http://media.[url]www.redandblack.com/media/ ... 2731.shtml[/url]
let me just tell you this is not my favorite newspaper.Going to class the day following the Virginia Tech massacre was an eerie experience. I watched the door of my classroom more than I ever have before. But I walked out of the class unharmed, unlike the 32 students at Virginia Tech who leave behind grieving family members, friends and classmates.
Some people have urged the media not to make Monday's killings a political issue by raising the topic of gun control. I think it would be one of the greatest mistakes we could make as a society to refuse to learn yet again the lessons of a tragedy.
I was shocked when I looked at the results of The Red & Black's April 17 online poll. Seventy-five percent of University students said they believed tougher gun control laws would not have prevented the killings. This was before it had even been reported how Cho Seung-Hui obtained his weapons.
Three quarters of University students automatically said nothing could have been done to save those 32 lives.
Not only was this judgment premature, it was also incorrect.
Cho shouldn't have been able to purchase a gun in the first place, The New York Times reported Saturday. In 2005, a Virginia court said Cho was a danger to his own well-being and sent him for psychiatric treatment.
According to federal law, people who meet this definition can't buy guns. But only 22 states report mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Virginia's state law on mental health disqualifications for purchasing guns is different from federal law, so Cho's mental health problems never showed up in his background check.
Also, an April 18 article in The Washington Post said Cho used high-capacity ammunition clips he would not have been able to obtain if Congress, in 2004, had renewed President Clinton's ban on assault weapons.
Instead, Congress allowed the ban to expire, and Cho was able to fire more rounds without reloading. True, he still would have taken many lives even with regular ammunition clips, but it is possible that several lives could have been saved if he had been using clips that held fewer bullets.
Even more frightening, Cho could have gotten his hands on a semi-automatic rifle and taken the lives of many more students.
Many of the semi-automatic rifles available today hold more than 60 rounds of ammunition in one magazine, said Ken Vance, director of public safety for Georgia College and State University.
Police officers usually carry around 50 rounds divided into several different clips. That means an assailant could fire 60 bullets in a row while the police must stop and reload.
Also, many of the assault weapons available today can "shoot farther and probably faster" than the weapons police carry, Vance said.
Yet three quarters of University students believe tougher gun control laws are not necessary. Psychopaths can attain weapons of mass murder more powerful than the firearms we give our police.
We fight wars to prevent psychopaths such as Saddam Hussein from attaining weapons of mass murder. Yet we are not willing to take a stand and stop killings inflicted by our own citizens.
The Second Amendment is vitally important. But the Supreme Court has found it necessary to curtail other rights to serve a compelling interest. What interest could be more compelling than saving lives?
By making just a couple of adjustments to our gun laws - such as renewing the ban on assault weapons and forcing every state to report all necessary mental health information to the background check system - we can make it much harder for troubled people to commit heinous crimes.
Of course, there will always be psychopaths willing to use any means necessary to inflict harm. But it seems terribly fatalist to say we should not try and prevent any future tragedies because we cannot stop a few.
It is easy to throw our hands in the air and say nothing can be done. But I don't believe that is the legacy those 32 students and professors would like to leave behind. I am afraid -much like the months following Columbine - there will be a lot of talk on the issue but no action.
And the next time another massacre happens, three-quarters of students will say nothing can be done.
With that attitude, it certainly can't.
- Audrey Goodson is a news staff writer for The Red & Black