Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shooting off one's...

So the Right has spoken: "Gun control is not only not the answer, it's the anti-answer - more guns at school!" Gun Owners of America spokesman on NPR yesterday: "If students or teachers were allowed to carry weapons on school campuses, the tragedy at Virginia Tech could have ended much sooner."

So, I'm a cop, trying to make my way into the school, and the only report I've had so far is that there is a person with a handgun, walking around campus, shooting people. I see someone with a handgun. I shout, "POLICE! FREEZE!" That person turns to look at me, and I fire. They had a gun. They just weren't the shooter. The killings continue, and I've just shot an innocent bystander.

My other favorite scenario: I'm the only student in a particular classroom with a gun, I walk out into the hallway to see if I can at least clip the shooter, slow him/her down. There are four other students in the hallway, all packing guns. Which one do I shoot? Why wouldn't one of them shoot me? And of course, I won't hesitate, as I'm a fully trained firearms expert, not just a kid with a pistol...

Another brilliant concept: "Where were the heroes? Couldn't someone have tackled this guy early on and stopped him?" Of course, I'm sure the writers of these little screeds would be right up there, launching themselves on a guy carrying two semi-auto pistols with different reloading periods. Or would they. like the other prudent folks in that college, be barricading themselves behind a door, cowering under desks, playing dead, anything not to get shot.

One topic covered by many but misunderstood by most, was that the shooter was using one fairly lethal gun and one less lethal, i.e. the 9mm Glock was somehow more deadly than the .22 caliber Walther. As any forensic pathologist will tell you, yes, the big bullet makes a larger hole, but the little bullet will often take the scenic route, coming in at, say, your hip, and possibly exiting somewhere near your shoulder, bouncing off every bone in between. In most cases, the cops are at least as afraid of a 22, because while a vest will definitely stop a straight shot from a 9mm pistol, a 22 can sneak in under the waistband and still manage to hit your heart.

What to do? Well, after all the blamethrowers have been fired and everyone has gotten the lawsuits off their chests, we can look forward to more waffling by politicians about any kind of background checks or any sort of gun-sale records-keeping. Our former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, made it a policy to erase gun-purchase records after 24 hours, rather than the usual 90 days. This of course, would have prevented anyone from knowing how and where John Allen Muhammed (the DC sniper - remember him?) purchased his illegal firearms. Cho Seung-Hui had been sent to a psychiatric facility and was on suicide watch, yet still managed to get past a background check to purchase two firearms.

As Bowling For Columbine showed, gun ownership does not necessarily equal murder. Canada has more guns per capita than the United States, and yet Toronto, one of their largest cities, only had 61 homicides in 2004, 32 by handgun. Baltimore, Maryland had 269 homicides that year, more than two-thirds by handgun. The Virginia Tech shootings equaled one year's worth of handgun murders in a Canadian city with a population of approximately 3 million.

I agree with Michael Moore's assessment of American culture, and the news in general: we are living in fear of each other. We are specifically afraid of the others in our midst: whites if you're black, blacks if you're white, etc., etc. We resent those who've done better than we have, and we resent those who are "parasites" on society, the indigent. We blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Interestingly, a University in Sweden recently concluded a study that proved that suicides go up in England when the Conservatives are in charge of the government. They reasoned that if Labor had been in power, more than 35,000 people would not have killed themselves. I wonder if anyone has looked at the statistics in America about the economy versus crime, a truly deep study of all the numbers and all the available jobs, and the crime that results from market downturns, layoffs, etc. Or better still, how does the populace deal with an economy that appears to be doing well, when most people believe they're barely making it?

In the case of Virginia Tech, it appears that the shooter had some deep-seated psychological issues. His writings, which are as disturbing as any movie written by Andrew Kevin Walker, appear to be written by someone with a very limited command of the English language. One wonders how he managed to get into college with such poor skills. There are hints of child molestation, murder by hammer and chainsaw, molestation by teachers at school, by step-parents, etc. Many people seemed to think that he was a potential school shooter before he became one. Much more yet to be discovered, I'm sure...

Meanwhile, we can thank our lucky stars that it didn't happen here.


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