. (Yeah I'm either part of the problem, a bigger bully or I don't take crap from anyone. Not with my kids at any rate). The two kids were punished and the principal apologized to my son, not for what he tried to do, but for the fact that it happened in his school.

I have found, like Konrad Lorenze, that the only response to a bully that will stop him or her, is to give him or her a bloody nose. Scapegoating behavior will continue when bullying is met with a passive response and in fact is redoubled in the absence of any meaningful defense. Sadly this is played out from the playground to international arena every day.

I teach my children that they are to walk away from any jerk with a big mouth but to draw the line when the jerk moves to physical violence. Then that bully had better search for a maxillo-facial surgeon because they are going to meet a baseball bat across their teeth. It is better that both the bully and the bullied learn the benefits of superior force early. It is better that the idiot learn civilized behavior and the consequences of the lack of it, on the playground or in school, as we did, than as a grown up when the costs are much higher.

That is educating our children to be responsible adults.

Posted by Dean, Gladstone, Australia on March 29, 2008:

A student once brought a real-looking fake gun to a class at my school, played with it, waved it around, freaked out the other people in the room. (As far as they knew, it could have been real.)

This situation was handled poorly by the office staff, whose only concern was the image of the school. They put the kid in a staff room, told him he was a bad boy, then later sent him back to class while they dicked around. The teacher was the same in the second class as the first, so the situation was a bit uncomfortable for him. After finally suspending the kid that afternoon, the admin saw fit to inform the school cop what had happened, and he was really pissed off.

I think there was a lot wrong with what the school did/didn't do, but no one cared because no one was hurt or killed. But my point is you have to look after yourself, because they won't tell the cop anything until it's too late.

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