Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Looking for Answers

The senseless shooting that led to the death of 32 Virginia Tech students yesterday has reopened the usual debates that follow these tragic events. Gun control, race, immigration and social isolation are major concerns of American society. The alleged shooter Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year old English major and Korean permanent resident was described as a loner, with much angst and anger who wrote "disturbing" plays. In fact some of his classmates suspected that he would eventually follow the path of the Columbine high school shooters in 1998.

One of Cho's creative writing professors was concerned enough to approach university police and counseling. Nothing ever came out from this. College professors are usually advised to refer students with psychological problems to counseling. However a prof cannot drag a student to the counseling center. A student has to go on his/her own volition.

Thus looking for the reasons why Cho did this horrible act which also led to his suicide is now an academic exercise for forensic psychologists. It is true that lessons will be learned, but I suppose learning enough to heed the warning signs will not really prevent something like this from happening again. It may really be more practical to make it extremely difficult for anyone to have access to a gun. But this is the USA, the Governor of Virginia is in denial mode after his state was criticized for having the most lax gun control law in the USA. Someone went on CNN saying that even with gun control in Britain, things like this do happen but students use knives. His logic was that gun control cannot prevent these things from happening.

Partly right. I do believe that deranged students can be found anywhere. But a student would have a hard time stabbing 32 people before he is subdued and disarmed. Guns make killing a more efficient affair. You do not need Jared Diamond to tell us that!

Gun control is a powder keg political issue in the US now that some states are having their elections. It is true that debate on this should cease until after the grieving is done but people have short memories.

Other questions need to be answered. Can school authorities really act preemptively if a student writes or say something disturbing, especially if it is in the medium of art? Determining what is "disturbing" is a dicey affair unless speech really incites people to violence. Americans will uphold their First Amendment rights. But it is likely that the Supreme Court will have this in its docket if this becomes a major problem in society.

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