The Economist takes aim at Virginia’s “incomplete” gun law reforms one year after the Seung-hui Cho‘s rampage-cum-suicide killed 32 innocent Virginia Tech college students and professors.
Virginia’s rush to reform has been dramatic but incomplete. At the urging of the state’s governor, Timothy Kaine, the legislature has funneled an extra $42m into mental-health treatment and staff. Virginia has also rewritten its laws for identifying and monitoring the mentally ill. One new law requires colleges to alert the parents of students who may be a danger to themselves or to others. And the state now requires mental-health questions on the instant-background checks for gun-buyers. These might have kept firearms out of Cho’s hands.
Yet Virginia, though heavily suburban, is attached to its guns and the state can go only so far down this road. The legislature refused Mr Kaine’s request to close a loophole in the firearms laws that allows purchases from unlicensed dealers at gun shows without an on-the-spot background investigation. This would have made no difference in Cho’s case. But the proposed tightening was intended, at a minimum, to symbolise a strong response to the Virginia Tech tragedy.
The shootings, followed by the killing of five more students in February at Northern Illinois University, serve as a backdrop to the renewed debate over gun rights that is roiling the courts and the presidential campaign. The Supreme Court this year may strike down the handgun ban in Washington, DC, just across the Potomac river from Virginia. And in the run-up to the crucial Pennsylvania primary Barack Obama, the Democratic front-runner, has been pilloried for saying that small-town voters embrace guns (and God) because of their frustration over the economy.
Virginia has reached a legal settlement with most of the Virginia Tech survivors and the relatives of the dead. In return for promising not to sue the state, they will share $11m in compensation. Families of the victims will each be limited to $100,000, Virginia’s statutory cap on damage claims against the state. Legislators are now wondering whether that ceiling, one of the lowest in the country, should be raised for the first time since 1993.
Although it remains difficult to sue the state to much effect, it is still easy for Virginians to carry guns. In fact, the Virginia Tech shootings have increased their popularity. In 2007 there was a 73% increase in concealed-handgun permit applications, according to the Virginia Supreme Court. That rise of more than 44,000 applications over the previous year was, gun-rights activists believe, a direct result of the bloodshed in Blacksburg.
But no freshman psychologizing about false consciousness here, because The Economist is talking about suburbanites? Let’s ask Bruce Luedeman in Independence, Missouri:
How many would have survived had a mature, trained, adult in one of the Virginia Tech class rooms been armed and able to defend themselves and others?
The naive regulatory mistake of not allowing a trained concealed carry permit holder to carry into a college class room cost 33 lives. As I understand it Virginia Tech just settled with the families of the dead and injured for $11 million.
We need to develop an attitude of personal self defense in this country. I’m reminded of the old saying, “When seconds count the police are minutes away.”
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is lobbying for concealed carry laws. “The beauty of concealed carry is that you don’t have to carry to be protected by it,” Camoriano said. “So, just the element of uncertainty makes a lot of these would-be criminals change their minds and choose a different place to attack.”
Or, is it all just an act of a malevolent being?
Sadly, it will take one more massacre to find out if Virginia’s legal reforms are sufficient.