mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reflections on the VT shooting....

On Monday, when the Virginia Tech shootings occurred, most of our department was gathered around the battered ex-classroom Zenith TV that's ceiling-mounted in our Tech Services departmental office. The biggest shooting in history, a few hours drive away, and at a college. When you work for a school, that's a pretty scary thought.

Of course, statistically, it's pretty unlikely - events like this make the news precisely because they are unusual. While the thought of dying young (or losing a loved one of other than natural causes) is scary, it's more likely to be a car crash or the like than a random shooting (especially if you drive like I do).

The shooting has brought out both sides of the gun control debate. I saw a Reuters article (I can't seem to find it now, I'll keep looking) (EDIT: found it!) which made sure at the end to point out how common guns are in America despite the 30,000 people wounded each year by guns (although after reading John Lott's book a few years back, I wonder how many of those are suicides). But while Virginia is very pro-gun and allows right to carry, the Virgina Tech campus did not allow guns on campus. James Taranto of OpinionJournal has a good outline of the pros and cons of allowing students to carry - second article. I can understand why a college might not want to allow guns on campus - lots of students living in close proximity suggests that schools might want to limit access. But one does wonder if the outcome would have been different had someone had a weapon on them.

Further gun control might have prevented Cho from getting the gun that he did. But chances are that he could have gotten a gun through illegal means. If not a gun, there are plenty of other ways he could have done it - like the guy last year at UNC who used a Jeep Cherokee. Maybe we should ban cars from college campuses (although given the parking regulations at my school, that's probably not too far off...). And keep in mind that 9/11, which killed nearly a thousand times more people than the VT shootings, used only boxcutters.

I'm also annoyed by all the second-guessing of VT's actions - the people saying "well, obviously they should have evacuated the campus" and the like. Hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to look at how events transpired and see how different decisions might have had a better outcome. But the reaction of VT was probably how most schools would have reacted - assumed it was an isolated incident, a domestic dispute, and gone after the boyfriend. More importantly, evacuating a school of 26,000 students, plus thousands more staff and faculty, is pretty much impossible. Communicating to all those students - many who are dispursed, who live off campus, who are somewhat off the grid communication-wise, who don't keep the most traditional of schedules - is almost impossible.

So while it's tragic, I would hold off drawing any big lessons from this...


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