Making Guns Tougher To Get
Wednesday - April 25, 2007
Many deaths. So much violence. And too many ways to kill.
In the wake of the obscene tragedy at Virginia Tech University, we are quite naturally asking the kinds of questions we tend to ask whenever we’re confronted with the profound evil that has shattered a campus and shaken a nation.
It was obvious way before the massacre that the killer, Cho Sueng-Hui, was a deranged and angry young man. He was obsessed with sex, torture and death. He fit the profile of a mass murderer. There was his silence. Classmates and roommates say he spoke not a word - day in and day out he ignored the people around him until eventually they gave up trying to communicate with him. Then there were his writings. If you’ve read his plays, there is no doubt at all that the author had a sick mind.
The red flags were flying like fireworks, but Cho had not, until that bloody Monday, actually threatened anyone with bodily harm. The two women who accused him of stalking did not file charges. His roommates reported that he was suicidal, but Virginia state law prohibits public universities from expelling or punishing students who try to commit suicide or who seek mental health treatment for suicidal thoughts. So even knowing what the nation knows now, there is little consensus on what could or should have been done to avert his rampage.
Can you lock someone away for being weird? For being quiet? For being different? Obviously the answer right now in our society is no. But maybe we have to find better ways of categorizing weird.
Maybe we have to get more aggressive about dealing with troubled students. I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s worth discussing.
And why not make it harder for the unhinged to carry out their fantasies? Cho had easy access to guns. Unlike in Hawaii, Virginia requires no waiting period, no license or permit to purchase a gun, no registration with law enforcement. Cho was able to buy his guns and ammunition almost as easily as purchasing a carton of milk.
The day after the shootings, I was watching news of the aftermath - the grief and shock of those on the campus - I felt it too. A contractor who was working in my house said something like, “If someone there had a gun this guy would have been blown away” before he did so much damage. Later I heard him grousing to his companion about Hawaii’s strict gun laws.
“I can’t even blow away someone who attacks me in my own home,” he said.
Blow away? That blew my mind. So the answer to our problems is to blow them away with a pull of a trigger? What kind of people are we? Have we been completely brainwashed into accepting a culture of violence as normal? Have shows like 24 and CSI and countless violent video games become models for real life?
I, for one, am quite happy with Hawaii’s relatively severe restrictions on buying and owning firearms. Of course, there are gun crimes committed here, but how much worse would it be if they were more readily available?
I would even go a step further. Why not require potential gun owners to be cleared by a mental health professional, in writing, before being able to buy a weapon?
That would help keep the firepower out of the hands of the psychotics and the disturbed.
People like Cho Seung-Hui.
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