David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

The Virginia Tech Killings

Some quick thoughts on the Virginia Tech massacre:

  • I read Cho Seung-Hui’s play Richard McBeef. Yes, it sucks, but it’s not as sucky as I had been led to believe. It’s also quite disturbing, but honestly, the play in itself isn’t the stinking, fetid hatebomb of a warning sign that the media thinks it is. I wrote some disturbing shit myself in college — there was one story I wrote in the form of an elaborate suicide note, wherein the protagonist vows to kill himself with a Rube Goldberg device he’s rigged up in his apartment to save everyone the trouble of dealing with his remains. Lots of young men vent their frustrations on the printed page, I don’t see why a fucked-up murderer should be any different.
  • The shooting has reinforced the right’s belief that guns should be more readily available, and that in a more gun-tolerant society some citizen do-gooder would have taken this kid down. The left, meanwhile, believes that this is an excuse to enact stricter gun control legislation. To me, the irony is that either much stricter gun control or much looser gun control could have helped prevent this tragedy. Waffling in the middle helps no one.
  • Another ironic thing about the brewing gun control debate is that the killer did not use weapons that would have been prohibited by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He used a Glock 19 and a Walther P22, and I believe both of these would have been legal had the Assault Weapons Ban been extended. (Someone please let me know if I’m wrong about this.) The extended gun clips Cho is believed to have used are another issue, but not having those wouldn’t have stopped his rampage.
  • Blaming the Virginia Tech administration for failing to send timely warning e-mails to the students is absolutely, totally, completely, offensively ridiculous. If we tried to lock down the 2,600 acres surrounding each one of the 30,000 gun deaths in the U.S. every year, society would come to a screeching halt. Two hours is a perfectly reasonable period of time for the police to respond and get a mass e-mail communication out to the campus, and the e-mail they did send struck exactly the right tone under the circumstances. Besides which, even if everyone had hunkered down inside their dorms at 7:30 A.M. and not gone to class, Cho Seung-Hui was in one of those dorm rooms. He would have just gone on his massacre in a different building.
  • The frightening thing is that, ultimately there’s nothing you can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening 100% of the time. There are a thousand different ways to kill large groups of people. Probably the best solution we have is counseling — which makes it so ironic that college counseling centers are so understaffed and underfunded throughout the country. The Scientologists better not try to ram any more of their anti-psychiatry crap down our throats after this.
  • This dude was from Centreville, Virginia. I live about 10 minutes away from Centreville. I may very well have driven by this guy or passed him in the mall half a dozen times.
  • One of the victims of Cho Seung-Hui’s massacre was Jamie Bishop, son of the science fiction writer Michael Bishop. This sucks on too many levels to even recount here.

——

I’m going to be cutting back on the blogging for the next couple weeks so I can concentrate on getting MultiReal finished and polished by May 1. There are a few pivotal scenes that have to be done just right, and they’re not quite there yet.

Meanwhile, I’ll be attending this weekend’s Penguicon science fiction/open source software convention in Troy, Michigan. What will I be doing there? I really don’t know, because I couldn’t keep up with the con-related e-mail traffic and so I stopped reading it entirely. But if you’re looking to find me, the bar’s always a good place to check.

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  1. tommyspoon on April 18, 2007 at 9:52 am  Chain link

    Dave,

    Consult this article about the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law a few years ago:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_School_of_Law_shooting

    The shooter was stopped afterhe already killed three people. So, the armed students who stopped him were too late. Not to knock the spirit of their efforts, but having an armed campus didn’t prevent that tragedy. So, the answer to me is not more guns control, not less. Guns should be more difficult to obtain, not easier.

    But more important than the gun control issue is the mental health issue. This young man did not get the help he so desperately needed, despite the good-faith efforts of some of his professors. I don’t know what steps should be taken, but the current system of laws is far from adequate. We as a society can, and must, do better.

    Regards,

    Tommy W.

  2. Josh on April 18, 2007 at 10:16 am  Chain link

    I’m already sick of the way the media is handling this. Everyone who doesn’t handle the situation perfectly, or without some psychic ability to see what was coming is a moron, or some other derivative label. The killer’s closets are now being scavenged for every possible dustball, and one newspaper applied the title “creepy loner” just to make sure we got the point. Yes, this event is horrible. But please, for the love of all things decent, stop making it into a schmaltzy gorefest. I can see folks practically grinning with glee as they type this stuff, thinking how shocking they can pump it up to appear.

  3. David Louis Edelman on April 18, 2007 at 10:21 am  Chain link

    Tommy: You can look at the Appalachia case another way. The crazy dude might have gone on to kill 30 more people if he hadn’t been stopped by private citizens with handguns. I’m not sure I agree with that argument — personally I favor much stricter gun control — but it’s not such an easy argument to dismiss.

    Josh: Wait a minute… the media… insensitive? That’s completely impossible. Never. :-)

  4. Josh on April 18, 2007 at 11:09 am  Chain link

    I know. Sorry. I’m asking the impossible. Maybe I’ll write a book about some alternate reality where the media is objective, doesn’t rape people’s souls for the sake of a story, and actually considers the facts before making soap operas out of real tragedy. Meh. Nevermind. No one would buy something like that.

  5. J Alan Erwine on April 18, 2007 at 12:08 pm  Chain link

    As a loner and a quiet guy, and someone who often rights disturbing fiction, I can say that those three things do not make a killer. There were so many more things going on than just what the media would like us to believe…but they need their thirty second soundbite…

    This is just a symptom of a sick society, and that needs to be addressed more than anything else.

  6. Jason M. Robertson on April 18, 2007 at 12:59 pm  Chain link

    I’d just like to commend you for keeping an eye on the mental health aspect of this. Much of the media reaction seems to be immunized to understanding this is the first link in the chain where one can try and stop these events. Immunized by a need to react to these deaths with punitive action of some sort. Which is a response that now lacks a clear and proper target. The same goes for standing up for the university response.

  7. David Louis Edelman on April 18, 2007 at 1:11 pm  Chain link

    Thanks, Jason. I have two sisters in the mental health field, so it’s a little closer to home for me than for most people.

    Re the university: People are just looking for a scapegoat. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it correct. Fact of the matter is, there’s only one scapegoat here, and his head is splattered all over Norris Hall at Virginia Tech.

  8. KC on April 18, 2007 at 4:11 pm  Chain link

    I lived through 9/11 in Washington DC, soon after lived through the DC Sniper incident. We live in a violent world and if someone wants to cause harm there is really little we can do to stop them from planning and executing the horror. My only hope is that more people get concealed weapons permits. The anti-gun discussions always leave out the number of crimes that were averted with armed citizens. If you notice 99.99% of the time that these nutjobs go on rampage they never attack police stations, military bases, gun ranges, hunting lodges. They go after places that they feel that no one will shoot back at them. The anti-gun people are going to say that having everyone armed will lead to accidents and wide spread anarchy. The opposite is true. I would like to see a day that most schools have at least a few teachers that keep a concealed weapon. Concealed means concealed!! There are plenty of ways to keep these weapons hidden so that kids do not even know about it.

    Secondly, the news media needs to stop the lynch mob mentality on the school. Did they learn nothing from the Duke case? The media always wants to quickly blame someone when bad stuff happens. Sometimes there is no one to blame. Life sucks and there are crazy people. Thousands of people are killed daily by drunk drivers, speeding kids, stupid accidents, etc. Media loves to grab onto a story like this and scare the crap out of everyone. Keeping us petrified keeps us glued to our tvs.

    IF THE SCHOOL HAD STARTED AN EVACUATION AND THIS NUT SHOT 30 OR SO PEOPLE AS THEY EMPTIED OUT OF A BUILDING EVERYONE WOULD BE BLAMING THE SCHOOL FOR OVERREACTING!! They would be saying, why did the school not just handle this quietly. THEY WOULD HAVE BLAMED THE SCHOOL FOR INCITING THIS NUT INTO THE SHOOTING.

    If all these Monday morning quarterbacks on the tv know so much, why did they not make it their lifes mission to protest every school to put emergency plans into effect. If these so called experts know so much why were then not yelling at the top of their lungs every day about this possible problem a week ago. I think it is shamefull and an insult to the lives of the victims that the media wants to start a frenzy on blaming someone. I am sure the lawyers are already circling around the families of the victims, feed by the media circus. Makes me want to puke.

  9. Rhea on April 18, 2007 at 6:00 pm  Chain link

    I agree that it’s ridiculous to question why the college campus wasn’t locked down. It’s nearly impossible for a campus that size. There is nothing about Virginia Tech that makes it a magnet for violent rampages. But before we can keep stop these mass shootings, we have to keep kids safe at home. What I’m getting at is that people who commit acts of violence — school rampages, rape, child sexual assault and abuse — have more than likely been a victim themselves. I recommend the book “Violence” by James Gilligan for the best explanation of “why it happens” that I’ve ever read.

  10. Deborah Edelman-Blank on April 19, 2007 at 10:46 pm  Chain link

    Speaking as one of the above-mentioned sisters and as a psychologist at a college counseling center, I’d like to echo Dave’s call for increased access to mental health services on campus. International standards for university counseling centers (http://iacsinc.org/) indicate that one full time professional staff member should be available for every 1,000 to 1,500 students. The vast majority of universities (including the university where I am employed) are nowhere near meeting this goal…

  11. Geoffrey Allan Plauche on February 10, 2008 at 5:52 pm  Chain link

    KC makes some good points in his first paragraph.

    It might be true that both much stricter gun control and much looser gun control might have prevented the VT tragedy, might even diminish their frequency. That’s an empirical question. I’m not convinced stricter gun control would help though. Criminals will find ways to get guns or other means of inflicting injury and death. Criminals don’t obey gun laws.

    There are other things to consider as well. For one, the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, which is itself but a statement in print of our natural right to the same. Gun control laws violate this right and infringe our ability to defend ourselves from criminals and from tyrannical governments. Gun control is effectively victim disarmament.

    For another, even the fastest police response times will in almost all cases not be enough to prevent armed criminals from stealing, raping, injuring, committing mass murder, etc. Knowing most citizens are unarmed makes the criminal feel safer in committing his crime. And there is a reason why these suicidal mass murderers almost invariably choose gun-free zones for their acts.

    “Tommy: You can look at the Appalachia case another way. The crazy dude might have gone on to kill 30 more people if he hadn’t been stopped by private citizens with handguns. I’m not sure I agree with that argument — personally I favor much stricter gun control — but it’s not such an easy argument to dismiss.”

    Speaking of private citizens carrying concealed and stopping suicidal mass murderer’s from continuing their rampage, did you hear about the recent Colorado church shooting in which a female parishioner (not a security guard as the media claims – no surprise there) did just that?

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/12/09/church.shooting/

  12. David Louis Edelman on February 10, 2008 at 6:39 pm  Chain link

    Geoffrey: Heard about the Colorado shooting. A very supportive example for the Second Amendment rights side of the argument.

    On the other hand… the Second Amendment needs some updating and clarification. Everyone should have a right to bear arms… so does that mean you should be able to amass an arsenal of dirty bombs in your basement? What, they’re arms, right? Doesn’t the Second Amendment protect that?

    I understand the idea of self-protection, but “bearing arms” doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did back in 1787. I don’t think the Founding Fathers would have been in favor of everyone having the ability to walk into a mall and mowing down 30 people in a minute.

  13. Geoffrey Allan Plauche on February 10, 2008 at 7:38 pm  Chain link

    Dave,

    Dirty bombs are a rather extreme example, but are laws really going to be a guarantee against crazy people making them and keeping them in their basements anyway? Besides, this line of argument doesn’t work against regular weaponry like pistols and even full auto rifles. Perhaps more importantly, any argument against private individuals making and keeping dirty bombs is an even better one against governments making and keeping them!

    As for whether the Founding Fathers would have been in favor of everyone having the ability to walk into a mall and mowing down 30 people in a minute: I’m sure they wouldn’t be in favor of anyone committing mass murder, but I’m also pretty sure that they would have frowned upon governments monopolizing that ability! The last century is a testament to the evils just such a monopoly. If full auto rifles and similar weapons exist, citizens have just as much a right to them as government soldiers and police. Indeed, more so. It’s rather futile to wish such weapons didn’t exist. They do. Given their existence, people should be able to own them in order to be able to defend themselves against others who have them (including their own governments, if necessary).

    It is also worth considering just how much more of a police state the US would have to become in order to truly enforce strict enough gun control laws to have a hope of preventing VT-style and Omaha West Roads Mall-style shootings. (I happen to live near Omaha and shop at that mall, btw. If I had been there at the time, I would have liked to at least have had a chance to defend myself. Incidentally, there was a ccw permit holder within range of that shooter but he wasn’t carrying because it was a gun-free zone (at least until the suicidal mass murderer arrived), so he ran and was lucky enough to get away.) But even this extreme prescription wouldn’t be a 100% guarantee. Meanwhile, we’d have even less freedoms and an even more (than it already is) intrusive government than the Founding Fathers meant for us to have. Such a policy would probably have an effect much like the Prohibition and the current Drug War in facilitating the rise of organized crime around the prohibited item/activity. Do we really want to trade what are relatively isolated (as tragic, horrible, and all too frequent they are) incidents for less freedom and more systematic oppression? There is a quote by Benjamin Franklin, often rightly used against Bush’s domestic policies in the War on Terror, that is equally applicable here: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    Though we may continue to disagree on this issue, Dave, thanks for the reasoned discussion; it is a welcome change of pace from the kind of reactions I often get.

  14. David Louis Edelman on February 10, 2008 at 8:07 pm  Chain link

    Though we may continue to disagree on this issue, Dave, thanks for the reasoned discussion; it is a welcome change of pace from the kind of reactions I often get.

    And thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I wish more people on both sides of the political spectrum would listen to each other and have reasoned debate these days. It seems to have lost out in favor of cable TV pundits screaming at each other.

  15. Dr.Colin Locke on February 12, 2008 at 3:30 am  Chain link

    Re the Virginia Tech. Killings….Is terrorism MURDER ??? Because it would seem that….. had this been a Moslem carrying out their act of faith as instructed by the words of the Koran….. then it is an act of a martyr…. for which the reward is paradise plus concubines a plenty….By contrast… Meaning in this case “being totally at the opposite end of the spectrum.. as in “Evil vs Good”. … The words of Jesus in the Bible forbid me from murdering anyone….and further…that should someone be incline to kill me…. I am to prey that they be searched out by God still for a change of heart. But I don’t think see this as that type of act…. but rather the act of a person who has been given no proper help from a youth… little or no feeling of nurturing…. no sense of being special… with a daily enjoyment of the wonders of natures grandeur…to spend discovering and learning this greatness of life, rather than being engrossed in things that are made up of death, dying. Evolution is the only religion taught in most schools now….for it a theory built not on true facts but opinions of the passed that are based on assumptions….this then makes evolution a true ‘faith’ and my dictionary says a faith IS a religion…. If that is the case then evolution is simply a religion and its promoters are ministers of this religion who wish oust the said religion of Christianity and put evolution in its place…. the ministers of the church of evolution just have not got the guts to admit they are its clergy. Evolution gives young minds no positive future…you came from nothing..your nothing special…and your going nowhere…hence no reason for joy… this state then leads to taking uppers… booz… or doctors totally mind altering antidepressant drugs.. containing the poisonous fluoride….. few know anything about its ability to cause the mind to suicide and killing… because it is supposed to be the life saver of children’s teeth… what a lot of crock…..check out the web..read the label on the tube of tooth paste…. “use pea size amount..any reactions see you doctor or nearest ‘poisons’ number….oh yes it can still be used as an excellent rat poison…like it used to be…and still is by pest controllers to this very day….Sooo…. mixing mind altering fluoride prescription drugs with… evolutions negative downer and poof you have that magic pill for every ill…. end result???? killing then suicide…As for me and my house.. we will follow the Lord of all creation the giver of life. Then when I die the normal death or from some other means… This same God can give me back not only life but a more pleasant life than the one I had before when I could grow weary and have to work so hard and with only the prospect of seeing more suffering… this too will be a thing of the past… for all suffering and pain will be a thing gone and past away… no more to return EVER. Satan brought death to this world but we do not have to agree or side with Satan…. We can take Gods side and accept all the good things God gives with it for free…..WOW to begin to learn of all creation….and to be able to talk to “THE MAN HIMSELF”…. NOW THERE IS SOMETHING TO REALLY BLOW THE MIND!!!!!! Try reading only the Old Testament Bible book of Genesis from chapter one to chapter eleven…..then go to http://www.creationontheweb.com …or http://www.answersingenesis.org …go to “questions” ask what you will….you’ll see it fits real science and common sense….. and evolution will be seen for the fake that it is… built on nothing but unreliable… ever changing mistake after mistake…..enjoy!!!!

  16. David Louis Edelman on February 12, 2008 at 9:09 am  Chain link

    “Dr.” Locke: Thank you for enlightening us. Now I see that it was toothpaste and the teaching of evolution that caused Cho Seung-Hui’s murderous rampage.

  17. Brady Antony on March 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm  Chain link

    Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  18. David Louis Edelman on March 14, 2011 at 9:41 am  Chain link

    Brady: This is WordPress, which I recommend highly. The layout is different because I programmed the theme myself (badly, I might add). If you’re new to blogging, I’d suggest WordPress or Blogger, both good platforms. And don’t worry about uniqueness on WP, there are literally tens of thousands of themes out there to choose from.

  19. Rudy Stayter on June 23, 2011 at 2:58 am  Chain link

    Bertrand Russell~ Guy needs for his happiness not only the satisfaction of this or that but hope and enterprise and change.

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