Jan Karlsbjerg

A Great Dane in Vancouver

Massacre at Virginia Tech University

It’s like Tupac said, yo: You live by the gun, you die by the gun. To wit: Dozens of people were shot today at an American university campus.

At least 33 people are dead and about the same number wounded after what appears to be two shootings this morning at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. The first shooting happened at 7.15 in a dorm building where two people were killed, and two hours later there was another shooting in a classroom building resulting in 30 dead.

Police aren’t sure that it was the same person who was behind both shootings. The only thing more shocking than a gunman shooting 32 people one morning on a university campus would be two separate gunmen shooting a combined 32 people one morning on a university campus.

BBC News wrote about it [“Deadly Shooting and US University”, BBC News, today] and invited locals to comment and contribute more details. Three of the comments stood out to me.

First we have Kerem, a faculty member:

I am a faculty from VT. I am shocked with the scale of this horrific event took place in our campus. The gunman is reportedly dead. We do not have much information. An evacuation plan will be performed by police officers very soon and we will go back to our homes. May the victims’ souls rest in peace.

[Kerem Gungor, Blacksburg, VA (emphasis added)]

It wasn’t the shooting itself that shocked Kerem, but the scale of it.

How could this guy be left alone to kill so many over such a long period of time? Why didn’t the cops (or some other armed force) come and blow the perp away much sooner? We need more police on campus! And the teachers and janitors should carry guns!

Two other guys can’t agree on whether today’s event was much of a surprise. Let’s hear it from Josh:

[…] This is very scary, and we are shocked that something like this could happen here in Blacksburg. It really is a very quiet, rural, small town in Southwest Virginia.

[Josh Shiben, Blacksburg, VA]

But are things really that nice and peaceful in Blacksburg? (And how small and rural can a town really be when it houses 26,000 students?) Let’s hear what Derek has to say:

I am a student at Virginia Tech and was on campus during the second shooting at Norris Hall. The Virginia Tech police told us that 20 are confirmed dead and 28 are being treated for injuries. This is the second shooting in one year as well as three bomb threats in the last week. Students are terrified.

[Derek Belcher, Blacksburg, Virginia US]

The quotes above are a few of many at BBC [“Virginia shootings: Eyewitness accounts”, BBC News, today]. A fourth quote is from a terrified Irish exchange student on her first day at the US university wondering what the heck she’s gotten herself into.

The lovely pictures are from Virginia Tech’s photo album of student life on campus.

5 Comments

  1. Morten Lynge

    April 17, 2007 at 2:37

    A tragic, but not at all unexpected occurence given the ease of which weapons are available in the US.

    I wonder whether this episode might spur congress into restricting weapons more. The last attempt was defeated by the (NRA-funded) republican dominated congress at that time, but since the democrats are now in charge…..

    It’s also going to be interesting to see how (if at all) this will affect the ongoing republican/democrat presidential candidate campaign….

    Coming from a country where gun crime is very rare (Denmark), I still find the american gun laws terminally stupid.

  2. JOANA ARTHUR

    April 17, 2007 at 3:27

    This is a situation that should not be left with the US goverment to solve because we all have are citizens at the place. Other campuses should take an advice and tighten their security system on campus. May the souls of the victims rest in perfect peace

  3. Morten, I don’t think it’ll have any effect on the political situation. It’s very rare that anyone changes their philosophy despite the most “convincing” things happening to them. We all find ways to see current events as a justification of our current philosophy.

    You and I see this massacre as proof that “guns are bad, and many guns are very bad”, but the gun people see it as proof that “it’s unfortunate but unavoidable that bad guys have guns, so let’s get some more guns in the hands of the good guys so they can protect themselves”.

    Joana’s comment smells like the latter, calling for “tightened security”.

    I personally don’t feel that X will be a safer place if everybody carries guns, live in gated communities and drive armored cars. That would be a state of manifested insecurity.

  4. I agree with Jan. I think the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera pretty much summed it up that Americans see gun ownership as a basic right (and curiously, while they are losing rights left and right — like privacy, habeas corpus, freedom of speech, etc.— this one seems to be the one that they care the most about. (I suspect it may be that they don’t understand those other rights well enough, so they have become irrelevant).

    In case you think I’m being too hard on the feeble-minded American public, my full disclosure is that I’m unfortunately one of them, and my shame and horror regarding the country of my birth seems to grow every day I hear another story like this.

    Oh, and today, over 130 killed in Iraq. But you don’t hear about vigils, prayers and hand-wringing back in America for those needless deaths put into motion by the American occupation the way they are obsessing about Virginia Tech.

  5. Spot on David, spot on.

    Plus, as Jan points out hightened security and driving around in armoured cars only makes [US] society more restrictive i.e. not free.

    Can the USA really claim to be the land of the “free” under current circumstances?

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