Safer vs. Being Safer
By Jack Kelly
What can we do to keep what
happened at Virginia Tech from ever happening again?
Nothing. Understanding that
is the key to reducing the frequency of such massacres,
and the bloodshed when they, alas, inevitably occur.
Little more frightens or
angers Americans than when a nutbar kills a lot of people
at random, because the act is as senseless as it is evil.
"The effort to shoehorn an
event as devastating as this one into a predetermined set
of ideas...is an effort to make the unthinkable
thinkable," said New York Post columnist John
Podhoretz. "Does this massacre seem to be utterly without
cause? Well, then, we'll find a cause in order to be able
to wrap our minds around it, because when we have a cause
we can determine a remedy."
Both supporters and
opponents of gun control are shoe-horning the incident
into their pre-established templates. Both have
On the one hand, Mr. Cho
was able to purchase the firearms he used in the murder
spree -- Glock 19 and Walther P-22 handguns -- lawfully at
a local gun shop.
On the other, the Virginia
Tech campus is a "gun free zone," where students, faculty
and staff are forbidden to have firearms, even if they
have concealed carry permits. Mr. Cho lived in a dorm on
campus, where he stored his weapons and ammunition. The
school's policy banning guns wasn't very effective in Mr.
Or in most others. "Mass
killings were rare when guns were easily available, while
they have been increasing as guns have become more
controlled," noted Quebec economist Pierre Lemieux.
The trouble with gun
control laws is they target the law abiding. "If you
disarm good people but not the criminals, instead of
making things safe for the potential victims you may
unintentionally make them safe for the criminals," said
Dr. John Lott, coauthor of a massive study on guns and
A fundamental difference
between supporters and opponents of gun control is their
attitude toward personal responsibility. Liberals tend to
offer excuses for the perpetrators of violent acts (he was
poor; his mother drank; his daddy beat him), and to assume
that potential victims have no right to play a role in
their own defense.
Those who think the law
abiding should be permitted to carry firearms argue that
if some of the students, faculty, or staff had been armed,
they could have cut Mr. Cho's murder spree short.
They point to the shooting
that occurred at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy,
Virginia on Jan. 16, 2002. Peter Odighizuwa, a student
from Nigeria, killed the school's dean, a professor and a
student, and wounded three others. Mr. Odighizuwa's spree
was cut short because two students went to their cars,
retrieved their handguns, and with the help of an unarmed
student subdued Mr. Odighizuwa.
In Pearl, Mississippi on
Oct. 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham took his rifle to
school and began shooting his classmates. His spree was
stopped when Assistant Principal Joel Myrick raced to his
pickup, retrieved his .45 pistol, and subdued him.
Both crime rates and
shooting deaths have declined in most states which have
adopted "concealed carry" laws, says Dr. Lott. The decline
in "multiple victim public shootings" has been especially
pronounced, he said.
"Bill Landes of the
University of Chicago law school and I examined
multiple-victim public shootings in the U.S. from 1977 to
1999 and found that when states passed right-to-carry
laws, the rate of multiple victim public shootings fell by
60 percent. Deaths and injuries from multiple victim
public shootings fell even further, on average by 78
percent, as the remaining incidents tended to involve
fewer victims per attack," Dr. Lott said.
Because Virginia Tech
denies to its students and faculty the right to protect
themselves, it has a special obligation to provide
protection. School authorities need to explain how it is
that Mr. Cho could shoot two students in one dorm, return
to his own dorm, write a rambling note, and then, two
hours later, walk across the campus to the classroom
building where he conducted his massacre, without
interference from the police, or a warning issued to
School officials also
should explain why they ignored apparently ample evidence
that Mr. Cho was psychologically disturbed, and that
students were afraid of him.
In applauding the defeat
last year of a measure in the Virginia legislature to
permit those with concealed carry permits to have a gun on
campus, Associate Vice President Larry Hinckler said
Virginia Tech's strict gun control policy made students
feel safer. But there is a difference between feeling
safer and being safer, as Virginia Tech has learned to its