Tuesday, April 17

The shooting.


You can light a virtual candle in sympathy for Virginia Tech (not at all as corny as it sounds) here.

Yeah, we're all shaken by this. All of us.

This morning they released the name of the perpetrator and said his family's phone was not accepting calls. I'd like to say I can't imagine what they must be going through, but I can. They not only lost a family member to suicide, they must live with knowing that their loved one killed another human being first (or in this case a record number, as if we needed to know the record). How tragic. And how guilty they must feel, as every family member does who has lost one to suicide. What could they have done? What word, what action, would have prevented yesterday from ever happening?

I'm sorry for the victims. Horribly, horribly sorry. But goddammit I don't think this paragraph is off topic (emphasis mine):

The highest percentage of gun deaths in the United States isn’t homicides or accidents– it’s suicides. And a study like this confirms why that is– access to firearms makes it easy for people who are in danger of suicide to carry out their plans without getting help in time. The gun lobby counters that people who would commit suicide will do it whether they have access to a firearm or not, but the ease and quickness with which a firearm can be used to end someone’s life drastically reduces the chances these people have of getting help. And that reduced chance is undoubtedly a factor in how many people are able to actually carry out a suicide.

"Ease and quickness." Half a morning. Over thirty lives. My heart is with Virginia Tech today. Mourning. For everyone.

And yeah, I have some friends who are responsible gun owners, but I still wish they'd send Charlton Heston to Gitmo as a terrorist collaborator. Maybe Laura Bush can come out today and talk about the one gunman a day who discourages everybody. And her husband can show his deep empathy without mentioning guns once. (oops he did it again.)


Yeah, I'm doing it again, politicizing this tragedy. But this is a perfect example of our response to real terrorism, and we as a nation don't get that. The campus police fucked up, people. There was a murderer with a gun at large on campus at least an hour, possibly two, before the classrooms were shot up.

And there are solutions to this, most of which involve simply the proper use of existing technology in the area of mass communication in an emergency...

....I know! Let's invade Iran!

David Stephenson wrote me, and memo to the Democratic presidential field, he belongs at the Department of Homeland Security, because he gets it. (David's blog is in the process of being moved to Wordpress and will be down for a few.)

...there's NO PLACE in our society that should have been more on top of real-time, location-based info sharing about something of this sort than a college campus, because of their high concentration of tech-savvy users, let alone a technology one:

* the media, especially CNN, have been full of photos shot by students with their cameraphones. Along the lines of what NYC is developing, the university could have had a process in place for students to submit their photos and videos, which would have given situational awareness.

* the SquareLoop technology would have let the authorities broadcast alerts that would have automatically been received by every cell phone on campus (without the students having to register for the service)

* social networking apps such as Boostloopt, Dodgeball.com, etc. would have allowed the students to share info instantly (and, in fact, they did share via Myspace)

* while I'm sure the university had a crisis plan, when things spiral out of control, as they did in this case, a wiki would have allowed real-time, collaborative planning of ad hoc responses.

* the iFind project at MIT would have allowed instantly identifying students' locations...

* the "presence dashboard" developed by Zingerang would have allowed instant networking among all involved to plan response.

* Portland's "Connect and Protect" would have allowed two-way 911 information sharing..

It adds up to the stark reality that the first incident should have resulted in an immediate lockdown, and the second round of shooting (unless there's something that hasn't been reported yet...) should never have happened.


  1. The shooting merely emphasizes how unprepared we all are when acts of terrorism occurs. We live sheltered lives and so long as violence and acts of terrorism happen on other shores, we can pretend that it doesn't effect us in our personal lives.

    We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and the problems we have wrought rather than jumping to some sort of quick fix, feel good solution that does nothing but put a band-aid over a gaping wound. There's a lot of hatred and hurt out there and we cannot turn a blind eye to it.

  2. BG, you are way smarter than I am, but I think if you are supporting even one part of The Bill of Rights, you have to support them all.

    I'm not a paranoid person-- I got so angry when I saw old folks buying up plastic and duct tape after 9/11 knowing full well they were useless and some of these folks didn't have the money to spend on such things.

    But with our country taking away our right to Habeus Corpus a ban on guns is just way too scary for even me.

    I don't own a gun, but I want the right to get one... just in case. And not to mow down citizens. I'm becoming increasingly fearful of my own damned government.

    Who EVER thought we'd see the day when the US of A was TORTURING people and the citizenry got behind it??? WTF????

    Guns or no guns, there will always be seriously deranged people 'out there'.

  3. I'm not advocating a ban on guns. I wish there were fewer guns, I wish we weren't such a (sorry guys) testosterone-poisoned society, I wish, I wish. I wish yesterday haddn't happened.

    There's no easy solution. But our response to fear needs to be more intelligence, not more fear.

  4. With all due respect Brat, any guy you could purchase would be no match for the federal government -- should it decide to come after you. As BG mentioned above, I'm not advocating a ban on all guns, but I do think a couple of things need to happen. I think background checks (real checks) are good, limiting the number of rounds in a single weapon might not be a bad idea, and making it a little harder (or more expensive) to buy ammunition. Chris Rock points out that if a bullet cost $5000 people might think twice before using it to kill someone.

    I also think there are a couple of other issues that need to be considered. The lack of mental health care coverage, and how boys and girls are socialized.

    Clearly, anyone who would take a gun to any location and shoot someone needs help. Where is that rage coming from? How do we identify it before it gets to that point?

    And what messages, subtle or overt, do we tell boys and men. Do we instill in some boys and men a sense of privilege and/or entitlement. In a number of the shootings over the past few years it's been boys or men, angry with the women who no longer wanted to go out with them. So their solution to that anger is to shoot people?

    IMHO society needs to allow boys and men to feel hurt, to cry if they are sad, to show human emotions -- without being called 'sissy' or any of the other 'female-identified' terms used as insults when hurled toward boys and men.

    I don't think we can point to any one thing as say with certainty "this is the cause" for these shootings, but I do think we need to try and get a handle on some of the issues presented here.


  5. I just love this conversation. I love how people so casually throw around words like "deranged" or "whacko" or the like. Here's the thing. Wrap your brains around this: mental illness is a disease. Like cancer. Like diabetes. it's a disease.

    And then there's this whole thing about "evil," like 'there will always be evil people in the world." As long as we are willing to look at the world that way, that what happened here was a case of "evil" and NOT of a SICK person who had TOO EASY ACCESS to high-powered firearms, we will never, ever come close to dealing with cases like this.

    Thank you, bac, for talking sense.

  6. With all due respect, QD, it wasn't 'casually' thrown out there.

    I don't care if it's 'disease' or 'evil'... it's still gonna be there whether or not we have guns.

    Oklahoma City didn't happen because someone had easy access to guns. A sick mind will always find a way, if they are intent upon hurting someone else.

    And bac, yes, men need to be able to hurt and cry, too. But they also need to be taught that women are not their property-- that women have a right to walk away if that is what they want to do, and not have to worry that the men are thinking, "if I can't have you, no one can."

    Nope. There aren't any easy answers.

  7. i still can't say anything that makes any sense so i won't except to say i feel so badly for everyone and especially the shooter's family.

    i don't know if i could cope at all if that were my child,

    i lit a candle. that's the best i could do for now.

  8. oh , one thing, qd is right. mental illness is a physical illness, like diabetes or any other.

    i've had depression since grade school. i bless the new meds that are out there.

    no one should be afraid to go for help, told to "be strong, tough it out, if you just developed a more postive outlook, if you were a better person..."

    you wouldn't tell a dibetic these things, you wouldn't tell them not to take their insulin. that having to take it was a sign of weakness.

    or that they were evil or wacko.

    tho, i will admit to being odd, but it's part of my charm. ; )

  9. Hey all,

    I didn't want to discuss the Second Amendment right now, it still seems too soon. But I will say this... I have a horrible cold, and I can't find any pseudoephedrine because some jackknobs like to make meth out of it, so some other jackknobs took it out of all the medicines. The new stuff with which they replaced it doesn't work worth a crap. So now I'm sick AND pissed off.

    I don't even own a gun myself, despite being a libertarian - but right now, I can understand the gun owners' point of view. Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to see if this cordless drill can unstop my nose....

  10. Feel better, Mad Patriot. In the meantime I got your shirt right here.

  11. My post here highlights similar specious constitutional arguments to the one made by "the mad patriot"--and they were made last month by a "libertarian" Virginia Tech grad student.

  12. I'm with Brat...no need to take away a freedom our forefathers thought necessary in case somebody like Bush decides to go totalitarian on us.

    I abhor guns, personally, but I want the right to stock up if it comes to that.

    Also, I'd note that before we do away with guns, there are about 40,000 non-gun-toting people causing traffic fatalities every year. The same argument for taking away guns could be made for taking away peoples' cars.

    How do we make all these cars less accessible, so that people can't get to them so quick when they're rushing out of their house after an argument, angry or drunk? Deadly car drivers are a much bigger problem, and they're not good for the environment either...

    The constitution says nothing about cars. Get people to give up their cars, and then I'll second think stricter gun laws, which, despite being in effect on Virginia Tech's campus didn't seem to prevent the slaughter.

    My heart goes out to all of the families and friends who lost somebody at VT, as well as those who lost family and friends in Iraq this past week.

  13. Also, I'd note that before we do away with guns, there are about 40,000 non-gun-toting people causing traffic fatalities every year. The same argument for taking away guns could be made for taking away peoples' cars.

    I love that analogy. Same one that goes for baseball bats, icepicks, lawnmowers, screw drivers, etc., right?

    Well, see, here's the thing. Cars exist to transport people. GUNS exist to KILL people. That is the reason they are made, and why they are made the way they are. The handguns used by this young man were not designed to kill varmints or to provide trophies for genitally-deficient male adults. They were designed, manufactured, and sold for the express purpose of putting large gaping wounds in the bodies of human beings. Unlike the other objects on this list.

    The analogy is specious. Repugnant. Insulting.

  14. The analogy is specious. Repugnant. Insulting.

    Jeez...thanks for the compliments, QD.

    Anyway, from my point of view (which is an honest to god point of view of one of your fellow human beings, like it or not...) most guns are made with the intention to protect people, not to kill people. Just my opinion, and respect those who disagree.

    I don't own one because I think they're dangerous. My grandmother owned a gun. She didn't lock it up. When I was a kid, I pulled it out of her nightstand and, thinking it was a toy, pointed it at my sister. My life could be very different today.

    However, there are much bigger killers today in these United States than handguns, for example cars. Whether or not they are made to kill, they kill a lot. It would be ludicrous to ban people from owning cars at this time. And I'm just offering my opinion that I'm against removing any constitutional right to own guns at this time, too, for those Americans who do choose to exercise that right.

  15. JOEC:

    Sorry if I came off too strong. Really, I do apologize. I just have a very thin skin on this issue.

    Two weeks after I graduated from college in 1980, one of my best friends was shot dead on the street in Philadelphia over the $20 he had in his wallet. The killer used an illegally purchased Saturday night special-type pistol.

    Ken was a very good guy who wanted to teach in that same inner-city neighborhood. I have never really come to terms with his death.

    My intention was not to insult you personally, but to go after that particular analogy, which I really don't think works.

    Please accept my apology. I'm going to stop commenting on this post. I'll rant at my own place.

  16. Play nice, boys.

    QD, your post on this was one of your best ever. Agree with you or not (I do, but you knew that) you made it personal by putting you, your son, and talk radio in the car and making it about a family conversation instead of a national debate.

    Joe C. since you're kinda new around here, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to MY "family." Have a seat next to me and pour yourself something cold. You're always, always welcome here, too.

  17. Quakerdave: I'm sorry about your friend; that's gotta be tough to go through.

    As for political arguments, don't worry about insulting me too much...I sort of enjoy talking about the deep stuff that everybody has emotional triggers about. It's a way of working past my own thin skin about sensitive issues. I apologize, too, if the analogy was a piss poor one...just trying to think around all sides and angles of the issue.

    And Blue Gal, thanks for the welcome, and the great blog. We need places like this, even virtual spaces, where we agree it's ok to vent and speak and think out loud, even the insensitive, bad thoughts that don't go anywhere.

    I'm looking forward to reading more at both yours AND Quakerdave's sites...

    Peace and love,

  18. Bless you, Blue Gal


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