Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

This is a horrible tragedy and I wonder if we will ever know exactly what happened or why. We do know, though, that guns were involved and it seems to me reasonable to ask ourselves--again--why we allow guns to have this magical hold on us. Over and over again, tragedy after tragedy, someone commits an atrocity with a gun. If we’d made it a little harder for the shooter to get the guns, would some or all of the victims be alive today?

What is it about guns? The conservative gun-nuts are already staking out their position on this point. Two local blogs today made the argument that if citizens were armed, they could have stopped this shooter. Great. Put a gun in the hand of every college kid in the country? That’s not only absurd, it’s just crazy. Arming the citizenry will mean more gun-related deaths, intentional and otherwise, not fewer. The sane approach is to make sure that there are fewer guns. Not more.

13 comments:

Clifford Garstang said...

In response to the above post, "JohnathanMaxfield" posted a rant on his blog, in which I am rebuked for not being sufficiently mournful for the terrible loss suffered in Blacksburg. I'm sorry he feels that way, but I don't think my blog is the place to express my grief, but it is a place to address the issues that the tragedy raises. Second, he calls my post a diatribe. That would be mischaracterization, which I think is clear. I'm raising questions that I think are legitimate. And it doesn't make me feel the least bit safer to know that all the students of Hampden-Sydney have guns. If nothing else, let's hope this tragedy allows us to have a serious national discussion on how to stop gun violence.

JohnMaxfield said...

Why don't you address the questions that I offered up instead of dodging them and not answering them. Or are you simply to unsure of the REAL facts?

Clifford Garstang said...

There were no questions that need to be responded to, Alex. I assumed they were all rhetorical to make your point, which you did: you're a gun nut, and a danger to society. I hope your teachers have recommended counseling.

JohnMaxfield said...

"However, I don’t think the posts in my blog are particularly disrespectful toward you or any other individuals....I don’t think I’ve been disrespectful to your reactionary band of brothers and sisters or anyone else."

JohnMaxfield said...

So wait...what are you saying? Saying I'm a nut? A danger? In need of counseling? Are you saying that in your personal opinion, I am more or less akin to 'Cho' the shooter?

Clifford Garstang said...

No, Alex, I'm not saying that. I don't even know you, do I?

JohnMaxfield said...

Then what are you saying?

Clifford Garstang said...

I'm saying I hope you have someone who cares about you.

JohnMaxfield said...

Do you? Anyway, Clifford...you not answering my questions to you, continues to show the 5 people who regularly visit your blog, that you really have no true facts and research to back up your emotionally charged post. I don't blame you, in the aftermath of this despicable attack--we are full of confusion, hate, and misguided emotions. Try sitting those aside for one moment and address these key issues:

1. Is it absurd, Clifford? Is arming faculty, staff, and some students (in a ROTC or Corps status) a crazy notion? If you were Cho, who would you be more likely to attack? A school who prides itself in the respect of the Second Amendment--or schools like VPI, UVA, or William and Mary--that have strict anti-gun polices on campus?

2. When was the last time anyone heard about violent gun related incidents at schools that allow and promote gun usage on campus?

3. Why do these 'incidents' only occur in school that have anti-gun policies?

4. Why are the more violent crimes committed in cities like Washington, D.C. and in countries like Great Britain where firearm usage and most possession is illegal?

and finally...

5. Are people at Hampden-Sydney insane?

Those five questions. Answer those legitimately--and I'll leave this blog alone. But you cannot simply throw out accusations, back up none of those legitimately, and then not expect to be called out on.

Clifford Garstang said...

If it will make you go away, I’ll respond, but I’d like to point out that my post was hardly “emotionally charged.” The thrust of my post was contained in these few sentences: “Two local blogs today made the argument that if citizens were armed, they could have stopped this shooter. Great. Put a gun in the hand of every college kid in the country? That’s not only absurd, it’s just crazy. Arming the citizenry will mean more gun-related deaths, intentional and otherwise, not fewer. The sane approach is to make sure that there are fewer guns. Not more.” Hardly emotional; on the contrary, I was calmly asking a question and stating my opinion.

So, in response to your questions:

1. Yes-absurd. I think making guns more readily available is a mistake. If I were a deranged gunman like Cho, I’m not sure I’d give any thought to what the campus gun policies were. Deranged is deranged. If I happen to be a student at Hampden-Sydney when I finally snap, I guess that’s where I’d do my shooting. Your use of “respect for the Second Amendment” is inappropriate, by the way. I respect the Second Amendment, just as I respect the rest of the Constitution. The difference between us is that I read all the language of that Amendment, not just half of it, and so have a different interpretation, one that the courts generally have agreed with.

2. I don’t know. But it’s a meaningless question that proves nothing logically. When was the last time anyone heard about violent gun related incidents at schools that are exclusively female? Historically black? Are privately funded? And so on. The answer is that it just hasn’t happened yet. It doesn't mean it won't or couldn't.

3. Because there are thousands of schools that have anti-gun policies, if that’s the term you want to use, and only a few that don’t. And (see #2), just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it couldn’t. And let’s imagine what might happen if it did. One possibility is that you’re right--a quick-witted armed student would take out the shooter. But there are other possibilities that seem even more plausible to me: the armed student reaches for his gun and is hit by the gunman before getting off a shot; the gunman, outraged, now proceeds to kill 50 students when he was originally only going to kill 2. Or, there is a shootout between the gunman and the armed student in which multiple bystanders are shot (even though the gunman, maybe, was intending only to kill himself, or one other student, or whatever). Or, the gunman, knowing that there might be an armed student in a classroom, goes instead to a bell tower with a sniper rifle and picks off victims from a distance and can’t be approached even by the armed students. Which, by the way, is what happened in the incident at the University of Texas. I confess that I don’t know what the gun policies were at that time at UT, but I do know that Texas gun laws are even more barbaric than Virginia’s. One flaw in your argument, I believe, is that you assume too much. There is no way of knowing for certain what would happen, just as in my argument I can’t say for sure this incident would not have happened if we had more effective gun controls, although that's what I believe. Cho might have gotten a gun anyway, or he might have used a different method of killing. We can’t really know for sure, but it is my opinion that more effective gun control would have changed what happened at Virginia Tech.

4. Comparing crime statistics is a fools’ game because there are so many variables (definitions, economies, cultures, legal systems), especially when trying to make international comparisons, but I wonder what the source of your allegation about the UK is. I believe their gun-related crime is lower if you compare urban to urban environments, but I admit that I don’t have the data. As for Washington, D.C., a quick check shows that crime is about the same as it is in Richmond, VA. I’m sure it’s a challenge in DC (as it is in NYC) to control guns when Virginia is right there ready to sell anyone a gun on the spot. I do know that gun-related crime is virtually non-existent in places where the circumstances allow effective enforcement. To make gun-control effective in the U.S. would be a challenge, for sure, and it would have to be national, but I believe it is desirable.

5. I don’t know anyone at Hampden-Sydney so I can’t say.

I hope my responses are “legitimate” enough for you, although I’m wondering what “accusations” I made that you think I need to back up. Not that I really want you to come back and post anything further—it’s a rhetorical sort of wondering. I did make an assertion about better gun control reducing gun-related deaths, which is what I believe, and to back it up I invite you to visit the Brady Campaign for more information, and to make a contribution toward their work.

JohnMaxfield said...

Dang Cliffy, you should run for politics. Dance around questions much? In Q1, you said, "I’m not sure I’d give any thought to what the campus gun policies were." That wasn't my question. I asked who would you be more likely to attack. Take the examples and use them. It was a pretty simple question. Just like Q2, you say, "The answer is that it just hasn’t happened yet. It doesn't mean it won't or couldn't." Well, I guess that's some semblance of an answer. It HASN'T happened yet. And I doubt it will. You never even answered Q3, you just gave round about examples...never a straight answer. As far as Q4 goes, ask any Brit about the gun control in their country. Or ask our resident gun expert, STD. I'm sure he could enlighten you. And for Q5? You can't say? I think you can. I think you already did. Earlier you said that, "The sane approach is to make sure that there are fewer guns. Not more." The opposite of your opinion (the 'sane' one) dictates that those who choose the opposite are insane. That means, according to your logic, that a majority of Hamden-Sydney students and faculty are insane?

Clifford Garstang said...

Go away now, kid.

Clifford Garstang said...

UK murders with firearms in 2004/2005: 78
USA murders with firearms in 2004: 11,624