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Guns Weren't Allowed On Campus
That rule worked really well for them at Virginia Tech. Kind of like that piece of paper otherwise known as restraining order against a violent thug. When he comes to kill you, what do you do, hold up the piece of paper and point to the line that says he's supposed to stay 500-plus feet away? About the Virginia tech incident, Daniel C. Vock and Pauline Vu write for

Virginia state Del. Todd Gilbert (R), who attempted to override Virginia Tech’s gun ban last year, said Monday: “Anybody who’s going to go on a murder spree and then kill himself is not going to be deterred by a law or regulation. He’s only going to be deterred by the end of another gun.”

In the past, Virginia Tech officials defended their gun ban as a way to promote an academic environment free of fear. They noted that other legal items, such as candles, are also prohibited in campus dormitories.

I'm not saying I like the idea of a lot of idiots running around with guns, but either we have a free country and live according to the dictates of the Constitution, or we decide to live without "risk" and risk having a police state. I don't really want my neighbors to have a stockpile of Uzis, but, the truth is, somebody could just as well run you over with a car if they want to kill you as they could shoot you with a gun.

Posted by aalkon at April 17, 2007 1:49 PM


I know people with guns. I trust them with their guns.

I know people who want total gun control. I don't trust them at all. Did you know that Sarah Brady has armed body guards? I guess if you have enough money to hire someone to carry your guns for you it's OK.

Posted by: Tia at April 17, 2007 12:22 AM

Seems to me the argument goes something like this: you give up your guns, the gov't and campus security will provide protection. Where was this protection? I'm hearing the same complaints from Virginia Tech that we did at Columbine: SWAT people were hiding behind trees, while the shooting was going on inside.

I'm very sad.

Posted by: doombuggy at April 17, 2007 12:56 AM

I don't know what enrages me more - that someone decided it was his right to go on a killing spree, that nobody thought the first shooting warranted a response of any kind, that nobody on campus was equipped to deal with the situation, or that the predictable political posturing began while the bodies were still warm.

Posted by: brian at April 17, 2007 5:53 AM

Amy -- exactly right. Gun-grabbing by the elites is yet another example of do as I say, not as I do. Those in power who advocate gun bans wouldn't think of going without the protection of guns for their own personal safety.

I heard the administration at VT say that it was impossible to have an armed guard in every classroom. No, it's not -- let responsible gun owners carry, and let potential shooters guess who has the gun.

Posted by: cpabroker at April 17, 2007 5:55 AM

Someone over at the blog Obsidian Wings made a really good point about the whole gun control issue.

I summarize because I can't find the link before my coffee: Gun control works in areas where guns are completely illegal, those areas are fairly safe. Also fairly safe are areas where guns are completely legal, and civilians can have a license to carry, because everyone knows that if you start something you'll get shot. The problem with the US is that we have both, and they border eachother, so the gun control doesn't prevent guns in the controlled areas, but the guns also don't present a deterrent to people like they would in an uncontrolled area.

This was an issue on my college campus. In PA all you need for a concealed carry license is a driver's license. But guns were not allowed on our college campus (though some rogue professors brought theirs in). If anything I think this makes the students less safe as there is no way for them to defend themselves, and no real way to keep guns off campus. It is just a "policy."

Posted by: Shinobi at April 17, 2007 6:30 AM

Amy asks: "When he comes to kill you, what do you do, hold up the piece of paper and point to the line that says he's supposed to stay 500-plus feet away?"

Good question.

I think anybody who gets a restraining order should automatically receive a concealed carry permit if they own a concealable firearm. If not, the jurisdiction that issues the restraining order should issue a handgun, train them to use it, and deputize them (with their authority limited to enforcing that one order),

This system should actually deter stalkers and might even make a small dent in the homicide rate. But even if it didn't reduce the quantity of homicide, it would vastly improve its quality.

Posted by: Axman at April 17, 2007 6:31 AM

It's astounding to me that ANYONE can support gun control after an event like this. He killed an entire classroom of students. How many would have needed to be armed, for that to stop? And when did he stop shooting? Only when he knew there were armed officers coming up the stairs. Only then did he kill himself.

I am the proud owner of a handgun. I just wish that I was permitted to carry it around with me. Instead, I have to hope that if I need it, I'm at home.

Posted by: Tess at April 17, 2007 7:07 AM

Bob Dylan said "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." We are guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms by the Constitution. If that gets taken away from us, well, just call me an outlaw.
Because when you get right down to it, guns don't kill people, people kill people. And you don't necessarily need a gun to do it, now, do you? Cars, knives, baseball bats, bricks, chains, the type of weapon is only left to the imagination. Let's outlaw those things, too.
The intent is what matters, not the conveyance.

Posted by: Flynne at April 17, 2007 7:40 AM

I personally don't like guns and would feel better if they were none. Can anyone tell me another purpose of a handgun beside shooting people? Rifles and shotguns can be used in hunting, which some people need to do for food, so I can understand owning one. Handguns just seem to be used for intimidation (the threat of shooting someone), protection (same thing), or actually shooting someone.

Also, when are these crazy people ever going to get the order right? It is shoot yourself first, not after you've killed however many people.

Posted by: Amy at April 17, 2007 8:08 AM

The most dangerous weapon is the mind of a human deranged by certain circumstances and conditions.

It's easy and simplistic to blame the gun or access to fire arms, but it avoids the issue completely. Let us be amused by the usual spin cycle that will be shoved down our throats for the next 2 weeks:

-Europeans/World will blame the violence on U.S. culture.
-Gun Control advocates will blame the access to guns.
-2nd Amendment advocates will blame g.c. policies and not enough guns.

The real issue is what was going on in Cho Seung-Hui's brain?

Posted by: Joe at April 17, 2007 8:10 AM

Exactly! What was that young man thinking?

As for handguns, they have been used for hunting as well, although rifles and shotguns are preferred for distance. Handguns were/are mostly used by law enforcement (that was the main idea originally), more for convenience than anything else. It's easier to walk around with a holstered weapon than one that you have to use both hands to hold and fire.

Posted by: Flynne at April 17, 2007 9:05 AM

>>Let us be amused by the usual spin cycle that will be shoved down our throats for the next 2 weeks:

Don't forget "blame video games."

Posted by: Gary S. at April 17, 2007 9:13 AM

Can anyone tell me another purpose of a handgun beside shooting people?

For most sane people who shoot guns, a lot of the appeal is developing skill with them - it takes a lot of practice and calm to shoot accurately. It's a challenge to improve, and people like challenges. It's learning to cast a fly rod well, or something like that - a skill to hone over a lifetime. Where I grew up, it's just something a man is supposed to know how to do, like drive a stick shift, change a tire, etc.

Sure, handguns are probably better for shooting people at close range than rifles or shotguns, but most sane gun owners go their whole lives without pointing a gun at anyone. As you note, lots of things have the potential to kill; as to what makes people more likely to kill, Joe has a point - what goes on in their brains that is so different.

Posted by: justin case at April 17, 2007 9:16 AM

"I personally don't like guns and would feel better if they were none. Can anyone tell me another purpose of a handgun beside shooting people? Rifles and shotguns can be used in hunting, which some people need to do for food, so I can understand owning one."

As far as the constitutional right to own guns is concerned, it is all about shooting people, not game. I own guns only as sporting goods myself, but the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee me a right to keep and bear them for that purpose any more than it guarantees me the right to swing tennis rackets or roll bowling balls.

The issue is whether the people should retain the right to exercise deadly force or give up that right and invest it solely in agents of the government. When the Second Amendment was ratified, the Revolution was still a living memory and people retained deep suspicion of arbitrary government authority, so a majority of them understood the value of an armed citizenry.

Today we seem (on the whole) pretty remote from a military dictatorship--either foreign or domestic--but that doesn't mean we should let down our guard and render future generations vulnerable.

And by the way, you forgot about target shooting. People enjoy that with handguns as well as with shotguns and rifles. Besides, there is a whole contingent of guys out there who specialize in using handguns for hunting. They seem to have a lot of fun, if that matters.

Posted by: axman at April 17, 2007 9:25 AM

I cant believe one victim was a Holocaust survivor, who protected his students. To survive WWII, then Romanian govt., and to end up dying like this at age 76. You really never know how you are going to die.

Posted by: PurplePen at April 17, 2007 9:48 AM

Yes, Axman, I enjoy target shooting. I go to a local range with my boyfriend and shoot handguns as well as AR-15's. The AR's are for fun...but I shoot the handguns more out of a desire to know how to handle a gun properly.

Although the gun(s) used in yesterday's murders were legally purchased, I wonder how many guns used to kill people are actually legally owed? I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of guns used to kill are illegal and the person unlicensed. Outlawing guns will only keep law abiding citizens - people who wouldn't kill anyway - from owning guns. It will do absolutely nothing to prevent murders committed by people who own the guns illegally. Um hello - they're already ILLEGAL, and it isn't stopping them...

As for legal guns used to kill - that boy was disturbed. His creative writing teacher felt his writing was showed he was very "troubled" and recommended him to seek professional help. If he wasn't able to obtain a gun legally I am positive he would have obtained on illegally or gone online and figured out how to build a bomb.

Here they go in Europe:

Posted by: Gretchen at April 17, 2007 9:56 AM

Gun was legally purchased, but was not legally present on campus. Good to see how well those laws work, eh?

On another note...let's see, two people on campus get shot, the gunman is on the loose, and you DON'T lock down the freakin' place?!? E-mails are NOT enough.

Posted by: marion at April 17, 2007 10:02 AM

Guns on campus probably would not have deterred this guy, seeing that he killed himself anyway. It might, however, have resulted in an early end to his spree.

Posted by: kishke at April 17, 2007 10:04 AM

Thank you Gary S! I have been reading this blog and was waiting for that. Video Games? Why stop there. Why not Law and Order, Sopranos, etc..TV, Movies - the Departed, Blood Diamond, etc.. why not play guns? All morning on the radio and TV talk shows I hear the blame should be put on video games.

My husband plays these video games. It is entertainment just like the above mentioned outlets, TV, Movies, toys, etc. He has bad days at work. He will not look at his experience with a specific video game on ideas on how to exact his revenge.

Should I be worried that when he and our teenage son play a video game that they might think - hey, if I can do this here on this game, why not at school? No. Never crossed my mind.

My daughter cheats at Monopoly when she thinks we don't notice, maybe I should be worried about her robbing a bank?

Posted by: Kari at April 17, 2007 10:06 AM

On another note...let's see, two people on campus gt shot, the gunman is on the loose, and you DON'T lock down the freakin' place?!? E-mails are NOT enough.

Yeah. The VT administration is going to be destroyed by their failure here.

Posted by: justin case at April 17, 2007 10:07 AM

Exactly, Gretchen.

There will always be outward signs of disturbing behavior. Also, people cannot complain on why it wasn’t noticed or notified by proper authorities in time. That is another way of avoiding the real problem.

Violence is a natural part of the human condition. I’m not saying it is right or justified. Progress cannot be measured on the phony concept of a world without violence, but only through the lowering rate of incidents of individualized violence. We are less violent to each other in comparison to past centuries. Yes, there are trouble spots found around the world where the rate of deaths per 100 or 1,000 people are extremely high, but these are very isolated and marginalized regions.

The focus has to be maintained on the individual’s psychological make up and not the irrelevant issue of guns, society, video games and the useless feel good legislation that will result of the VT incident.

Posted by: Joe at April 17, 2007 10:36 AM

Ooops, sorry for the double negative. I just noticed it.

Posted by: Joe at April 17, 2007 11:08 AM

"It might, however, have resulted in an early end to his spree."

Yeah, unfortunately, I don't know if anything could have stopped this guy from going on his spree (aside from having a different childhood/life/whatever)...but I think the "early end to the spree" option would have been better than what actually happened.

Those poor parents.

Posted by: marion at April 17, 2007 12:19 PM

I'm not saying suicide is the answer to your problems, but if you are going to do it, DO IT FIRST, BEFORE KILLING OTHER PEOPLE.

Posted by: Stacy at April 17, 2007 12:26 PM

In most cases of rage oriented alienation the person tends to lash out onto others instead of inward.

'How can it be my fault that I'm so alone? It has to be everyone else, but me' type of mentality.

As the media reveals more details of his note: "You made me do this!" type of excuse. It's quite typical of mass murderer's behavior or their disturbing rationalization for killing as many people within their environment.

Posted by: Joe at April 17, 2007 1:18 PM

You can't deny that there is a connection between America's greater ease in gun ownership, and the far greater number of gun deaths there. Give people guns and they will use them. Yes, some people will use them to protect themselves, but they wouldn't need to protect themselves nearly as much if it weren't so easy for criminals and disturbed people to get guns in the first place.

Yes, people, not guns, ultimately kill other people, and there are plenty of other ways to kill... but in countries where guns are more strictly controlled (I'm thinking of Germany where I live) do you see a plethora of car, baseball bat, and knife killings? Or even killings with illegal guns? No! The amount of violent crime overall here is vastly lower than in the states. The ease of killing with guns makes them much more dangerous and prone to misuse than other weapons an ordinary person can access. I also think the Germans are quite happy having few guns and few gun deaths. Why can't we be the same? (I'm American.)

Of course I know this is a complex issue, that can't be fixed easily for a thousand reasons. Despite that, the reasons for stricter gun control seem clear to me.

Posted by: Debra at April 17, 2007 1:23 PM


It's more complicated reasons when comparing various nations and violence related to firearms. Does the foreign media mention differences in demographics and criminal behavior?

Germany's population is around 82 million. USA's population is 300 million. The highest rate of gun related violent crimes within the USA is committed by various African-American and Latino gangs. What is the percentages of gangs within Germany's population? I can assure you it is quite small to nonexistent.

Remember the statistic Rosie O'Donnel used during the Million Mom March on gun related deaths for children? The way she twisted the numbers around to make it look like kids under 10 were dying in high rates from gun related deaths. Well, the actual statistic was the high rate of deaths among teenagers (15 to 19 year olds) within large inner cities. (i.e. gang related violence)

Does Germany have a gang problem similar to the USA? I doubt it. Do gang members buy their guns at gun stores? Legally? Wait during the background checks?

What happened at VT would be considered a random act of violence like all mass murders. Yes, I know Asians are known for not committing violent crimes. But with statistics, with enough samples, any low probability incident becomes practically inevitable. Calculate all the schools within the USA. Add the numbers of alienated and angry students over a period of time. You will get school shootings.

The solution to this and other forms of violence is pro-action by armed and responsible individuals. Law enforcement will naturally delay their response based on the lack of accurate logistics and detailed information of the current situation.

Next time use your watch and clock 90 seconds. That’s all it takes for a killing spree to occur. Pause for reloading. Then add another 90 seconds of more killing. How long would it take for an armed professor or student to pull out their gun and shoot the nut job? Compare that to law enforcement's time to respond. Which response would you prefer?

Posted by: Joe at April 17, 2007 2:23 PM

> SWAT people were hiding
> behind trees, while the
> shooting was going on
> inside.

I'll never understand the urgency people feel to criticize law enforcement, or school administration, or other policy figures. When people say there should have been a "lock down," how would that go? I grew up on campus somewhat larger that Vtech, but I recognize the scale of the place: Hyooge! And populous. And at that hour, thousands more were streaming in. Do you really think there's just a "safety" switch that can be thrown when when a one-in-a-half-billion madmen shows up, so that everyone is instantly protected?

I hate that, hate it hate it. Because if you WANT a society where everyone can be put under police "protection" at the drop of a hat, there are people who are ready to give it to you. Some of them will give it to you whether you want it or not. In a crisis, people turn to those figures out of frustration. Which is bad.

> The real issue is what
> was going on in
> Cho Seung-Hui's brain?


> You can't deny that there
> is a connection between
> America's greater ease in
> gun ownership, and the far
> greater number of gun deaths
> there.

Maybe not, but I still feel safer here in aggregate than anywhere else I've been. Americans have the most opportunity to pursue our interests, whether deep or transient, without interference. We can most freely pursue the loves and lovers who appeal to us. We can select and adjust our religious beliefs as we see fit. And we're global champions for making money and creating value.

Americans aren't like other people. The spirited kinds of people who are attracted to America aren't going to be the ones who count on government to keep them safe, or who will trust a government that promises that it's taken the guns from all the bad guys.

Posted by: Crid at April 17, 2007 4:42 PM

Gun control will not be much of a help to stop things like this from happening and there probably isn't much the school could have done after the first shooting to prevent the second from taking place.
If you all remember back last year when the Amish school shooting happened, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, who is a liberal, spoke out saying, “You can make all the changes you want, but you can never stop a random act of violence by a person who is intent on killing themselves. It's the same thing as protecting the president of the United States. You can have 50 Secret Service agents there, but if someone is willing to swap their life for the president's, they're going to get a point-blank shot at the president."
If people want to harm others they will find a way.

Posted by: Shane at April 17, 2007 5:24 PM

Amy, THANK YOU for this post! It's nice to see a fellow sane, levelheaded atheist making the point that taking the right of self-defense away from innocent people is a big fat crock of shit. You rock!

Posted by: Kim at April 17, 2007 7:03 PM

Awww, thanks -- been on deadline all day, then at French, and I'm just reading through the second half of the comments now. Every day, I'm consistently impressed and pleasantly surprised at how smart people are who come here, and how I kick off a discussion and it goes in new, very interesting directions.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2007 8:03 PM

The latest I'm reading on boards is divided between blaming lack of/too much gun control and the lack of prayer in schools. I just find it so sickening that people will use a horrific thing like this to push an agenda.

The guy was obviously seriously disturbed. He would have killed if he hadn't been able to get guns. He would have killed if he'd been forced to pray in school. He would have killed if we didn't have PS3s.

I'm seriously waiting to see who Robertson blames for this horror. Probably lesbian atheist feminists, or some mixture thereof.

Posted by: Kimberly at April 17, 2007 10:18 PM

This goes so far beyond gun control. It speaks to something very wrong in our society, and not just here in the US, but everywhere.

I'm just incredibly sad, and I wish the 'talking heads' on TV would just shut up.

Posted by: Kanani at April 18, 2007 12:28 AM

> I just find it so sickening
> that people will use a horrific
> thing like this to push
> an agenda.

We can't be surprised that a nightmare like this will make people want to share their strongest beliefs.

> It speaks to something very
> wrong in our society, and not
> just here in the US, but
> everywhere.

Well, one or the other. I think it's in problem with the human heart, but this guy was just too wound up. I haven't read the details yet. Anyone wanna bet that he came from a stable home with two loving parents? Anyone?

> I wish the 'talking heads' on TV
> would just shut up.

That's kinda not fair: Chatter is the business they're in, and it's why you bought the set. The good news is that if you turn it off, those pathetic fuckers cease to exist... Poof.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 4:24 AM

Its not a problem with society, but human nature. Not every aspect of human nature, but a very small subset of the population. There are plenty of disturbed people out there, but it takes an even smaller population within that grouping to go to the next step of killing people.

People will do bad things. People hold weird belief systems to validate irrational behavior. Even to the point to rationalize violent actions against innocent people. Accept this simple, but horrifying fact.

The actual error of society is that certain 'leaders' or spokespersons cannot accept this fact about human nature.

Is it a sign of high status (some sense of exalted moral standing) to refuse to see the world clearly???

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 4:53 AM

I don't think you can draw any useful conclusions from an event like this. It does not seem to me that it justifies any changes in the law. The law already says that murder is illegal. There's a phrase "hard cases make bad law" which applies here.

Posted by: Norman at April 18, 2007 5:00 AM

How exactly would you lock down a large college campus with thousands of students in transit at any one time? And if you somehow succeeded, how could you be sure that the deranged killer isn't locked down in one of the buildings with a bunch of fellow students and faculty? (And remember, in this case you had less than 2 hours to do the above.)

Anyone who answers these questions in a satisfactory manner will then have the moral certitude from which to criticize the VT administration for lack of action.

Posted by: cpabroker at April 18, 2007 6:11 AM

I'm at work today, but somebody please do us a favor and keep an eye on the reports about Cho coming in, to answer these question: Where was Dad? What was he like?

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 6:25 AM


The comment about Cho's parents were very quiet and kept to themselves. They owned a dry cleaning service.

Also, the parents were hospitalized for shock and not for attempting suicide.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 6:42 AM

That sounds like "He was a quiet guy, kind of a loner. Pretty much kept to himself, never caused anyone a speck o' trouble. And then one day..."

Anyway, I'm surprised that his father was around at all. It's hard to imagine why someine would be so incompetent at handling stress. Immigration is probably part of it, but I bet a lot of cases of evil like this are just biological.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 6:49 AM

I think I can tell you what the "root" cause of this was:

The expectation that modern touchy-feely society puts in every child's mind that everything they want is theirs for the taking.

Children grow up never knowing deprivation of even the smallest sort. Never hearing the word "no".

And then someone finally says "no", and they snap.

Posted by: brian at April 18, 2007 6:59 AM

A catalog of creep-itude

(A $10 wager says "Richard McBeef" will be the name of a punk rock tune or similarly trivial artifact by the end of the week. Whatever this guy's particular background, children of divorce will backhandedly claim him as one of their own)

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 6:59 AM

Brian, why do you think this guy had no deprivation?

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 7:01 AM

I bet a lot of cases of evil like this are just biological.

I've had peripheral experience with this notion, from worked I've heard presented at conferences or read in ev. psych and neurology journals when I was supposed to be reading something for my column, and that seems to be the case.

Genes, as Matt Ridley notes, are designed to respond to an environment -- they aren't functioning in a vacuum. So there may be environmental factors, but if you look at Nancy Segal's work on identical twins raised apart (who didn't know each other) you'll see how incredibly similar they are, down to marrying people with the same names and driving the same cars.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 18, 2007 7:01 AM

Right, I never meant to say environmental factors don't count. But at some point we have to confess that he wasn't just in the wrong country, maybe he was on the wrong planet, tuned to thrive in world nothing like ours.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 7:18 AM

>>I don't think you can draw any useful conclusions from an event like this.

Absolutely right.

(rant on)

We're now entering what I call the Trivia Phase of a mass murder. The gunner's been identified, so the media will spend the next several weeks poring over the guy's bookshelf, CD/DVD collection, loose-leaf notebooks, email address list, class schedule, family tree, and MySpace page in an unfettered search for psycho-killer cliches: violent writings/drawings, controversial video games, and people willing to say "he was the quiet loner type" on camera. Then they'll spend days speculating on how these items link to the crime.

The problem is these investigations never turn up anything that isn't also true of millions of other people, none of whom go on to become serial killers. I wish CNN would just report what happened and leave the amateur psychoanalysis to Dr. Phil.

Jesus H. Christ, look at the front page of right now. You've never seen such blather. These are all DIFFERENT STORIES:

• Killer's former roommates recall 'strange kid'
• Source: Gunman angry at 'rich kids'
• In plays, shooter's character's dreamed of killing
• Killer's worried teacher called police
• Gunman's writing seethed with anger
• Warrant: What was found in Cho's room (pdf)
• Cho's roommates speak (video)

And if you can get past that avalanche of effluvia, you might find an article or two about the victims (not that their stories don't also get milked for maximum pathos), or maybe learn that 157 people were killed in multiple bombing attacks in Baghdad. Seriously, it's currently the tenth story in the "Latest News" section. "Blackberry knocked offline" is 11th, having replaced an article about Dancing With The Stars since I started writing this.

And I think this type of speculation is really, really, really insulting to the victims. It's a hard enough pill that these people were murdered in a random shooting by some psycho, without some untrained agenda-driven asshole speculating that their death might have been even more pointless than that. How'd you like to be told that your 20-year-old daughter died because of Grand Theft Auto? That'd be enough to make me go Buzz Aldrin on someone.

And would somebody please bitchslap these assholes who dare to suggest that these school shootings are some kind of societal statement about cliques and bullying? As if perishing in hail of bullets was SOMEHOW THE VICTIMS' FAULT for not being accomodating enough to these sick bastards. As if mass murder is an equivalent act to schoolyard bullying and romantic rejection.

Couldn't we just all agree, as a society, that anyone who goes to a public place and shoots a bunch of people has some pretty severe problems, and that a analysis of their LP collection will not yield anything useful?

I don't know what would drive somebody to do something like this. But if notoriety really is a motivation for this sort of thing, the idiots at CNN are making the situation a hell of a lot worse.

(rant off)

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 8:00 AM

People are curious about him, which makes sense. Every one of those headlines you listed supports a supposition that the problem was with this guy, or with how he chose to view his place in the world. (Which is really what I meant above when talking about biology: He may have spent a decade teaching himself to feel distant and uncomfortable around others.) So all these stories are unpleasant, but they're no surprise, and they may help people understand how other square pegs might be assimilated.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 8:13 AM

You are not going to get much information on the family. Typical Korean families are very close and tight knit. The only information will be vague guesses and basic impressions from neighbors and their laundry service customers.

There are 2 major psychological developments occurring in various Asian nations and communities around the world that could have contributed to Cho’s behavior:

-Hikikomori: Japanese for 'acute social withdrawal' found among Japanese male teenagers and young adults. This is becoming a major social problem within Japan and other nations. It is similar to extreme forms of fanboy culture. You can find more information:

-The other factor is a hidden undercurrent of young Asian male rage. You can find many message boards on the internet where young Asian men write posts on the well known stereo types and public views of Asian men within their native countries and in the West. These particular message boards center on the problems of Asian women only dating non Asian men. How non Asian women publicly perceive them and so on. The stereo types in movies and television too.

Now, I am not saying this was probably set Cho off on a killing spree or that some other young Asian male will go ballistic in the future. What I am doing is making other contributions the standard media will completely avoid, because of political correctness. Besides the usual suspects of guns and the violent nature of American society.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 8:15 AM

>>People are curious about him, which makes sense.

Fair enough, but wouldn't one or two stories of this type be sufficient?

And I think the only thing most people want to know about this bastard is which district of hell he currently resides in, and what form of eternal torment is being meted upon him. (And I'm an atheist.)

>>Every one of those headlines you listed supports a supposition that the problem was with this guy, or with how he chose to view his place in the world.

It's not the headline writers' place to speculate. Journalists should report news events and leave the psychoanalysis to the professional psychoanalysts. Or at least reserve the Monday Morning quarterbacking for the op-ed section. All this armchair speculation masquerading as news isn't helping the situation in any way.

I know people want answers, but there just aren't any right now.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 8:33 AM

Exactly, Gary.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 8:38 AM

>>What I am doing is making other contributions the standard media will completely avoid, because of political correctness.

I'm not so sure, Joe -- it might more politically correct for the media to investigate and validate all these feelings of non-empowerment. "Asian male rage" might become the rage of 2007 (pun intended).

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 8:40 AM

Paglia and others talk about the rigidity of white American families. Team positions: Dad, Mom, Junior, and Sis. They're in a house with intense personal boundaries. (Grandma and Granpa live Over the River and Through the Woods, as do the cousins, and are not available for emotional reflection.)

So you got the house. Then there's 17ft 9inches of Zoysia grass. Then there's a white picket fence. Then there's a sidewalk that's 4ft and 8in wide, then a curb of such and such a slope... The point is it's all very orderly and constipated and suppressive of impulse, sexual and otherwise. White people are weird because these homes --when operating correctly-- deliver a "poorly differentiated ego mass." Black American families from slavery have problems too, but they tend to be a different kind... They aren't as often surprised by human nature.

Anyway, that's what came to mind when you said "close and tight knit family." Mix that with an insular immigration culture, and bad things happen. Say what you want about NYC, the Jews and Poles and Italians and Irish in the Big Apple were willing to get into fistfights with each other, and then move forward.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 8:43 AM

I don't get your point, Gary. Aren't we allowed to speculate?

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 8:57 AM

I agree Crid.

There is a Korean expression about the closeness of the family and complete disregard towards outsiders. I cannot remember the Korean word used for it.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 9:08 AM

I think the news media should just report news items, and refrain from presenting their amateur speculation as news. It's insulting to the victims, and counterproductive to understanding the event. As to why I feel that way, I think my previous comments were pretty clear.

If you or any individual wants to speculate, go ahead. My vitriol is directed solely at these alleged news outlets.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 9:14 AM

It's all blending nowadays. I think Lou Dobbs should be ignored because he's a pompous blowhard who's never had an insight worth sharing. But there are thousands of bloggers like that too. We just have to ignore Lou Dobbs... We don't have to ignore him especially hard or anything.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 9:20 AM

Now I remember... its chuch'e. (pronounced as chu-chee) The expression means the tightness among the family that extends to the Korean community to the Korean nation state. One of the underlying qualities of chuch'e is a deep suspicion towards outsiders.

The expression became political when Kim Il Sung used it as a form of political-family unity against all outsiders and their foreign belief systems infecting North Korea.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 9:24 AM

I am refreshed by the realization that you all are discussing the shooter and the social dynamic, rather than fixating on his Glock. Why?

Because no person may be prevented from a first offense.

That's a little secret professing authority figures don't want you to know, apparently. I'm glad that so many of you have the wit to realize that a person's drive - to achieve honor or horror - is the most important force in their lives.

Posted by: Radwaste at April 18, 2007 9:50 AM

Joe, do you mean to say this concept is related to Kim Jong-Il's Juche ideal?

Because if you are, wow. That makes a damn short leap from the noble concept of community to totalitarian insanity.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 10:03 AM

I was stating a cultural/historical reference on the closeness of the family and how it was abused by Kim Il Jong. In other words, it can have multiple meanings and uses by various groups within the Korean peninsula.

Can a noble concept be abused by individuals and groups of people?

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 10:25 AM

Nazis got a lot of mileage out of Darwin.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 10:28 AM

Nikki Giovanni was his poetry teacher! And had noticed that he had issues...

Issues, hell. He had a subscription!

(Sorry.... Gallows humor.)

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 10:47 AM

More like Herbert Spencer, Crid. Who also misunderstood Darwin's theory of natural selection. It wouldn't be the first or the last time a concept is abused by individuals and groups.

The Nazis didn't like the concept of descent from primates. That would mean both Aryans and Jews would share the same descendents. Aryans were suppose to be mythological beings from Hyperborea, possibly located somewhere in Tibet. Well, Himmler believed in this nonsense.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 10:54 AM

Joe am i right in saying that Hangul is one of the best writing systems ever invented??? In the Top 5. I used to be obsessed with it and study it like crazy.

Posted by: PurplePen at April 18, 2007 10:59 AM


It is one of the most inventive and creative alphabets. It was a natural byproduct for Koreans to move away from the Chinese centered hanja alphabet.

I was surprised how much hangul was hated by the Korean elite and preferred the Chinese centric system until it became a symbol of nationalism.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 11:21 AM

Just what I want: a whole bunch of drunk fraternity jocks w/ guns. That will make me feel a whole lot safer.

Posted by: moe99 at April 18, 2007 12:01 PM

Are you still studying it, Purple? Also, what other languages are you learning?

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 12:04 PM

You trust them with cars....

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 12:05 PM

>>Can a noble concept be abused by individuals and groups of people?

Of course it can. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. But I didn't know Juche, in the Kim Jong-Il sense, was an extension of a known concept in Korean society. It seemed more like something a totalitarian leader would invent from whole cloth. But that's just lack of knowledge on my part.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 12:06 PM

You can buy a kevlar vest, Moe. Or have the university provide them. You have options:

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 12:08 PM


Rev. Moon's Unification Church uses a version of chuch'e/juche too. The absolute father figure/messianic leader. Kim Il Jong's The Dear Leader concept. Similar to how the father is the unquestioned head of the family. Also, the importance of ancestral fathers among Korean society.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 12:26 PM

I really hate how this has become all about the guns. But I can't help responding to acertain aspect of the argument.

I find entertaining the assumption that if you allow college students to have guns they will all have one. Pretty much everyone who posts against allowing students to have guns talks about "An armed campus full of hormonal adolesence blah blah blah." But the thing is even when states allow gun ownership and it is very easy, not everyone owns a gun.

I don't think allowing students or teachers to carry a legally purchased and registered weapon if they want to is the same as handing them out with studend IDs. Depending on what state you are in you can get a gun if you want one and aren't a criminal, and yet as of 2006 only 20% of US households reported owning a gun.

I don't think that taking firearms off the list of prohibited items would result in mass hysteria. Firstly, guns are expensive, beyond the means of the average undergraduate. Secondly, there is a lot of paperwork involved in purchasing one legally. Thirdly, if someone already owns a gun and wants to bring it to campus there is already nothing stopping them besides their own conscience, so right now there are people like the shooter who have guns on campus and no one responsible (like yours truly).

We're not talking about a choice between No guns and a campus full of armed individuals. We're talking about the choice between a few guns the administration doesn't know about or a few more guns they don't know about but that are owned by people who follow laws and rules.

Posted by: Shinobi at April 18, 2007 2:13 PM

Sorry I meant 34% not 20%.

Posted by: Shinobi at April 18, 2007 2:29 PM

> no person may be prevented
> from a first offense.

Raddy thanks for that comment.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2007 3:00 PM

Joe, thanks for the link, and for your insights. And speaking of North Korea, this is a fascinating read:

Posted by: Gary S. at April 18, 2007 3:07 PM

Guys, what lots of guns in an environment does is knock down the mythology and ignorance about what they are, what they can do and what they cannot do. Right now, the non-gun-owning public contains a large number of people who ascribe human qualities to this simple machinery. This chunk of public is easily scared, and easily manipulated into selling their {name right and/or privilege here} for "security" - which does NOT exist in nature ANYWHERE - because they know absolutely nothing about guns.

This stuff was on the market 100 years ago! It's not a recent problem, and it's not going to end because somebody talks about guns. It will end when we talk about people.

If you look at how long the firearm has been with us, it's awesomely easy to see what the problem is NOT: availability of guns.

Posted by: Radwaste at April 18, 2007 4:10 PM


Nothing impressive, I studied the typical romance languages. Since I like studying Japanese-Brazilians in Japan and Brazil, I came in contact with kanji, which is not pleasant. Through kanji I came in contact with hanja. Obviously hanja is useless to me, so I came in contact with hangul. I became obsessed with it. I love it, and to think its a simple artificial script. Completly made up. Its like how people love the color blue, I love hangul.

When you see something in urdu can you understand what you are seeing without being able to read it? Like when an english speaker sees something in russian?

Posted by: PurplePen at April 18, 2007 6:13 PM

Advice Goddess, oh Advice Goddess, so fair and so true, we should be talking retroactive birthcontrol that should be decided upon and by who, perhaps we should all be armed , and say "Today fool it is YOU", but since we all have to play nice togther, here's what I have to say to do.....
( Cheesy piano music now)
Keeeeep a hand stretched to help a brother , and a .45 in the other..... Come on lend a ear, and an UZI in full auto select in the rear.... You can be a player and help weed out the few... who are just a waste of skin, you know what to do..... If your finger is icthy, don't scratch it with your nose, pull out the old Thompson and do a deal in droves.......( 250 rounds per minute my my how do you keep your brass so shiny?) We all really want to know what drives the kooks, and how to avoid that plight, of being caught without protection and afraid to go out at night...... but the real reason for weapons, isn't to keep the boogy man away, our founding fathers knew the evils of a unopposed form of tryanical government and that was why we fight.... (EVERYBODY SING!) hunting and personal protection are just the augments of the clause, it's blasting down an invading army, like the assholes from the UN waiting in the wings or chavez and his paws..... ohhhhhhhh...... The real injustice of this tragedy, is not with who what why or when.... it's all the micro coverage of an asshole who should of been chemicaly lobotmized at ...10. Dee dum dee dum dee dum dee dee.....I love you Advice Goddess.

Posted by: wb at April 18, 2007 7:19 PM

Maybe next week we can shoot peeple who kan't spel. Think I'll stay indoors and order delivery.

Posted by: wb at April 18, 2007 7:22 PM

I do need moments to refresh my memory of the various rules for Urdu/Ordu. Normally, I keep up with my Arabic and Russian by visiting and contributing message boards in their respective languages, online news sites and webpages that streams videos. Russian is actually very easy to learn. The problem is getting over the complexity of English and understanding the Cyrillic alphabet.

There are many times I would be writing in English and all of sudden it will end in Arabic or Russian. It is sort of like a harmless version of schizophrenia. Once you can think in the language the rest is easy. The best way is to spend a few years living in another country. Immerse yourself in the language.

Besides the 4 dialects of Arabic, I can speak Italian, German and Russian fluently. Farsi (actually its Parsi) and Urdu pretty well to get by if I was in Iran, India and Pakistan. In the near future Japanese will be my next language obstacle.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 9:31 PM

Interesting, Joe, comparing being multi-lingual with schizophrenia.

I must admit, I don't know any Urdu or Ordu, but I do recognize when one of Cathy's commenters has landed. It's a small small world...

Posted by: Donna B. at April 18, 2007 9:43 PM

Hikkikomori, young angry asian male rage, assimilation issues, social conditioning failures?
Why don't we call it what it is: mental illness.

And why don't we call it as it is: Asians are and have been traditionally loathe to admit to ANY mental illness. So ingrained is it in their culture to be compliant that the idea that someone would have mental illness is immediately dismissed. No, it's seen as a moral failure, a loss of face. So admit that there's a problem? Fat chance. You'd have a better chance of getting my labrador on a diet than getting a first generation Korean to admit to mental illness.

This kid had all the warning signs. So did the parent. Dispense with the 'angry young asian male' bullshit and give them a diagnosis that's treatable.

Posted by: k at April 18, 2007 10:58 PM

Its sort of like when Peter Sellers would meet someone for the first time and go through numerous different voices until he found his original. Some people that it was a gag, but in interviews it wasn't a joke.

Is the Cathy's commenter reference towards me?

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 11:06 PM


In what language do you think?

Posted by: PurplePen at April 18, 2007 11:07 PM


I was bringing up references that contradicts the standard media's perception of Asians. Especially the handling of gun oriented violence in the states.

It is similar to my past comments on the extended family, tribal structures and the culture of Islam that cultivates extremism and violence within the M.E. Another list of reasons the MSM avoids in explaining Islamic inspired terrorism.

I've never said it was the sole responsible factor behind Cho's behavior, but mainly contributions.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2007 11:37 PM

In Italian, Purple.

The multiple languages are effective when living in a special police state. You have to expect your notes and materials are looked over when you get a unscheduled visit from the Ministry of the Interior's handler, who is assigned to you when you are away from the major cities. My entries/complaints would be peppered with a mix of English, German and Italian. Poorly written quatrains and haikus to confuse the M.o.I. handler. Add lines of how wonderful the weather, the people and the wonderful services the government provides for their guests. In most cases its 50/50, but always expect the unexpected. The M.E. is not all negatives.

My Personal Commandment #4: Never share your personal Hell (i.e. personal problems or complaints) with anyone. Voluntarily or in some case involuntarily.

So when you are being spied on... leave everything out in the open and easy to find. Once in a while hide something, so the guy has to put some effort in his search for anything incriminating. Leave a tip inside or find out his favorite tobacco blend. Remember, never take it personal.

Sorry for going off topic for a moment.

Posted by: Joe at April 19, 2007 12:33 AM

> a diagnosis that's treatable.

You say that as if it would or should have helped. We don't want to live in a culture where lab-coated Dr. Phils are checking out our emotional health with a clipboard full of instrusive questions every day.

Posted by: Crid at April 19, 2007 4:31 AM

You act as though his shooting people was a fait accompli. That there was no other option for him to take.

In the case of Cho, there was an enormous cock up on all sides. On the university for allowing him to stay even though he had a history of disruptive behavior. On the mental health treatment plan for which there appeared to be none --btw.. if he was taking medication, it doesn't mean that it was prescribed by a psychiatrist. A GP or Family practitioner could have been doling out meds, playing at generalities without going through an exhaustive diagnosis. His family, who must've known something was up after his initial psychiatric stay in the hospital. Treatment plans are more successful with family support. I am not saying it's easy --no way, but without consistency, this kid slipped further away into his own violent world.

So it's this "angry young asian male" syndrome stereotype that we have to dispense with. We can treat schizophrenia, depression and paranoia effectively. But when someone is couched in other generic terms, it does no one any good.

Posted by: k at April 19, 2007 6:45 AM

> That there was no other
> option for him to take.

Naw, he was an American, and his life was all about options. You've kinda put your finger on it. Here's a scenario:

He came from a culture and family where people's roles and identities are very rigid. Maybe his personality had stabilized in those years... He built his soul around a pattern of monotony and sullen bitterness. The world is full of people who habitually respond to events (both trivial and grand) with cynical thoughts. Not the best thing that can happen to a human being, but it happens to all kinds of people all over the planet. And they don't turn in mass murderers. They --ahem, we-- are shitty blind dates, but we're not murderous.

So then he's in America, where it's all about fast response to markets, and fads, and improvisation. (We gave the world jazz. If the whole of Asia brought us a globally popular form of music in the 20th century, I haven't heard any of it.) So not only is he unable to participate by habit, he's seeing that peers well-grounded in the new culture are kicking ass.

The automatic respect given to masculinity as in his father's generation, a birthright, has vaporized. Meanwhile, his big sister (a GIRL!) is doing well at the University...

...And he's trying to hang on to his cyncism, the core of his identity, but it holds no currency for cheerful, outgoing Americans, so he's not getting laid.

Tick tick boom.

> We can treat schizophrenia, depression
> and paranoia effectively.

That's news to me! Had anyone else heard about this? Amy? Anybody?

> So it's this "angry young asian
> male" syndrome stereotype
> that we have to dispense with.

I had my first checkup with a new doctor yesterday, a veritable child of 28, and I think she's Korean. I turned and coughed anyway. There was no extra tension in the room. One freaked-out engineering student does not a stereotype make. There's no pattern of crazed Koreans who fail to assimilate and go apeshit (Latisha Harlins notwithstanding). If guys like this need help assimilating, I'm glad to know but sorry to have found out this way. We've got a long way to go before there's a dangerous stereotype in play. Kleybold and Harris didn't make us hate all white teenage boys.

> But when someone is couched
> in other generic terms, it
> does no one any good.

Even if we could cure the problems you describe (and we can't), you remind me of an aphorism from Abraham Maslow: "When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to perceive every problem as being a nail." Yes, in retrospect it would have been nice if Cho had been sedated to the gills. And we could protect ourselves from some minority of flameout murderers by drugging every young male who seems antisocial and creepy. But I don't think we should.

I maintain that the problem here was not a failure of policy, or law enforcement, or school administration or medical care.

Posted by: Crid at April 19, 2007 7:42 AM

This is a test.

Posted by: gpsutter at April 19, 2007 7:54 AM

Furthermore, none of these "warning signs" are unique to people who become serial killers. Lots of college kids get diagnosed with depression, and put on medication for it. Especially at on-campus counseling centers, who, in my experience, dole out diagnoses of "severe depression" like they're Rip Taylor throwing confetti.

I haven't viewed any of Mr. Cho's videos (I can't stomach it at the moment) but I'm hoping that researchers will be able to learn something from them. Unlike mass murderers whose motives were unclear, or were so insane that their statements made no sense, Cho seems to have left a thorough record of his mental state. Perhaps psychologists can learn to identify traits that ARE unique to potential serial killers, and learn how to prevent future incidents before they happen.

Posted by: Gary S. at April 19, 2007 8:12 AM


Posted by: Crid at April 19, 2007 8:14 AM

That whoosing noise is the point that just flew over your heads, don't worry, you don't need to duck, unless you just feel like keeping your head in the sand any way! So long oprah/ phil suckers!!

Posted by: wb at April 19, 2007 8:41 AM

You don't cure schizophrenia, depression or paranoia but they CAN be greatly managed through medication, therapy and family support.

And that's proven everyday with millions of patients and clients.

Posted by: k at April 19, 2007 10:58 AM

Right. Got it. Two points.

First, there's NOTHING that can't be cured if you get into everyone's head, and home, and fuck around hard enough. That's the North Korean approach.

Second, I'm not convinced this guy was schizophrenic, depressed, or paranoid. He was evil, which is not the same thing.

Posted by: Crid at April 19, 2007 12:06 PM

"Raddy thanks for that comment."

You're welcome, Crid. I don't think anybody else notices just how fundamental it is. If I rub it on people, they just lock up.

Posted by: Radwaste at April 19, 2007 9:49 PM

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