Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Americans aren't gung-ho for more gun control

Why Americans aren't gung-ho for more gun control
Stephanie Gutmann Mar 14, 2009
London Telegraph (UK)

A few days ago, in a post inspired by the Michael McLendon shooting rampage in
Alabama which left 11 dead, the DT's Alex Spillius seemed mystified as to why
Americans aren't pouring into the streets to plead for more restrictions on
their (already pretty restricted) right to carry arms.

I'm happy to shed some light for Brits who are apalled by our barbaric ways.

Americans are too smart to grasp at inanimate objects and blame them for
tragedies like this.

As a case study let's look at the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 in which a
very, very disturbed 23-year-old man was able to wander his college campus for
hours, armed to the teeth, picking off victims at will, until he had killed and
wounded 47 people. I propose looking at Virginia Tech because we know a lot
about that one. The general public has been exposed to dossiers full of
information on Cho Seung-Hui, the shooter, and the equivalent of pages of court
testimony from people who were close to him.

What did Americans learn in the months of study following Virginia Tech? That it
was a sort of a perfect storm of modern malfunctions. Those dysfunctions were:

Moral relativism

Paralysis of common sense by law, regulation, and the fear of the law suit

As a distant third, gun control. (Yes, gun control. Spillius seemed shocked that
"A pro-gun group even argued that if all students had been allowed to carry guns
on campus, Seung-hui Cho would have caused less carnage." But what about that
argument?) [PVC: HMMMM - I wonder who made that statement? ;-)]

In a saner society, someone like Cho would not have been allowed to drift like
an unexploded grenade through a large anonymous state college system.

Cho's behavior had been worrying to friends and family since early childhood.
Once he got to college, his behavior was terrifying to nearly everyone who
encountered him. He sat in class for semester after semester wearing dark
glasses, refusing to speak, and using his cell-phone to take pictures of his
teachers or classmates. When he did write things -- as he was supposed to as an
English major -- they were "like something out of a nightmare," a classmate
said. "The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I
wouldn't have even thought of."

Students transferred out of classes he was in; one teacher refused to have him
in her class. The head of the creative-writing department found him so
disturbing that she contacted police, but without an "explicit threat" (try
defining that in a courtroom with lawyers determined to find violation of civil
rights) the police could not do anything. One policeman later commented that
rules designed to "protect our civil liberties become so imbalanced with one
another...that their effect is to inhibit police from further investigation.
They may even punish police criminally for making further inquiries about the
mental state of a person like the Virginia Tech shooter." On a education blog a
college administrator said, "Colleges are sued when we attempt to remove
students who have not exchanged in repeated disruptive behavior."

All the instructor was able to do was "encourage" Cho to go to counseling,
suggest that his "writing was unacceptable and he needed to write in another
voice" and tutor him herself as a way of keeping him out of class. She still
felt it neccessary to keep a door open while he was in the room alone with her
-- just in case.

On the morning of the shooting, after hearing that a killer was at large on
their campus, Cho's classmates began talking with each other "with serious worry
about whether he could be the school shooter." Considering the size of the
Virginia Tech student body and the possiblity that the shooter could have been
one of hundreds of employees or even an outsider, this is significant.

The common thread that emerges is that everyone, in one way or another -- either
by the catchisms of moral relativism, by lawsuit, or by regulation -- felt
inhibited from doing anything.

Several years ago Philip K. Howard, the author of a book titled Life without
Lawyers analyzed the story of Charles Cullen, the male nurse who came to be
known as "the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history."

"During his 16-year nursing career," Howard wrote, "Cullen was able to move from
one hospital to another ... because fear of litigation prevented those hospitals
from giving him a bad reference. Co-workers observed his strange behavior, and
caught him in rooms of patients with medications that weren't appropriate. But
they didn't know he was murdering people, and couldn't prove that he was doing
something illegal. So the hospitals would eventually let him go, and, when the
next hospital in line asked for a reference, merely gave the stock response of
all employers nowadays: 'We confirm that he worked here from this to that

We don't know enough yet about the Mclendon case, but I have a feeling we will
find much the same syndrome in McClendon's life.

Incidentally, Cullen killed far more people than McClendon or Cho but his weapon
was a hypodermic needle filled with overdose-levels of medication. Doesn't that
show that someone determinted to kill others will find a way?

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