A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In memory of those at Virginia Tech

Well, another crazed freak exercized his Second Amendment rights yesterday, and 32 people are now extinguished. Plus the gunman is dead. You know, "gunman" is an interesting word.

Let us all remember the victims and their families in our prayers.

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At 4/17/07, 11:13 PM, Blogger La Maestra said...

I hate to make you even more depressed, but the total count was 33, including the gunman.


And we just had a shooting death of a former student two blocks from my high school, by a 12-year-old... I don't know about this world anymore, sometimes anyway.

At 4/18/07, 5:59 AM, Anonymous mrschili said...

Can someone PLEASE start having an intelligent conversation about GUN CONTROL?!?

At 4/18/07, 7:46 AM, Blogger M-Dawg said...

So sad - my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved.

I just don't get the youth of today - they really don't know how to deal with their anger. They chose to use forms of violence.

At 4/18/07, 8:10 AM, Anonymous Robert said...

Gun control isn't the answer. The VT campus has a strict no-guns policy, and we see how much that helped.

I also don't think that allowing unlimited conceal-and-carry is the answer either.

The problem is cultural, not legal -- namely that we have a culture that is sick at its core, and that sickness is getting worse each day. No law is going to change that or even prevent something like this from happening.

At 4/18/07, 3:32 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks, la maestra, it's been fixed.

And yes, Robert, but how about we deal with the fact that someone with a history of mental health issues can still get a gun and loads of ammo because, and I quote the gun store owner, "he looked like a clean-cut college kid."

Sure, these types of incidents can happen anywhere, but we don't need to make it so easy.

At 4/18/07, 7:25 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Ms. C:

Actually, we don't make it easy. There is no constitutional right so stringently regulated as the Second Amendment.

Imagine, for a moment, that prior to publishing an article, or voting, you had to, at minimum, provide identification, obtain permission from the federal government in the form of a criminal records check (which may or may not work promptly), and fill out a lengthy federal form (back and front, one page of paper) attesting, among other things, that you are not mentally ill, use drugs, are a convicted felon, etc. etc. And should you lie on this form, you're facing 10 years in federal prison for each and every instance of lying. This, and whatever state and local regulations and requirements might also apply.

There are, in fact, more than 20,000 gun control laws, local, state and federal, currently on the books. You should also realize that no firearm merchant is required by law to sell anything to anyone. One cannot walk into a gun store and demand that any given firearm be delived to them anymore than one can march into a shoe store and demand that they be served as they please.

If we wish to remain a free, democratic nation, we assume the risk that some will abuse that freedom. One need only read The Federalist Papers to learn that these issues were debated by the founders who decided that the blessings of liberty outweighed the potential for abuse.

We should also remember that school attacks are notorious primarily because, when considered in terms of the school population of the nation, they are very rare. This is certainly the good news. The bad news is that evil exists. It always has and it always will, and while we can be more vigilant, and while some similar incidents can be (and are) intercepted, we cannot eliminate evil.

Ultimately educators have to confront one central question: When prevention has failed, when all of the programs, locks and other feel good measures have been bypassed, when an armed, deranged maniac is on his way down the hall to your classroom, do you want to be armed, trained and ready to defend your life and the lives of your students, or would you prefer to abide by the "message" sent by gun free school zone signs? What message? Everyone here is unarmed; everyone here is an easy target. How would your student's parents feel about this?

Before teaching English, I was a police officer, even a SWAT troop, for nearly two decades. There is no question that gun laws do not in any way effect or deter criminals, who after all, are criminals because they disobey any and all laws they deem inconvenient. But all criminals fear honest citizens who are armed and ready to defend themselves, and even crazy people bent on destruction choose their targets with an eye toward their lack of ability to fight back. And so it was in Virginia.

At 4/19/07, 11:26 PM, Anonymous SciGuy said...


I may not agree 100% with your view (perhaps 85%), but I can appreciate your excellent post: thoughtful and well-presented.

At 4/20/07, 4:47 PM, Blogger Chanman said...

If only someone else on campus had been allowed by the Virginia legislature to exercise THEIR second-amendment rights on campus, perhaps this psycho could have been extinguished before he could kill 32 unarmed people.

At 4/21/07, 2:24 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, all of those regulations apparently aren't worth the reams of paper they are written on, since he was suspoosedly ineligible to purchase a gun due to his history of mental illness.

And what is the purpose of hollow-point ammo, anyway?

Answer: to blow great big holes in law-abiding victims.

At 4/21/07, 9:58 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Sciguy:

Thanks for your kind comments. I'd be curious to know which 15% of my comments you found objectionable and why.

Dear Ms. C:

Regarding mental health issues preventing gun purchases, please keep in mind that there are a wide variety of laws on this issue and many not terribly clear. One might be briefly taken into custody, even briefly held in a mental health lockdown facility before being examined and released and no liability toward purchasing firearms would attach. In fact, this happens all the time as many people, faced with unusual stress or trauma might be briefly unhinged, yet spend the rest of their lives as sane, rational citizens.

Our laws on mental health issues are a necessary balancing act between public safety and personal liberty. For the moment, one might reasonably make the argument that they protect personal liberty to the detriment of public safety, but that's what we've put together. One should, after all, be cautious about taking a constitutional liberty from anyone without substantial cause. I'm not saying that we shouldn't discuss and perhaps even modify the law here, merely explaining, briefly, what it is.

Hollowpoint ammunition is, actually a good thing and we do, in fact want it. Keep in mind that handgun ammunition is, relatively speaking, quite weak. Statistically 80+ of people shot with handgun ammunition survive. This did not hold true in the VT attack because the killer apparently shot most victims many times, thus multiplying the potentially deadly effects of the ammunition. In general, rifle and shotgun ammunition is far more deadly.

The killer apparently used .22LR and 9mm handguns. This means that the bullets fired were approximately 22/100 of an inch (weighing about 40 grains) and 9mm--about 353/1000 of an inch--(weighing about 120 grains) in diameter, and were on the lower end of the handgun ammunition power continuum.

Hollowpoint bullets were designed for two reasons: to prevent over-penetration and to maximize the effectiveness of relatively weak ammunition. The standard military 9mm round, a fully jacked (copper) round nosed bullet, is a notorious over-penetrator that tends to make neat holes without doing much damage, often passing through the intended target with the potential to strike others. Obviously, if you're a good guy, you don't want this happening. You want a round that won't overpenetrate and that will have the maximum effect on the target, hence, hollowpoints, which tend to expand beyond their fired diameter, thus imparting more of their energy to the target.

Yes, bad guys, such as the VT killer can also have this ammunition, but merely possessing ammuntion or a firearm is a federal offense for those prohibited by law. On balance, society is far better off with ammunition that does the job for which it was intended as efficiently as possible and that does not overpenetrate.

I realize that your question was, to at least some extent, rhetorical, but I hope this is helpful.

At 4/23/07, 5:03 PM, Blogger Chanman said...

Hollow point ammo also blows big holes in the law-breaking bad guys so that they may not continue with their shooting sprees.

There was another shooting at a Virginia college a few years ago. This shooter only killed three people before two students who had retrieved their weapons disarmed the shooter, and then a bunch of other students tackled him.

You are not going to keep guns out of the hands of people who are willing to commit murder. What you can do is not stop us law-abiding citizens from protecting ourselves and others.

At 4/24/07, 9:13 PM, Anonymous Aleisha said...

I respect your comments but think that you are coming from the perspective of a former law enforcement officer and appearing to be a little defensive but very informative. I think the shootings that took place at VT are another example of the lack of respect for life that is represented in our society and also confirms that people tend to sit around and not take action when they recognize that there is a problem. I am referring to the references made on the news channels that the gunman submitted disturbing assignments to his professors and no action was taken to get him mental health services only a referral was made and no follow up. It is my thought that we as a society and especially educators need to become more involved when we recognie that there is a problem and maybe 33 lives could have been saved in the VT instance.


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