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April 17, 2007

Newspapers Agree -- Make It Harder For Victims To Defend Themselves

What else would you expect from the New York Times?

Not much is known about the gunman, who killed himself, or about his motives or how he got his weapons, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy. But it seems a safe bet that in one way or another, this will turn out to be another instance in which an unstable or criminally minded individual had no trouble arming himself and harming defenseless people.

* * *

Our hearts and the hearts of all Americans go out to the victims and their families. Sympathy was not enough at the time of Columbine, and eight years later it is not enough. What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.

Which ignores, of course, that the problem is likely to be one of illegally obtained guns -- guns already banned under the statutes that exist -- and not legally obtained weapons. Indeed, as I've already noted, the laws and regulations in placed guaranteed that the stable and non-criminally-minded students lacked the means to stop this individual from continuing his rampage.

And, of course, there is the Houston Chronicle.

Proponents of unfettered access to firearms rely on the rallying cry, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." That's true. The horrifying reality is that too many Americans — afflicted with mental illness, alienation or hatred — are ready and willing to take life. And they can arm themselves to the hilt without ever undergoing a background check.

While Virginia Tech police believe they know who was responsible for the shootings, his motives remain a mystery that might never be satisfactorily solved.

Meanwhile, the mass murderer is another in a series of American figures who combine a fascination with deadly weapons, easy access to them, a grudge against the world and an unexplained capacity for cruelty.

And given the description of the weapons used in this shooting, it appears that they were not legally obtained at all -- meaning that even the most stringent background checks would have been ineffective because buyers and sellers of illegal weapons, by definition, will ignore any law designed to limit gun sales.

At least the Washington Post showed a little moderation, asking questions rather than immediately urging that potential victims law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights be further restricted and disarmed.

The atrocity at Virginia Tech sparked instant and fierce debates, online and elsewhere, even as survivors were fighting for their lives. Under what circumstances, and where, did the gunman obtain his weapons? Would the university have suffered the same tragedy if Virginia law did not prohibit the carrying of guns on campus? Should metal detectors be ubiquitous in American classrooms and dormitories? And why are gunmen so apt to carry out their lethal rampages at American schools?

So many questions -- and a same resistance to the siren call of the failed solution of limitation on gun rights.

I have to agree with the Post's conclusion as well.

As the debates rage and questions are raised, the mourning will go on. But the parents, relatives and friends of the victims at Virginia Tech will not mourn alone. Their tragedy is America's too.




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|| Posted by David M, April 17, 2007 08:36 AM ||

And what evidence do *you* have that these weapons were obtained illegally? Some reputable source is all I'm really looking for, but without it, your speculation is no more valid than anyone else's.

|| Posted by Joshua B, April 18, 2007 07:35 AM ||

I've not had a chance to update this since I wrote it -- it may well be that the weapons were legally (or at least quasi-legally) purchased. I was acting on the assumption that the filed-off serial numbers (a violation of existing federal gun laws) indicated that they were black-market weapons.

I'm not sure, however, that Cho, as a non-citizen, had a legal right to purchase or poses the guns. I'm going to have to look into that.

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