16 April 2007

An Armed Society is a Polite Society

One wonders about this shooting in Virginia. I am awaiting the press conference that will hopefully clarify some of the questions and maybe give some answers.

But it will not be long, I guarentee that some will be saying that there were two too many guns at VT today.

But I am starting to come to be of a mind that maybe the problem is that there were 500 guns too few.


James Taranto of Opinionjournal.com makes the smae point, always more eloquently than I.

Massacre at a Gun-Free School
Predictably, opponents of Second Amendment rights seized opportunistically on the Virginia Tech massacre. "It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur," said a statement from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino got questions like this one in yesterday's press briefing:

Columbine, Amish school shooting, now this, and a whole host of other gun issues brought into schools--that's not including guns on the streets and in many urban areas and rural areas. Does [sic] there need to be some more restrictions? Does there need to be gun control in this country?

And of course the New York Times, while noted that "it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy," draws one anyway:

What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.

But there is another side to this argument. Longtime readers may recall the lead item in our Jan. 18, 2002, column, which concerned a shooting spree at another Virginia institution of higher learning, the Appalachian School of Law. The gunman, Peter Odighizuwa, killed three, and probably would have killed more but for another student's gun:

Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, officials said.

"We saw the shooter, stopped at my vehicle and got out my handgun and started to approach Peter," Tracy Bridges, who helped subdue the shooter with other students, said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "At that time, Peter threw up his hands and threw his weapon down. Ted was the first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face, so there was a little bit of a struggle there."

Appalachian is a private institution, Virginia Tech a public one; and Virginia law prohibits guns on campus. Early last year there was an effort in the state Legislature to change that law, but it died in committee. As the Roanoke Times reported at the time:

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

There are reasons one may be wary of arming academia. College students spend a lot of time drinking and carousing, and so perhaps they're better off without firearms. Academic disputes can get vicious; we wouldn't want them to get bloody. But it does not seem a stretch to think that if Cho Seung-hui had encountered someone else with a gun, fewer people would lie dead at Virginia Tech.

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