Sunday, 22 April 2007

Shock in Virginia

The mobile phone footage of what happened at Virginia Tech. contained in this video has been broadcast all over the world:

Obviously everyone's thoughts go out to the grieving parents and students.

There is a major problem with responsiveness though. Cho Seung-Hui, the student who killed all those people and, after that, himself, killed two students and didn't continue until two hours later. Surely that period would have been enough time to make sure everyone is notified and enough time to make sure the university is 'locked down'.

Four emails were sent to the students about the initial shootings just as Cho Seung-Hui started again. Those emails could have been sent quicker, but the uni could also have used other methods to communicate the dangers to the students. Not everyone reads their emails frequently and they won't all necessarily check them at the same time, which would always leave some at risk. What about PA systems? alarms? mass text messaging?

I'm not the only person to think two hours for any notification is slow. The following quote is from this article:
"As America struggles to come to terms with the tragedy, questions are now being asked about why the killer was not detained between the two shootings, and whether the university authorities could have done more to warn students.

Email alerts were only sent out two hours after the first incident, as the second rampage was well under way.

"I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident," said Billy Bason, an 18-year-old student."
It's important to note that it wasn't just the university admin who were slow. What about the police? Where were they after the initial shootings? They are on-campus police, so they should have been quick to respond. They may have had to bring other people in to help, but they could have done something while they waited for the others to arrive.

Now lets address a wider problem - use of guns in the USA. It's written into their Constitution (well, it's an amendment to the Constitution in the Bill Of Rights):
"Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
Naturally, if it's in there, it's very hard to remove. The amendment has been in there for so long, the right to bear arms just seems normal to a lot of US citizens.

There are some people who suggested that some people should have been allowed to have guns at the university so that Cho Seung-Hui could have been stopped much earlier. This is a weak argument though. That just means that there are more people who could shoot others. Not only that - if those guns were owned by responsible people, they could still be stolen by the irresponsible ones. In Britain, we don't have a citizen's right to bear arms and there are far less instances of shootings in educational institutions. Examples of shootings at US educational institutions in recent years are:
  • Sept. 24, 2003 - Cold Spring, Minn. - Two students are killed at Rocori High School by John Jason McLaughlin, 15.
  • March 21, 2005 - Red Lake, Minn. - Jeff Weise, 16, killed grandfather and companion, then arrived at school where he killed a teacher, a security guard, 5 students, and finally himself, leaving a total of 10 dead.
  • Nov. 8, 2005 - Jacksboro, Tenn. - One 15-year-old shot and killed an assistant principal at Campbell County High School and seriously wounded two other administrators.
  • Aug. 24, 2006 - Essex, Vt. - Christopher Williams, 27, looking for his ex-girlfriend at Essex Elementary School, shot two teachers, killing one and wounding another. Before going to the school, he had killed the ex-girlfriend's mother.
  • Sept. 26, 2006 - Bailey, Colo. - Adult male held six students hostage at Platte Canyon High School and then shot and killed Emily Keyes, 16, and himself.
  • Sept. 29, 2006 - Cazenovia, Wis. - A 15-year-old student shot and killed Weston School principal John Klang.
  • Oct. 3, 2006 - Nickel Mines, Pa. - 32-year-old Carl Charles Roberts IV entered the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School and shot 10 schoolgirls, ranging in age from 6 to 13 years old, and then himself. Five of the girls and Roberts died.
  • Jan. 3, 2007 - Tacoma, Wash. - Douglas Chanthabouly, 18, shot fellow student Samnang Kok, 17, in the hallway of Henry Foss High School.
Is this enough evidence to show that allowing guns in schools, colleges and universities would be bad?

What have we learned from this? Having a right to bear arms can cause all sorts of problems and the police should have been trained to respond to this sort of thing. Virginia Tech might have been a gun-free zone, but some people actually break the law! Also, the Virginia Tech admin should have been much quicker in alerting the students about the dangers of the situation.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Virginia, University, Firearms, Murder


Oliver Drew said...

Hiya David...

I tend to agree with your "Guns are bad" stance...

What people tend to forget is that no guns = no shootings.

If I was in power (in America - thankfully for them I'm not!) then amending the constitution would be one of the things I'm looking at - but a right-wing president like Bush won't do that...which is not a good thing (and I tend to be right-wing in my views generally).