Soon after the one-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, three more died in a church shooting in Idaho. In the month since the Virginia Tech ordeal, an estimated 2,430 more Americans were killed with guns. Are effective steps being taken to avoid senseless violent acts?
Some seek protection through technological solutions, like better communication. Others assume that mental health professionals should be able to discern risk and act to prevent violence, such as by hospitalizing unusual or threatening individuals. Still others figure that targeted prevention - such as prohibiting gun sales to people who have been committed to a psychiatric institution - will lower the risk, as if most gun violence were perpetrated by individuals with such clearly identified psychiatric problems. Such measures may seem reasonable, but they miss the larger point: the need for effective gun control.
The Virginia Tech shooter used a Glock 19 semi-automatic weapon and a Walther. In less than 10 minutes he fired approximately 170 bullets. In the face of such firepower, do even the most ardent technophiles really believe that quicker communication systems could deliver people to safety? Do those counting on the mental health system to provide a safety net lose confidence when they hear mental health professionals readily acknowledge their limited ability to predict violence?
Very few of the millions of individuals suffering from mental illness constitute risk to others. Restricting gun control efforts to them is ineffective. It leaves those who have not been committed, but who far more often pull triggers, free to obtain and use their weapons of choice.
The incident at Virginia Tech was foreseeable in the sense that if such handguns are available they will, at times, be used on innocents. It will happen again on U.S. campuses, on the streets, and even in places of sanctuary. Since 1996, at least 107 individuals have been killed at U.S. schools and colleges. That hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans have died from gunshot wounds in less-publicized incidents throughout U.S. communities since Virginia Tech underscores the need to remove such destructive weapons from our society. That is the only effective step for reducing the violence.
Our nation's strategy for securing peace in other parts of the world includes ridding violent societies, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, of the widespread weapons that undermine their peace. We should demand that our federal, state and local leaders use similar logic and strategies and muster the courage to quell the violence here by standing up to the gun lobby, and outlawing assault weapons and handguns. Why wait any longer to liberate our campuses, neighborhoods and places of worship of the guns that make them unsafe?