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    Inconceivable

    On August 1, 1966, twenty-five year-old Charles Whitman ascended the UT clock tower with a personal arsenal and, shortly before noon, began shooting tourists and passersby. He killed 15 people that day, including his wife and mother that morning, and wounded 31 others. It was a horrible crime that shocked a nation. More than twenty years later, I visited Austin and they were still talking about it.

    Two days ago, twenty-three year-old Seung-hui Cho walked through Norris Hall at VA Tech shooting students and faculty. He killed 32 people, including two early that morning in a student dorm. Once again, the nation is shocked, but we are no longer stunned. This spree shooting is simply the bloodiest and most recent in a line of memorable shootings.

    The worst thing about living in a post-Columbine world is that Columbines are no longer inconceivable. What was once incomprehensible has become comprehensible. For some disturbed souls, such incidents become challenges to out-Columbine Columbine.

    We are all too familiar with the routine. Yesterday, there was a convocation. The President visited. There was talk of faith and healing. Meanwhile, information is slowly leaking out about the shooter. Early indications were overlooked. Danger signs were everywhere. It’s all very necessary and important, but also predictable. Now it’s like a script. We all know what the steps are. It will be the worst thing that has ever happened until the next one happens, and nothing will change.

    My friend Waldo has pointed out that the politicization of these murders have already begun, with gun advocates asserting that the body count could have been reduced if only Hokies were allowed to pack heat. They will assert that the Second Amendment protects our right to load ourselves up with ammunition, and they may be right, but I don’t care anymore.

    We live in a gun culture. We pretend to stand for democracy, but our biggest domestic product is carnage. We need a cultural change. Politicians won’t touch the gun issue; the gun lobby is too well-heeled. We need to start here in the grassroots. We need a shift away from violence. We need to stand up for a true culture of life. The solution to gun violence is not to make guns more available. The solution is to turn our back on guns, to give them up, to shun them. Yes, we need laws to make gun ownership a privilege, not an unfettered right. But the gun lobby will always raise the spectre of “jack-booted thugs” breaking down your door to take away your Remington.

    We have to show such arguments for what they are: unacceptable nonsense. “Guns don’t kill people,” asserts the bumper sticker. “People kill people.” No, clearly, cowards with guns kill people.

    Virginia laws allow any state resident over 18 years of age to buy a firearm, including assault weapons, if they pass a criminal background check. Assault weapons are as easy to buy as hunting rifles. Anyone can buy weapons at second-hand gun shows without a waiting period or background check.

    You have to register to vote. You have to register if you earn an income. You have to register to drive a car. (And apparently, you need a driver’s license to buy a phone). You have to register to teach. You have to register to sell food. You have to register to add an addition to your home. You have to register if you groom fingernails.

    Buying and owning a gun in Virginia does not require a permit, but without a gun permit only one handgun purchase a month is allowed, and there is no waiting period to acquire the gun. Cho bought a handgun in March. He bought another one on Friday, April 13, three days before his rampage. On the form there is a checkbox to indicate whether the buyer has ever been involuntarily committed. Cho lied and checked “no”.

    He shot two people in a dorm shortly after 7:00 in the morning on April 16. Then he went back to his own room and completed his “multimedia manifesto“, mailing it to NBC in New York shortly after 9:00. Forty-five minutes later, he walked into Norris Hall and chained the doors shut from the inside.

    Easy access to guns made this massacre possible. You can rail about rights and liberty all you want, but the results are inarguable.

    Yes, I know, if this blog entry gets read, I’ll have more than my share of comments telling me that I am unpatriotic and questioning my intelligence and calling me a liberal pansy fairy. I don’t care anymore. You’re just wrong. Guns kill. Cowards with guns kill. Give up your guns. Change our culture. Be bold.

    We challenge the culture of violence when we ourselves act in the certainty that violence is no longer acceptable, that it’s tired and outdated no matter how many cling to it in the stubborn belief that it still works and that it’s still valid. ~Gerard Vanderhaar

    2 responses to “Inconceivable”

    1. mkh says:

      Let me start by saying you’re not much of a liberal if your looking for the government to control guns. More government control only equals liberal to the less intelligent who don’t understand the true meaning of ‘liberal’ with regards to politics.
      Granted there are MANY stupid and cowardly people who abuse the second ammendment to the cost and detriment of others and themselves. But isn’t it a little naive to believe that the wars (especially the ones we start and perpetuate) will always be fought on foreign soil? Is it really impossible to believe that a father might need to protect his children one day from armies that aren’t ours – or worse – armies that are supposed to be ours? If it happens in so many countries already, countries that have been around much longer than us, is it impossible to believe that we are not bound for the same fate?
      The true reasoning of the second ammendement was rooted in militia – which we may very well need, possibly even soon.

    2. semi says:

      Wow. I got nearly twenty comments regarding my post about cell phones, and only one comment on this post about handguns. Good to know where priorities are! Seriously, thank you for responding, even if you misread some of what I wrote.

      …you’re not much of a liberal if your looking for the government to control guns. More government control only equals liberal to the less intelligent who don’t understand the true meaning of ‘liberal’ with regards to politics.

      So am I not liberal enough, or just not intelligent enough? Sorry, your syntax confuses me.

      This is actually an interesting point. I willsupport the first candidate who campaigns against our “liberal gun laws”!

      If you will re-read my post, you may see that I am not advocating for “the government to control guns”. I am suggesting a cultural shift away from guns and violence. Government is not acquitted to handle this problem, the people are.

      Granted there are MANY stupid and cowardly people who abuse the second ammendment to the cost and detriment of others and themselves.

      Granted!

      But isn’t it a little naive to believe that the wars (especially the ones we start and perpetuate) will always be fought on foreign soil? Is it really impossible to believe that a father might need to protect his children one day from armies that aren’t ours – or worse – armies that are supposed to be ours? If it happens in so many countries already, countries that have been around much longer than us, is it impossible to believe that we are not bound for the same fate?

      Believe me, I do not trust this current administration any further than I could throw an election. Hell, Dick Cheney shoots his friends in the face! I can just imagine what he’d do to me.

      But since you asked my opinion: no, I do not believe that armies from any nation will be knocking at my door any time soon. I have a family and do not need a gun to protect them. It has been shown that having a handgun in the house actually increases your chances of being killed.

      The true reasoning of the second ammendement was rooted in militia – which we may very well need, possibly even soon.

      The text of the 2nd Amendment reads “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Note the capitalization of the word People; this was in the text that was distributed to states. I find that telling. I truly believe that this statement refers to state-sponsored militias, such as the National Guard. I am also aware that many learned legal minds have argued this point much more finely than could I. I think the only possible compromise is to regulate, preferably even ban, handguns, and leave rifles unregulated. It’s not a compromise with which I am happy, but that is the nature of compromises. This leaves hunters alone and helps to diminish a weapon whose sole purpose is simply to kill humans.

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