Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nothing we could say would make sense of the ghastly sequence of events that unfolded Monday morning in Blacksburg, Va. The horrific massacre at Virginia Tech defies understanding at any level.

The horror began a little after 7 that morning, when police responded to an emergency call and discovered two persons, a man and a woman, shot dead in a dorm. At 9:45, more than two hours later, police responded to another report of gunfire at an academic building. Police found the doors chained from the inside. The scene inside was harrowing, according to students and staff who escaped — some by jumping from second-story windows. Some of those survivors have Liviu Librescu to thank. The 76-year-old professor blocked the door to his classroom, keeping the killer at bay while his students escaped through a window. A survivor of the Holocaust, he also escaped Communism in Romania. On Monday, he sacrificed himself to save his students.

While more facts will be uncovered with time, answers to myriad other questions may never be. In addition to seeking answers, many are starting to look for lessons. As with answers, the shooting leaves us with sadly few lessons. Colleges and universities can’t feasibly erect metal detectors throughout campus. Campuses cannot be fortified enough to ensure safety, nor would such measures be an acceptable long-term solution.

Lamentably, the tragedy is already being used to advance a political agenda by various groups that have linked the shooting to gun-control policy. The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, for instance, commented that “it is well known… how easy it is for an individual to get powerful weapons in our country,” and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said “the unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby.” The press has played its part, too. A New York Times editorial urgently called for “stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.”

The period of grief and anguish that follows such horrific events makes rational policy discussions difficult, if not impossible. We won’t simply snatch away Second Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that advocates would try to capitalize on times like these in order to advance their cause.


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