and other living things

4/16/07

A moment of silence for fellow ACC school Virginia Tech, suffering the worst single-gun rampage in American history. This is the part where I add my knee-jerk liberal comment about guns, but let’s just skip it: working for real gun reform in this country is hopeless. It’s so ingrained in our culture that I confess I occasionally think about getting one for the farm in case Everything Falls Apart.

Either way, it’s unknowably sad for all the families. Those kids could have been any one of us, schlepping our way to class at 9am on Monday, seventy years of their lives left to enjoy. Chapel Hill had its reckoning back in 1995, but this is leagues worse, an abominable tragedy. Can’t we make bullets as least as hard to get as prescription drugs?

0 thoughts on “and other living things

  1. killian

    From Vonnegut, needed now more than ever:
    “My [wife] has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, a a distance: that something die.
    “There is evil for you.
    “We cannot get rid of mankind’s fleetingly wicked wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.
    “I give you a holy word: DISARM”

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  2. Anne

    Once you are a parent, the horror factor inherent in such an incident seems to increase exponentially. Each one of those slain or injured VT students could be *your* child. Nightmare images of your child’s face superimposed on the bloodied body of a victim evoke a universal spasm of the worst grief we can know.
    To everyone: hug your kids (or siblings, or nieces/nephews). To the VT victims’ parents: My heart knows an infintesimal portion of your pain; I am so very, very sorry.
    To the victims: Requiescat in pace.

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  3. Isis

    Anne may be right, but do not diminish the horror that the rest of us–who may be childless, but who may teach on college campuses, who look every day at the young bright faces of the youth sitting before us (whether brightly or dimly)–feel at this. Every one of those young minds…. Whether friends, students, colleagues, or children–it is all pain and horror.

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  4. kevin from NC

    Wonder why these things seem to happen in the spring? This week is the anniversary of Waco and Columbine..

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  5. Anne

    To Isis (above): Of course you’re right; I didn’t mean to claim exclusive empathy rights for parents; just that parenthood does bring a particularly acute brand of identification — but certainly not the only kind. I too work on a college campus, and that was one of my first thoughts when the CNN bulletin came in yesterday morning: What if the bright, endearing kids I see and occasionally work with on campus were under fire, injured, dying?

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  6. Jane

    I was watching yet another of the endless discussions on Iraq last night when one of the people being interviewed said of the Virginia Tech nightmare, “It’s horrible. It’s grotesque. And something very like that happens every day in Iraq. Sometimes twice.” Shocked me to think about it in that context.

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  7. Bud

    Interesting points, Kevin and Jane.
    This is historically a Very Weird Time of Year isn’t it? Throw in the Titanic (April 16, 1912) and lesser known tradgedies like the Amritsar Massacre (April 13, 1919) the Texas City Disaster (April 16, 1947) — and who knows what else — and I can’t help wondering if maybe I shouldn’t start spending the month of April hiding in a bunker. (Works for Cheney, right?)
    I was struck by the Iraq comparison, too. What happens when two Really Horrible things happen pretty much every day in your country? Do you get used to it? Or just grow harder and angrier?
    The whole thing makes me literally sick to my stomach….

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  8. DFB's&T's

    When I listed to one of the press conferences yesterday, I was sickened by the “gotcha” mentality that it already consuming the media. For example, they insist that the campus could have been shut down. For all of us who went to UNC, try to imagine how you could possibly make the campus airtight for a lone gunman on foot — in a span of less than 2 hours. There are not enough cops in all of UNC and Chapel Hill combined to do so. Is the National Guard going to mobilize around UNC in less than 120 minutes?
    For everyone clamoring now for gun control . . . what precise measures are you endorsing that could have stopped yesterday’s massacre? The Supreme Court has already held that there are only so many restrictions that can be enacted. Would a waiting period help? He bought the guns 3 days ago so would a waiting period of 1 week or 2 weeks help? If he remains homicidal after 3 days, I am not sure how a few more days mends his broken heart. Nonetheless, I am not personally against some waiting period.
    Background checks? Nothing in this dude’s past would have raised a red flag unless you are going to ban handguns to non-citizens. If so, steel yourself for the claims of racism.
    Banning assult guns? OK, I am listening, but no one can describe yesterday’s handguns as “assault” pistols.
    The other side of the coin: hypothetically, if you were walking outside that classroom yesterday and could have slipped a pistol to a student who happened to be a retired Marine or police officer, would you have done so in an effort for the dude to stop the massacre? If so, are more gun controls for the entire population really the answer or is it possible that fewer gun controls (FOR THE RIGHT PEOPLE) is the answer? I don’t know the answer, but I think both sides of the coin have a rational basis and must be explored if we are going to engage in an intelligent debate (are we?).
    So, is there anything that could have been done to prevent yesterday’s events? I doubt there is anything that could be done that would pass Constitutional muster or be acceptable to the citizenry. Sadly, this country is an open society and college campuses are a wide-open society within our open society. My heart goes out to all of the families of yesterday’s victims, but I see no way that this could not happen again.
    d

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  9. eric g.

    D,
    I have been “clamoring for gun control” since I was old enough to understand what a gun is, so I’ll count myself out of the bandwagoneers. I witnessed a murder/suicide at Time Out in Chapel Hill several years ago that most likely wouldn’t have happened in Canada, where gun control is much stricter. I concede your point that there is probably nothing we can do to prevent campus slaughters; indeed, one of the worst in history happened at a college in Montreal. But it is truly sad that even a level-headed fellow like John McCain felt it necessary to defend the Second Amendment this morning; I’m sure that was a great comfort to the families of the dead and injured. The vague wording of the Second Amendment, forged as a compromise between the pro-centralization Federalists and the skeptical Anti-Federalists, unfortunately leaves open two distinct possibilities: that the right to bear arms only relates to the early states’ rights to raise a militia; or that the Amendment was a codification of the common law right of individual self-defense. The latter interpretation has carried the day, as summed up by Sen. Orrin Hatch: “When our ancestors forged a land ‘conceived in liberty’, they did so with musket and rifle. When they reacted to attempts to dissolve their free institutions, and established their identity as a free nation, they did so as a nation of armed freemen. When they sought to record forever a guarantee of their rights, they devoted one full amendment out of ten to nothing but the protection of their right to keep and bear arms against governmental interference. Under my chairmanship the Subcommittee on the Constitution will concern itself with a proper recognition of, and respect for, this right most valued by free men.” I would argue that Hatch’s mention of the need to bear arms against “governmental interference” is farcical in twenty-first century terms, but I am but one man. I hate to be defeatist, but there are so many guns in circulation in this country at this point that any true attempt to regulate their acquisition and use would be doomed to failure from the outset. Ultimately, life in America boils down to the daily assumption of faith and trust in our fellow man to acknowledge the sanctity of human life. The Virginia Tech shooter gravely violated that trust. As we did after September 11, all we can do is get up each morning and continue to place that trust in others, albeit more warily.

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  10. DFB's&T's

    Eric — Thank you for a reasonable reply to my post. I acknowledge and respect that you did not throw bombs. I have no quibbles with your argument except:
    Yes, one could argue that such might not happen in Montreal where there is stricter gun control. But, one could also argue, based on USA crime statistics, that there is less violent crime where there are looser gun laws or, more specifically, the right to carry a concealed weapon.
    As for Time-Out, I too saw many murders at that place, but most were merely figurative: Billy killing some drunken frat punk or some wino and a crack whore teaming up to bludgeon a one-legged man.

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  11. Ian

    The proliferation of guns is beyond hope, which is why I mentioned bullets. Apparently there are a limited number of bullets in this country, and making them hard to get – like a Schedule II drug, a la my Mothers Little Helper – would make it a whole lot harder for people to kill each other.
    Bush and McCain mentioning the 2nd Amendment this morning = cruel and disgusting. How mean-spirited can you get? Couldn’t they give it a rest for ONE FUCKING DAY?

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  12. Kim S.

    As a native Virginian with immediate family members and friends who attended Tech, as well as victims who graduated from my high school, this horror couldn’t have hit closer to home unless it happened in Chapel Hill. If my daughter’s elementary school can manage to call every single parent for a Fun Fair, why can’t major universities devise a way to contact (or at least alert) all of their students and faculty? It’s obviously become essential, and would have saved 30 lives. It can’t be that hard to figure out.
    And as Chris Rock paraphrases Ian’s bullet argument, the only way to solve gun violence in the US is not by banning guns, but by making bullets cost $5,000 a piece.

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  13. LFMD

    During our drive home from school pick-up, Helen and I chatted about what happened yesterday. I was not sure whether to mention the event, but when I asked her “Helen, did you talk about anything special in school today?”, she responded, “oh, you mean Virginia Tex?” Apparently they had all prayed for the students at morning prayer, and her second grade teacher mentioned what had occurred.
    My seven year old said this: “Mama, I don’t understand why that man who killed everyone did not get help or talk to a guidance counselor when he could not control his feelings? That is what we do in our school.” And, she also said, “Why are people allowed to buy guns if they kill people? People just shouldn’t have guns.”
    I am sure all of this seems obvious, but I was struck by her clarity. And I just hope against hope that my daughter doesn’t get crushed or destroyed by this F-ed up world I have brought her into. I keep thinking about all of the hopes and dreams the parents of these students had, sending them off to such a peaceful, lovely campus as VA Tech –only for the unimaginable to occur. It is simply heartbreaking on so many levels.

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  14. Beth

    Well put, LFMD. And pat yourself on the back for raising a little one who can offer such clear-sightedness.

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  15. LFMD

    Thanks, Beth. I suppose I am bragging, but my daughter is quite wonderful. I want to be just like her if I ever get my act together.
    Aside from the whole gun control issue (P.S.: when I told Helen that you can buy guns at Walmart, she said, “Mama, that is CRAZY! We are not shopping there ever again! Are there guns at Target?”), I have been concerned by all of the talking heads who say, “they should have seen it coming with this guy.” Says who? His writing was very disturbed and full of violence. So, what distinguishes Cho’s creative writing from Tarantino’s screenplay for ‘Grindhouse’? Fact is that there are “loners” and disturbed people among us every day. Take a good look around on the highway, in the grocery line, in the cubicle next door. . .so many people has a good chance of snapping. Best you can hope for is that you are not in the line of fire when it happens. Someone tell me the nation with the lowest amount of violent crime . . . I will gladly pack my bags and head over there.
    Mark Fuhrmann is on TV yammering about how the “outpatienting” of our society is to blame. What the hell does that mean? I gotta go to bed before they drag out Geraldo and Greta for more commentary. See you tomorrow.

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  16. Liana

    I attend a University around the same size and structure as Virginia Tech. Among my shock, disgust and condolences for the victims, all I can think about is how close this hits to home.
    It could have been my school yesterday. My friends, my professors, me. I could’ve been shot dead, one month away from graduation, like many of these students were. I know it’s a touchy topic and I don’t have all the facts, but all I know is that guns just should not be in the hands of ordinary citizens. They have one purpose and one purpose only, to kill and hurt. I don’t understand what this country’s obsession with them is. For once, instead of trying to change countries around the world, maybe we should listen to them instead. The U.K has some of the strictest gun legislation in the world. All firearms must be licensed under either a firearm certificate or a shotgun certificate.
    •To obtain a firearm certificate, the police must be convinced that a person has “good reason” to own each gun, and that they can be trusted with it “without danger to the public safety or to the peace”.
    •Gun licenses are only issued if a person has legitimate sporting or work-related reasons for owning a gun.
    •Since 1946, self-defense has not been considered a valid reason to own a gun.
    The current licensing procedure involves: positive verification of identity, two referees of verifiably good character who have known the applicant for at least two years (and who may themselves be interviewed and/or investigated as part of the certification), approval of the application by the applicant’s own family doctor, an inspection of the premises and cabinet where guns will be kept and a face-to-face interview by a Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO) also known as a Firearms Liaison Officer (FLO). A thorough background check of the applicant is then made by Special Branch on behalf of the firearms licensing department. Only when all these stages have been satisfactorily completed, will a licence be issued.
    This is awesome and it shouldn’t be any other way when it comes to gun control. America needs to get over it’s gun culture because it’s hurting this country and future generations of this country and my generation, who went to school on Monday morning wanting to make something of themselves in this world and instead were gunned down in a senseless act of violence.

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  17. jif

    the front page of one german newspaper yesterday was completely black with a small photo – the one of four police officers carrying the male student with bloody legs – and in large font, quotes the president’s spokesperson, “The president still believes in the right to bear arms”… Most germans don’t get it at all, the unflinching and overzealously adamant stance of those americans who oppose gun control laws.. nor do i.

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  18. tregen

    My heart and love out to those lives and families hurt and destroyed.
    Gun Control:
    This is a tough question for me as I am a gun owner. I grew up in the country in West Texas and lived in a house with enough guns in it that we probably would have made national news if the cops had ever had a reason to come on in. I enjoy shooting and occassionaly still take family members out to the ranch to hunt, although I personally have lost any desire to do so. Nevertheless, the madness must stop. The glorification of violence, the desensitizing of death and destruction, and the ability to purchase unlimited amounts and types of guns and ammunition has simply gone on to long. For example, you can walk into almost any well stocked gun shop and buy a .50 caliber rifle and as much .50 caliber ammunition as you like. In addition, any number of assualt rifles are available. I would like to point out that while this sad young man had neither of these types of weapons, he did have a Glock handgun which in some models and clips can hold up to 30 rounds of ammunition, the first gun Glock made held 17 rounds right out of the box. My point? Well, I’m a strict constructionist and since we can’t decide the finer points that Eric pointed out above, we should just stick with what was available then: Single shot muskets. While this would not prevent a person from killing another person, it certainly allows for time to escape for others.
    I no longer fall for the “if we just enforce the laws we have” or “nothing would have stopped him from doing it” arguements. Perhaps in individual cases those arguments hold water but if, through disarmament we can stop half of these horrific acts, I’ll be the first to go get myself a muzzleloader and to destroy the others.
    In all honestly, I would probably hide a few out at the ranch. I guess that’s the problem.

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