Outside editorials: On the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007

Inspiring memories

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This editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

The Virginia Tech gunman thrust his name into the public's consciousness with acts of appalling violence. But the world is already tiring of his videotaped rants and glowering face.

The names and faces that command respect and inspiration are those of his victims. To cite just a few of those who lost their lives:

Liviu Librescu, 76, survived the Holocaust and the harsh isolation of communist Romania to become an internationally recognized researcher in aeronautical engineering. He courageously blocked the door of his classroom, delaying the gunman so that students could escape through a window.

Reema Samaha, 18, was a creative dancer with a deep pride in her Lebanese roots. She wanted to major in urban planning and international relations "to solve the problems of the world."

Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, was a civil engineering graduate student with two undergrad degrees. He ran marathons, biked and was involved in a project to eradicate the West Nile virus.

Herbstritt's friends have made it their quest to deflect attention from the killer to the fallen. Ken Stanton, a 29-year-old graduate student, went on television to offer a message on Herbstritt's behalf.

The message: "Be passionate about something."

Herbstritt and others slain at Virginia Tech lived that way.

Testimony to evil

This editorial appeared in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer:

As the tapes rolled, and the knives and guns and lunacy of the young man who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech were there for all to see, all America reeled in horror. Cho Seung-Hui pointed his guns at the camera just as he must have pointed them at his victims. His rantings were profanity-laced and violent.

He mailed, sometime between his morning slaying of two people and his later rampage, a package of images and writings to NBC. He went on to vent his rage against 30 more innocent people. He posed as a killer would pose. Proud of his weapons, clearly intent on doing evil with them. And he blamed the rest of the world for what he was going to do, saying "you forced me into a corner. Now you will have blood on your hands that will never wash off." It's hard to believe anyone will ever know to whom he was speaking. The world, maybe, against which he had such a grudge.

The ravings in Cho's videotapes and writings - NBC did share them on the air but turned them over to authorities - are maddening and heartbreaking and must surely tear at the insides of the families of the victims, so many of them outstanding young people with such bright futures. The families will want answers to why this tragedy happened more than anyone. And, while broadcasters are under some criticism for showing the tapes, to not show them would have spurred wild rumor and speculation.

In time, answers will come. But the events of April 16 continue to horrify us, particularly with this young man's face and his rage exposed in such raw, excruciating detail. We will never understand things completely, but Cho did not get the revenge he wanted against the world - for him, there is only an empty infamy.

Nutty gun laws kill

This editorial appeared in the New York Daily News:

Let's not waste time debating whether NBC should have aired Cho Seung-Hui's video dispatch from hell. More important is the fact that Cho was able, quite legally, to buy two guns despite his documented psychiatric history.

This is because Congress and the Commonwealth of Virginia, in their zeal to promote gun ownership, believe it permissible to peddle weapons to everyone but convicted felons and the most deranged of the mentally ill. Those who are merely suicidal, or might become homicidal if they skip their meds or therapy, are welcome to all the handguns and ammo they like.

By whom we mean people like Cho. Per federal law, Virginia gun shops do on-the-spot criminal and psychiatric background checks on would-be buyers. But the mental history inquiries raise a flag only if the customer has been judged mentally defective or involuntarily committed. And Cho never made that grade - not quite.

But he was close. An acquaintance who feared Cho was suicidal called police, and cops were concerned enough that they brought him before a judge - who likewise sensed something amiss and ordered him psychiatrically evaluated. "(Cho) presents an imminent danger to himself," the judge found. But a doctor prescribed outpatient treatment instead of committing him. And that's what let this maniac arm himself.

Plainly, anyone who has been diagnosed as potentially suicidal, or forced by court order into treatment or evaluation, should not be able to buy semiautomatics. The risks are simply too great.

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