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Clueless At Va. Tech

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 4:20 PM PT

Public Safety: A governor's report on the Virginia Tech shootings says earlier warnings might have helped reduce the carnage. It says nothing about VT's complicity in denying the murdered their right to self-defense.

After the release of Virginia Tech's internal review of the shooting spree in April that left 33 dead, it was hard to imagine a more clueless document on the tragedy being released. But the report released Wednesday by an eight-member panel headed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine takes the prize.

VT's review called on police, counselors and other university personnel to monitor students whose behavior might indicate they pose a threat. It also recommended internal locks on classroom doors and Internet-based message boards to transmit warnings.

Why it took four months to come up with a report that starts with a grasp of the obvious and concludes everyone did the best they could is beyond us. Fact is, everyone didn't do the best they could.

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference," the governor's panel wrote. "So the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving." That's the panel's advice: Tell people to run and hide earlier.

Of the inaction between the first two deaths and the rest of the killings, the report said: "There does not seem to be a plausible scenario of a university response to the double homicide that could have prevented the tragedy of considerable magnitude on April 16."

Actually there was a university action that made the tragedy possible, if not inevitable, the repeal of which could prevent another such tragedy from occurring. Left out of both reports was the university's decision to make itself a gun-free zone -- at least for the prey, if not the predators. And VT officials wanted it that way.

Last year, House Bill 1572 died in the Virginia General Assembly, failing to even get out of committee. The legislation was designed, as the Roanoke Times reported, to bar public universities from making "rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a student who possesses a valid concealed handgun permit . . . from lawfully carrying a concealed handgun."

After the bill's defeat, VT spokesman Larry Hincker said: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on campus." And killers like Cho Seung-Hui.

One wonders if Cho would have even walked on campus with a gun if he knew his victims were able to defend themselves. Or how the story would have been different had Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who lost his life barricading a classroom door so his students could escape, had been able to fire back.

Surely VT officials knew that in January 2002, when a professor and a student were killed on the nearby campus of the Appalachian School of Law, two of the three students who overpowered the gunman before he could kill more innocent victims were armed.

Monitoring troubled students and better warning systems are fine. But we need to do more than tell students and other potential victims to hunker down in locked rooms and hope for the best. We do not need "gun-free" zones that are gun-free for everyone except the predator.
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