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No answers to find in shooting massacres

A gunman earlier today opened fire in a shooting massacre at Virginia Tech and killed at least 32 people, in the deadliest tragedy of its kind in the history of the United States.

Let the search for the “cause” begin, as well as the search for solutions to “prevent” future tragedies of this sort. Depending on who the gunman turns out to be, I’m sure the word “Columbine” will be mentioned many, many times in the days and weeks to come.

In my mind, here’s the cold, hard truth of this type of shooting rampage:

(1) They’re senseless, and no “explanation” will be useful or satisfactory.

(2) They’re not preventable, at least not fully.

I think we can all agree on Point No. 1. No matter who the gunman turns out to be or what his motivation was, there’s nothing that can possibly justify, explain, or mitigate such senseless violence which will shatter an untold number of families and inflict an anguish they will never fully recover from.

As for Point No. 2, it is my belief that you can’t stop something like this from inevitably happening again. You might stop the next one, or two, or even the next dozen with vigilance and luck, but anyone who makes a pledge to find a solution so that this “never happens again” is making an empty promise. It may be years, but it will happen again, and there’s nothing our politicians and law enforcement officials can do about it — except maybe get lucky.

This country is too vast, with too many people and places, to pretend for a minute that it’s not going to happen again somewhere, at some point. Even if it turns out there was some sort of gross incompetence at Virginia Tech on the part of police or security (which I’m by no means suggesting), that’s not the point. The point is, the police can’t be everywhere, and they can’t predict the future. If someone really wants to go out and gun down a lot of people, the only thing that can stop him are (1) pure luck by law enforcement or (2) his own mistakes that allow law enforcement to catch him before he carries out his attack.

Unless you turn the United States into a police state where no one can go anywhere or do anything without fear and random searches and metal detectors everywhere, you can’t stop it from happening again. I can guarantee there will be a lot of discussion about gun control, violent film/TV/video games, etc., in the weeks ahead. The media will go looking for explanations and hand-wringing from all the usual sources. Naturally, the media won’t consider themselves as one possible contributor, since the media coverage makes their killers instantly infamous, which is perhaps what the killers hope for. In the media’s defense (of which I am a member), it’s not like they have the option of not covering the story. When something like this happens, people want to know about it.

Frankly, I’m amazed that there hasn’t been terrorism on U.S. soil that uses this kind of attack. All the terrorists would need is someone who is willing to die and who is well-armed with conventional firearms, and they could wreak all kinds of havoc on soft targets like high schools or university campuses or shopping malls. That there hasn’t been a terrorist-related shooting massacre is something of a miracle. This suggests to me that maybe there aren’t a lot of terrorists inside U.S. borders, for which we should be glad. (One can only imagine the social implications if the Virginia Tech massacre turned out to be non-domestic terrorism.)

The simple fact is that if someone is crazy enough or distraught enough or angry enough, the very thing that will allow them to commit a terrible crime like this is the very thing that separates killers from normal people: A complete disregard for the value of human life — both their victims’ and their own.

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2 comments on this post

You’re right anyone (well maybe not anyone) can just grab a gun go to a public place like a school, church, mall and so on and start shooting. I’m not going to live my life in fear but you do have a interesting point.

Gun control would limit how many people could do such a thing. Over here we have pretty strict laws on guns. If you really wanted to get a gun, there’s a pretty good chance you couldn’t get one, perhaps even illegally.

If you limit the means, you’ve made quite a lot of progress. Sure, you could use a knife instead, but you’ll have a pretty hard time killing that many people using just a knife.

But in the end, it’s the social environment that has to change. Maybe one has to look at why there are so many school shootings in the US (and some in the UK, and Canada) but not that many in the rest of the world.

Coming up with a miracle solution would be futile, but one can certainly try to limit the impact a would-be killer can cause, at least in the short term.

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