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Lessons to be Learned from Senseless Mass Murder

My power went out around 10:30 yesterday morning due to a wind storm that took out a transformer in my area. As I am writing this (away from home) power has yet to be restored so I am a bit behind on details, but I heard news of the Virginia Tech massacre on the radio and caught bits and pieces here and there. While I don't know many of the specifics, I have read the excellent posts on the story here at Wizbang and a few other blogs. Most of the early reports are fact oriented. What has only just begun, but will surely follow in earnest over the next few days is the political blame game. The calls for gun control are a given, as they were following Columbine. There will also, probably, be a way some will tie all this to President Bush, Dick Cheney and/or Halliburton. (I really hope I am wrong about that last prediction.)

Many will be searching for lessons to be learned from this senseless mass murder. I hope all aspects of the horrible crime are investigated and studied. If anything can be learned from this event that could save lives in the future, that would at least make these senseless deaths serve some meaningful purpose. It wouldn't make it any less horrific or any easier for the families of the lost and injured, but at the very least we should always look for any lessons that can be learned from such an event. There is already questioning of the way the crime scene was secured and those on campus were alerted and when. Maybe as a result procedures will be improved for future emergency situations.

Those looking for deeper meanings, the "why" for the shootings, are likely to be disappointed. In these situations, when a murderer decides to take the lives of innocent strangers, there is little hope for a satisfying answer to the question of "why." Unfortunately there are rarely even any answers to the question, "How could this have been prevented?" Hopefully any meaningful lessons that can be learned, will be, and political opportunism will be kept to a minimum.

I have seen several reports that this shooting is the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. What I did not know, however, is that this was not the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history. At Right Wing News, John Hawkins reminded readers that Andrew Kehoe "killed 45 people and injured 58, mostly children in second to sixth grades" in a bombing in 1927. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I did not know the story. I found a fascinating account at a Court TV website. What I took from the Andrew Kehoe school bombing almost a century ago, and from the more current school shootings, is that whatever reason the killer gives, whether it be political or personal (as in the case of the Columbine killers), it never makes sense in the context of opening fire on innocent students. It is pure evil, whether it be due to insane hatred or mental illness. It just doesn't make sense.

Another thing I see in these crimes is that often there was little anyone could have done, without being able to read the murderer's mind, to prevent the killings. Some schools already have metal detectors and I expect even more will have them following the Virginia Tech killings. But short of erecting maximum security schools, it is difficult to stop a madman determined to kill. That is a horrifying thought, but sadly it is true. These are senseless acts of cruelty that are difficult to prevent.

We will strengthen security measures in our schools and public places, and we will attempt to understand and treat the underlying reasons a person might commit such an insane act. But, unfortunately, I fear most of us will just be left with an increased sense of helplessness and bewilderment.

Update: I heard someone (I missed his name) on one of the cable shows say that one thing that could be done to decrease the likelihood of these things happening is to stop touting this as a record breaking event. He has a good point. He said that over and over again today he heard the massacre described as the most deadly or the worst in U.S. history (as I did above). This is a huge story and it is a fact that it is the most deadly school shooting in our history. There is a lot of glorification of violence in our culture though. Where is the line between what is and is not acceptable? There was much discussion of this following the Columbine shootings due to the movie scene the killers seemed to be imitating. Expect to hear plenty more of it and there is no easy answer to this one.

Update II: Bruce Kesler has an interesting take on the Va Tech shootings in which he points to Judith Klinghoffer's excellent post, "As Sheep to the Slaughter Once Again." Go read them both. This is not the take you are likely to see on the network coverage.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Lessons to be Learned from Senseless Mass Murder:

» Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Cheney Says Democrats Will Back Down on Iraq Timetable

» Bill's Bites linked with Virginia Tech: The Day After

» The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 04/17/2007

» Plains Feeder linked with Obligatory Mass Murder Gun Control Discussion

Comments (21)

Nice post, Lorie. Security ... (Below threshold)

Nice post, Lorie. Security screening doesn't do much on an open campus, sad to say.

"We will strengthen securit... (Below threshold)

"We will strengthen security measures in our schools and public places..."_lorie


Peoples' Liberation Army "students", brainwashed and probably abused, should not be allowed free rein inside the US. If PLA is what he is, or just an "other" in the totalitarian system of reconnoisance for the greater good of (Red) China, we'll see. Evvventuuuaaly.

Just banging the drum...

Perhaps this will increase ... (Below threshold)

Perhaps this will increase interest in on-line universities as an alternative to on-campus higher education.

Bring back ROTC to Universi... (Below threshold)
kong An:

Bring back ROTC to University campus, and include weapons training, and self defense.

Inspire ROTC students to think in terms of self defense, and defense of one's classmates.

Permit those who are able to defend themselves, and their classmates, and permit them the necessary tools to insure a successful defense.

The name Kehoe is probably ... (Below threshold)
Robin Goodfellow:

The name Kehoe is probably familiar due to Chevie and Cheyne, they got a lot of press when their shootout with police after being pulled over was caught on video (here's a still which may jog your memory).

Virginia Tech has an active... (Below threshold)

Virginia Tech has an active ROTC program, but the cadets are not armed. The security force has thousands of rifles and other arms, which are kept under tight lock and key. One wonders what circumstance might call for their issuance, since they remained locked up today.

There's nothing you can say... (Below threshold)

There's nothing you can say or do about something like this situation.

And he can see no reasons
'Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

Ideas that having more guns on college campuses is just a horrible idea. There is no guarantee that it would have prevented today's events, but if handguns start showing up in the dorms of major universities in large numbers, it would be creating a recipe for disaster. Some policies make sense, and most states have policies like this for very well thought out reasons.

Perhaps. In the one previou... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

Perhaps. In the one previous shooting at a college in Virginia, the perpetrator was stopped when two young men with carry permits were able to get to their cars, retrieve their weapons, and confront the shooter as he transited between buildings. As a result, only three of his planned targets were killed, vs. the list of 10 or so he had.

This horrible situation wil... (Below threshold)

This horrible situation will make not only the ROTC very popular but also metal detectors.

It was only a few days ago ... (Below threshold)

It was only a few days ago that the Rudgers Women's basketball team claimed that they were somehow "scarred for life" when they heard by way of second hand news by Al Sharpton that radio shock jock Don Imus told some bad joke about them. Well, Monday's attack at Virginia Tech certainly proves that far worse things can happen to a person than having some joke told about them.

American society has the right to horrified this week, unlike the unjustified hysteria last week.

I don't think that there's very many victims or their families at Virginia Tech that can have very much sympathy for the very minor wrong that the Rudger's team suffered last week. All normal perspectives and degrees of right and wrong seemed to be lost last week, and it is unfortunate that it takes a very serious event like Monday's incident at Virginia Tech to make some realize that being made fun of is very minor compared to far worse things, such as actually becoming a victim of violence.

Here in Oregon a kid shot up his school a few years ago after taking antidepressants. There is really no way to protect society from bizarre random acts of senseless violence and maintain a free society as we know it.

This shooting underscores t... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

This shooting underscores the fact that self defense is an individual responsibility. It does not matter if the crime occurs in a public place or in your own home. The police are not going to be able to protect you in 99% of cases. This is no fault of theirs, it is just a logistical fact. Law enforcement reacts to crisis. They cannot be everywhere at once.

Even at the individual level, it is difficult to be mentally prepared or to even conceive of such a horrible act. But we can try. Be prepared. Be observant. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If someone warns you about possible danger, heed that warning. I am not suggesting paranoia, but healthy self awareness.

I have been praying for the families, our nation, and all those who were closely involved. I will continue to do so.

I can't blame the Universit... (Below threshold)

I can't blame the University President, like so many others are, for failing to 'lock down' the campus. There is no way you can 'lock down' a place that size.

Also, the campus police treated the first discovered murders as a lovers quarrel gone wrong, not as a crazy gunman on the loose. To them, the crime scene was limited to the dorm.

I do believe that since they did not have a suspect in custody, the prudent thing would be at least to alert all professors and building personnel prior to the start of classes to be on the alert for unauthorized persons, and let them know about the deaths. Would that have prevented more deaths? I don't know, but maybe the shooter would have been spotted sooner, had people been told to be on the lookout.

I would like no mention of ... (Below threshold)

I would like no mention of blame for the actions taken by the president of VT or the police chief of VT. My goodness, the media is acting like children with their "he's to blame" stuff. Let's just mourn and pray. Next month, let's prosess what happened. ww

My sympathies go out to the... (Below threshold)

My sympathies go out to the families that lost children yesterday in such a senseless act.

Jeff Blogworthy:
This shooting underscores the fact that self defense is an individual responsibility. It does not matter if the crime occurs in a public place or in your own home. The police are not going to be able to protect you in 99% of cases. This is no fault of theirs, it is just a logistical fact. Law enforcement reacts to crisis. They cannot be everywhere at once.

Well said.

The sad fact is there will ... (Below threshold)

The sad fact is there will be more concern by the politicians on placing blame than on a tool (not the cause of anything) than preventing such things in the future. I'm totally suprised that it hasn't happened on a weekly basis due to no border control and no immigration law enforcement. The immigrantion requirement 'you're a good old boy/girl' come on in has to be replaced with common sense. Not that it had anything to do with VT, we don't know yet.
A religious test to hold office is illegal but a religious test to come to this country is needed and needed badly. Islam is no longer a religion but a mob of murderers worse than the Nazi's. The sooner people get that through they're head the better.

Scrapiron: What, he's an is... (Below threshold)

Scrapiron: What, he's an islamist now? How is your comment on topic at all?

Jeff Blogworthy:<blo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Jeff Blogworthy:

This shooting underscores the fact that self defense is an individual responsibility. It does not matter if the crime occurs in a public place or in your own home. The police are not going to be able to protect you in 99% of cases. This is no fault of theirs, it is just a logistical fact. Law enforcement reacts to crisis. They cannot be everywhere at once.

I agree, and yet the most likely outcome of this mass murder will be further restrictions on the means of self defense. The problem is that the means of self defense capable of defending against someone with a gun is another gun and guns can also be used offensively. It's the person behind the gun who makes it either a weapon of mass murder or defense of self and others. Without the ability to predict the future stability of individuals the only solution many politicians see is to ban guns from society. It really comes down to what the public values most; a free but somewhat dangerous society that allows individuals to keep and bear arms or a highly regulated society that promises safety in exchange for freedom.

The only lasting effect we can be assured of, however, is the public's desensitization to such atrocities by exposure to the media's relentless bombardment of commentary, spin, speculation, and drivel once the factual information has been exhaustively disseminated.

I agree, and yet the mos... (Below threshold)

I agree, and yet the most likely outcome of this mass murder will be further restrictions on the means of self defense. The problem is that the means of self defense capable of defending against someone with a gun is another gun and guns can also be used offensively.

That's what has happened in the UK and those folks are basically emasculated. I blame the feminists for the wussification of America's boys. These students have been taught conflict resolution through dialog. The results are they lined up like sheep and took bullets to the head.

One would think that "Hey, he's killing all of us, maybe we aught to kick his ass while he's reloading"

Instead, they just lined up for a bullet. Over 30 people let ONE little Korean with a handgun kill them.

IslamoTerrorists have got to be loving this. It shows the weakness of the American male, and it's one that I predict they will exploit next. Why do a middle school when a University will be just as compliant and docile.

I predict LESS restrictions on self defense. Perhaps this will be a wake up call to the "Conflict Resolution" pussies before they are all killed while their heads are in the sand.

Oh yeah. No gun restriction would have prevented this, but if licensed Concealed Carry folks were there, you can bet there would be more people alive today, and most likely this would not have happened if Cho knew there were armed people on campus.

BillyBob,"The Wuss... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:


"The Wussification of America's Boys" might make a good title and theme for a book. If you're not going to use it you should send it to Ann Coulter.

You hit the nail on the hea... (Below threshold)

You hit the nail on the head with the title of this post, but bent the nail anyway. Madness like this is unpredictable, unpreventable; there are no useful lessons to be learned.

Question Marks------... (Below threshold)

Question Marks

"This didn't have to happen", Cho Seung-Hui said, after murdering thirty-two people at Virginia Tech University.

And this terrible tragedy of sons, daughters, mothers and fathers didn't have to happen, if we'd only listened.

But we never listen.

We never listen to those that are different from us- the outcasts, the lonely, the homeless, the ones that are unspoken for. We don't try to understand. We shun them and put them out of our minds because of our fear that we will become like them.

And these people become more and more lonely and alienated in their isolation.

Words like "creep", "deranged misfit" and "psycho" devalue this killer's humanity so we don't have to face how similar he is to us. Cries of "how could he have been stopped" are uttered by media quick to sensationalize and gain market share, when the words "how could he have been listened to" are never considered.

Because we don't want to listen.

We don't want to hear about loneliness and alienation when we're all so busy with our lives, making money and making friends. And the unpopular, the ones that don't fit in, the lonely ones are ignored or made fun of because we don't care to understand anything about them.

This man who clearly needed help, Cho Seung-Hui, devalued himself so much that he called himself "Question Mark".

There are more "Question Marks" out there. There are millions of them. And if we don't listen to them, they will follow the same path again and again, because people are not connecting. We are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, creating more and more "Question Marks" every day.

Most "Question Marks" don't become murderers. Some just kill themselves. Most harm no one and live just as we do, needing antidepressants to appear what we call "normal". They may be someone you know, someone you love.

This "Question Mark" was once a little boy, who cried, and smiled and loved, He wanted to fit in just like you and I. But that desire to fit in transformed itself into anger towards a society that shunned and ignored him.

How many more times will we shun and ignore the one that doesn't fit in, the one in the corner, the one that's different? When all we have to do is listen, before it's too late.

But we won't.

Thirty-two human beings who did not know Cho Seung-Hui were murdered.
They were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, with dreams of futures that will never come and children that will never be born. The thirty-two leave behind people that love them. People that are now scarred for life by this horrible day of death.

To most of us that have not been directly involved, this tragedy will become a memory and fade like all the others that came before.

And the "Question Marks" will appear with more frequency, again and again, because we don't listen.

We never do.








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