How to Stop a Killer


How to Stop a Killer


April 18th, 2007 by Ben

The tragic massacre this week at Virginia Tech will be one of those events that you will remember how you first heard the news, where you were when you heard it, and what you were doing at the time. Like September 11, 2001, it will stick to the national memory for the rest of our lives. The shooting was the most violent act perpetrated on American soil since September 11.

Coming almost eight years to the day after the <a href="">Columbine shootings</a>, the VT murders are the latest and most violent example of the psychotic, suicidal student rampage. Like Columbine, the VT shooter, now identified as senior English major Cho Seung-hui, <a href=";page=1">was calculated and cunning.</a> He chained potential exits shut to prevent possible escape routes. He was carrying multiple clips of ammo. He lined up students and shot them execution-style.

On the Monday night newscasts, the networks went all-out, providing coverage with limited commercial interruption, and many reported directly from the campus. If you listened carefully you probably heard the most repeated phrase of the night: "This is the worst incident of gun violence in American history."

This is true. But the story really has very little to do with guns. Did the anchors get hung up on "the worst incident of airplane hijacking" angle when covering September 11? The story has everything to do with a psychotic <a href="">"loner"</a> who decided it would be better to take as many innocent people with him when he ended his own worthless life.

Acts of mass murder always follow a predictable pattern. First, there is the period of shock. Depending on the magnitude of the incident, this phase can last for days, even weeks. Then there is the healing process: the dead are mourned and remembered, moments of silence are observed around the country. Finally, there is the "let&#39;s-not-let this-happen-again" phase.

With September 11, this phase was complex and expensive. More airport security. "No-fly" lists. Federal air marshals. All of these steps have doubtless made our skies safer and have helped prevent a repeat attack.

With shooting sprees, like Columbine and Virginia Tech, the final phase <a href="">revives the gun-control advocates</a> from their slumber. "See," they say, "look what guns do. They kill people. Guns are bad." Do guns kill people? Or, maybe, is it actually <em>people</em> that kill people?

We could prevent another September 11 by banning all airplanes. That would solve the problem, right? We would all just have to drive cars or ride riverboats everywhere. Maybe bring back the horse and buggy. No biggie.

Already the gun control lobby is licking their lips. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) <a href="">said in a statement</a> that she believed the killings at Virginia Tech would &#8220;re-ignite the dormant effort to pass commonsense gun regulations in this nation.&#8221; Of course they will. It&#39;s the preventative instinct.

We could try to prevent another Virginia Tech by banning all handguns, but it&#39;s a lot easier to keep an airplane out of the air than it is to keep a gun out of someone&#39;s hand. Let&#39;s start with those evil airplanes first.

Just as we learned on September 11, the issue is the attacker (in that case, radical Muslims, who we now know want to kill us all), not the weapon. If Cho Seung-hui didn&#39;t have access to a handgun, would that have stopped his homicidal plans? Doubtful. He would have just found another way to kill people�a homemade bomb, perhaps.

Tragic as they are, school shootings will never disappear. We can&#39;t wage war on psychotic students like we can on radical Islam. The best way to stop future campus rampages is to allow students to carry handguns. If just one student or professor had had a gun in one of those classrooms, there might be a lot more Virginia Tech students alive today.


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Ben Blanton




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5




Ben Blanton, “How to Stop a Killer,” The April 16 Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,