Virginia Tech +2 Years
Today is the second anniversary of the massacre of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg Va. That incident was not the first, and sadly was not the last mass killing at a school or public place. Actually the number of incidents and the casualties is startling. Next Monday will also be ten years since the Columbine shootings.
There are many questions still left unanswered. Some still wonder if incidents like Columbine or Va. Tech could have been prevented. An ABC News article titled "Psychology of Virginia Tech, Columbine Killers Still Baffles Experts" starts off with the statement that not all psychotics, psychopaths will become school shooters; Mental Health Education Needed." It also references a report written in 2002 regarding the Columbine shootings as it related to the events at Virginia Tech.
Some of the conclusions of the federal report were borne out in the Virginia Tech tragedy: shooters tend not to snap, but usually plan months or years in advance and often tell a friend or classmate. Cho reportedly began planning his attack more than a month before the 2007 massacre, when he purchased his first gun. His video, made in combat gear, appears to have been made at least six days before the attack.
Certainly, there have been lessons learned from these tragedies. At least one public university that I am aware of now uses Twitter to communicate with its students to provide real-time alerts about class changes, closings due to weather, and hopefully never, about another campus shooting incident. Others have either adopted or developed their own emergency communications systems throughwhich campus security or the adminstration can send alerts to students on there computers, cell phones or PDAs. But the problem remains and is a serious one.
The Secret Service found that 71% of shooters they studied felt "persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others." In several cases, they'd experienced school bullying and harassment that was "long-standing and severe."
"These kids didn't pick the local movie theater to blow people away, and there's a reason they picked school," says David Osher, a sociologist and vice president at the American Institutes for Research.
Schools that tolerate lots of bullying and look the other way from petty acts of violence are more vulnerable to escalating violence, including rampages from shooters, he says.
And where relations between teachers and kids with emotional problems are harsh or distant, violence becomes more likely."These are rage shootings," he says, "kids suffering from depression largely creating public suicides in school environments where they feel alienated."
Yet, it was recently asked if we had become numb to mass murders?
"Tragically, I think many Americans have become more desensitized, more numb to the mass murder, to the massacre, because it is no longer that unusual," said Howard Kurtz, a media critic for the Washington Post. "It doesn't mean that everybody doesn't get a feeling in their gut when they hear that a bunch of innocent people have died at the hands of one crazy gunman, but it is no longer a story that we've never heard of before," said Kurtz. "So there's a certain ritual to it. We know what to expect."
A related issue is now being debated in states like Texas that allow people to carry concealed hand guns. Should students be permitted to carry concealed hand guns on campus to prevent the "next" Columbine or Virginia Tech? Student at the University of Texas marched in protest against Texas House Bill 1893 that would permit hand guns on campus. Some people argue that if the campus at Virginia Tech had not been declared a "gun free zone" fewer people might have been killed. Perhaps yes, but possibly no. The argument being given by the legislators against allowing students to carry weapons on campus is as follows:
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, spoke during the rally against the bill. "Someone with a concealed handgun license is not a deputy sheriff or a police officer," Rodriguez said. "If a campus police officer arrived at a school shooting, how will that person decide who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in that situation?"
Actually, I think that the more compelling argument is that it is one thing to own a hand gun and to practice on the range, and an entirely different case to be in a tense and emotional situation and know when, or if, the use of deadly force is warranted. Further, anyone less than an expert marksman could fire and miss, injuring or killing an otherwise safe and innocent bystander.