Thursday, April 19, 2007

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

One of the benefits - or downsides - of working in the media is that you are treated to hearing the news throughout the day. Most people that watch the news do so at their leisure, and watch a particular news program at a particular time. Some people make it a point to always watch Shepard Smith on FoxNews; at least 139 people watch Katie Couric on CBS every night.

But those of us that toil every day to create the news have a slightly different perspective. We hear and read all the news - not just the snippets that are edited together for broadcast. Furthermore, we hear all of the broadcasts throughout the day - not just the 6pm newscast. And believe me, the news pieces that air at 11pm are sometimes quite different than those airing at noon or 6pm.

It's not really a conspiracy matter. The news programs have different content based on market research. For example, morning news is typically "lighter" than the evening. People don't like to wake up to gloom and doom... it's not the type of thing that gets them in the mood to drive to work.

Perhaps I should start getting to the point...

Over the past 3 days, I've heard an incredible amount of news related to the Virginia Tech shooting. As the story continues to develop and mature, I'm beginning to sense a particular slant or trend that involves the motivations of Cho Seung-Hui. Writers, researchers and reporters are all scrambling about to learn the details of Cho's past, in an effort to find out what events in his own history led to his final murderous actions.

I've seen reports discussing the fact that Cho came from a poor family, and that he felt a derision towards rich people. I've been informed that Cho was bullied in Junior High School, because he was Korean. I've read that Cho suffering from deep depression. I've seen news reporters remind us all of the symptoms of depression - how to recognize it, and interact with a depressed person. I've listened to people talk about Cho's feelings in inadequacy, as it relates to his mastery of speaking the English language. I've heard his classmates at VT describe him as a loner, and socially withdrawn... rarely talking, and having no friends (nor apparently wanting to form friendships with others).

Quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing about Cho's past and I'm insulted that somehow I'm supposed to feel a bit of pity for the man.

Forgive a quick tangent on an important, but minor matter: please note I called him a "man" in the sentence above. Not a child, not a college kid. He was neither a child nor a college kid. Cho was 23 years old. He hadn't been a "kid" for several years... so please, let's have no more descriptions of him which imply that somehow his age was a factor.

When Cho's victims were staring down the barrel of his gun, his past history was of no consequence. His motivations did not matter. There were only two relevant factors:

1. He had a deadly weapon, and was intent upon killing as many people as possible until he was stopped or became bored with killing.

2. How could one stop such a person from continuing to kill people?

One of the most saddening things about that day was that no one in the building had an effective way of stopping Cho's rampage. Virginia Tech has a firm policy in place which forbids students who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon from bringing a gun onto campus. Virgina Tech is what people call a "designated gun-free zone". Depending on your locale, bringing a weapon into such a place can lead to expulsion or arrest.

It's nothing if not obvious that Cho had no concerns about VT's gun-free policies. Someone who is anxiously planning the death of 32 people is not concerned with any such policy. Gun-free policies only affect one type of gun owner - the ones that would never commit such a crime to begin with.

Some politicians, such as Carolyn McCarthy and Barbara Boxer have already begun to talk about new legislation which will somehow prevent this kind of thing from happening again. They're discussing waiting periods, gun shows, registration, and banning "high capacity" magazines.

Where did Cho purchase his guns? No, he didn't take advantage of the mythical "loop hole" at a gun show. He purchased them from a licensed gun dealer, after undergoing the required federal background check.

How did the waiting period affect him? Virginia prevented Cho from purchasing both guns at the same time; I've read the state has a "1 handgun a month" law. That wasn't a problem for Cho. He purchased his first handgun in early March, and then purchased the second one a month later. He had planned this attack for weeks; a three-day waiting period was of no corcern to him.

High-capacity magazines? Would it have really made any difference if Cho had to reload twice instead of once? Cho wasn't discretely carrying one handgun with a magazine inserted; he was carrying two guns and had extra magazines stuffed in his pockets. I don't believe that his killing spree would have been any less effective if he had to carry five magazines instead of four.

With all their talk of creating more restrictive gun laws, it seems that many lawmakers, colleges, and a few law-enforcement brass are overlooking the one solution hasn't been tried: allowing people more latitude to arm themselves in self-defense.

They made laws to restrict Cho in nearly every way possible. They made him wait to purchase his guns, they declared he could not bring a weapon on campus, and most certainly they've made murder illegal. Cho showed patience with the laws that were inconvenient, and completely ignored the other ones.

That day, the laws only denied the victims their means to defend their lives.

I'm not clairvoyant. I cannot say with certainty that if one student had been armed, Cho would have been stopped. Perhaps that one student would have been the first victim.

However, I can say with certainty what the result will be when no one but the murderer is armed. Watch the news, Carolyn McCarthy. Watch the news, Michael Bloomberg. Watch the news, Sarah Brady. The result is 32 dead college students... all of whom followed your pathetic laws, all of whom were unarmed and unable to offer any effective defense.

You believe that if we can somehow come to "understand" what led to Cho's actions, and further restrict American gun rights, we can prevent such things from happening again. Here's another newsflash for you: crazed murderers don't care about your laws. Once a person has decided they are willing to break one of the highest laws - the one against murder - it's laughable to believe that your law banning guns at school will have any effect.

And finally:

To all the politicians, writers, pundits and police captains who believe guns could not have stopped this tragedy, I ask this question:

When the students were dialing 911, who were they calling for help?

People with guns.

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