FEATURE

Questions That Remain After Virginia Tech

A violent and premeditated act by a single disturbed college student has once again turned the sensibilities of our nation upside-down. When Cho Sung-Hui armed himself and started murdering his fellow students with all the remorse and effectiveness of a wolf loose in a sheep-fold, he forced firearms back on the front burner of our national consciousness.

And once again, it appears firearms have been granted the status of living, sentient creatures. This despite the fact guns are chunks of metal with no capability to inflict any sort of harm on anything until they are animated by an operator. If you listen to some you might think the firearms loaded themselves, packed extra ammo, chains, locks and other paraphernalia into a backpack; then prodded a mentally disturbed college student up to do their evil bidding.

We seem willing to blame the tool, but never the laborer.

Politicians and pro-firearms groups are both remaining fairly quiet on the issue, electing not to confront people during a time of grief. That reluctance, however, isn't being shared by some anti-gun groups. Their lack of reserve seems to be a defining difference between pro- and anti-gun ideologies.

Less than two hours after Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign issued a statement of condolences to the families, stopthenra.com, another Brady organization, rolled out a fundraising letter, trumpeting a "generous donor" who would match contributions. After all, the letter literally shouts, "this could have been prevented with gun control."

Having already been accused of hypocrisy for calling such conduct "dancing in the blood of the victims" I still believe it demonstrates an insensitivity and sense of expediency without remorse.

Before you start typing a heated response, the National Rifle Association, no weak-sister when it comes to money-raising, has yet to issue a call to arms or plea for contributions. Their website offers only prayers and condolences to the families; deigning further comment "until all the facts are known."

Despite jiffy-pop journalists looking for an instant solution to violence, it's far too-soon to start that ideological discourse.

Ideology should not pre-empt grief.

That does not mean there aren't valid questions.

Unfortunately those tough questions lack easy answers.

The most obvious: why?

There is no answer. We may never know for certain why Cho Sung-Hui chained the doors and started killing fellow students. More than four decades later, we have no idea why Charles Whitman climbed into a bell tower and started shooting.

One sad fact is that we're seeing that conduct more frequently.

What do we do about that?

We've heard calls for controls on violent video games, movies and television. But the Virginia Tech students who now say they're "too-afraid to get out of their beds in the mornings" play those same games, watch those same programs; but respond differently.

On 9/11, passengers on a doomed airplane went out fighting their attackers.

But it appears the Virginia Tech students made little - if any - effort to fight back, allowing a single armed man to slaughter them. Rather than rush to the aid of fellow students, the more alert used their cellphones to record the event, choosing to share the experience on the internet rather than try to stop -or help.

Why was the only person to get aggressive in his resistance a 76-year old man? Was it because he had already seen the darkest part of man's capabilities - or because we've raised a generation of sheep?

And if we believe we're raising sheep, what about their high school classmates who went overseas to fight and are seeing their friends killed - horribly - on a daily basis?

What about gun free zones; are they, in fact, gun free or victim rich?

Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In that horrific event, a single individual, Timothy McVeigh, used a truck with two tons of ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) and fuel oil to kill 168 people. Again, a single individual acting in a way previously thought inconceivable.

On Wednesday, a North Mecklenburg (North Carolina) High School Student shot himself after police confronted him for threatening his classmates. And in Sutter County, California, police are in a standoff with a man who told his parents and his pastor he wanted to make the killing spree at Virginia Tech this week "look mild." He has pledged not to be taken alive and has said his goal is to "take as many of them with me" as possible.

As we go into a much-needed weekend following a week that will have an impact on the firearms dialog in the United States, there aren't any easy answers.

Unfortunately, there seems to be very little respite from the evil that men do.

--Jim Shepherd

The Shooting Wire