Wednesday, January 26

The Top 10 Myths about the Virginia Tech Massacre

We all know that on April 16th, 2007, a new Day That Shall Live in Infamy was tragically born when a 23-year-old South Korean man who had lived in the US since he was eight and was attending a good American university in the state of Virginia shot to death 32 students and faculty before committing suicide. 33 senseless deaths by guns–the worst non-gang related gun incident in modern American history, and a chilling encore to the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 which claimed 13 lives.

Needless to say there have been some very strong reactions among the American citizenry, not to mention the South Koreans who feel a collective sense of guilt (needlessly). The expected calls for stricter regulations and the finger-pointing emerged immediately while relatives, friends, and fellow students grieved for their lost ones.

But who is offering real solutions? Are most people thinking rationally, considering the facts, at this stage? There are 10 myths emerging regarding the Virginia Tech Massacre that need to be closely analyzed, with facts considered, before we end up compounding the tragedy.

Myth #1. Tighter gun control laws would have prevented that massacre.

It happens all the time: someone does something wrong with something and people want the something taken away…from everybody. Does it work for the betterment of society? No.

Consider what we found at Rapid Intelligence’s Factbites. “Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated….That places total victims who lost their lives because of gun control at approximately 56 million in the last century.” “Gun-control laws have noticeably reduced gun ownership in some states, with the result that for each 1% reduction in gun ownership there was a 3% increase in violent crime…with no academic evidence that gun regulations prevent crime, and plenty of indications that they actually encourage it, we nonetheless are now debating which new gun control laws to pass.”

Myth #2. Virginia’s gun laws are too loose.

Is that so? We found something very interesting when we searched at Factbites. “The fatuity of gun-control laws is nowhere better illustrated than in Virginia, where high-school students in rural areas have a long tradition of going hunting in the morning.” Furthermore, according to the FBI, Virginia’s background check regulations for buying guns are the most rigorous and the best of any of the 50 states.

Myth #3. This is exactly the kind of thing that happens in “gun-toter” states like Virginia.

With all those teenagers in Virginia bearing arms, that’s surely the case, right? Not exactly. Rapid Intelligence’s StateMaster statistics service tells us that Virginia only ranks 25th among states with regards to the number of gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in the state.

Myth #4. The US Constitution’s Second Amendment encourages gun crimes to flourish in America.

At first, there seems to be something to this. Rapid Intelligence’s NationMaster statistics service reveals that the United States ranks fourth among all nations for the most murders committed with guns annually. The US also ranks eighth among all nations in the world for most murders per capita annually with guns.

But in this context, the stats are deceiving–because there is additional information.

According to ‘The Armed Citizen’, “Studies indicate that firearms are used more than two million times a year for personal protection, and that the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevents crime in many instances. Shooting usually can be justified only where crime constitutes an immediate, imminent threat to life, limb, or, in some cases, property.” Recent instances of this noble use of guns–made available to citizens by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution–include Topeka, Kansas gas station owner Dean Yee using his gun to protect himself against two armed robbers who demanded money from him at gunpoint. Yee shot one robber and that caused the other one to flee. Had Yee not had his concealed weapon permit and his gun, he would very likely have been shot by the robbers–perhaps to death. These instances also include Las Vegas homeowner Raymond Hill, who was awakened in the night by his 12-year-old daughter and told by her that two armed men were breaking into their house. Hill loaded his weapon, called the police, then went downstairs and killed one of the burglars, who was coming into Hill’s house through a window from which he had removed the screen. The other burglar fled on a bicycle, but police nabbed him.

It is most logical to conclude that what the statistics about US gun murders really reveals is that if more Americans took advantage of their Second Amendment rights, violent crime rates would go down–not up.

Myth #5. The US needs to follow the lead of other Western nations like the UK and Australia and make just about every gun illegal to private citizens.

That would at least mostly rid the nation of all the Seung-Hui Cho threats, wouldn’t it? This is what a Factbites search came up with: “Ironically, both [Trent] Lott and Handgun Control acknowledge that the reams of gun control laws on the books in Washington and in all 50 states have been ineffective in eradicating mass shootings or preventing children from bringing weapons to school…Since Australia banned private ownership of most guns in 1996, crime has risen dramatically on that continent, prompting critics of U.S. gun control efforts to issue new warnings of what life in America could be like if Congress ever bans firearms.”

There is also something else to consider. The United States is not even placed among the top 48 nations of the world in terms of police per capita. It is far more logical to conclude that we need more police officers to enforce the laws that are already on the books, not more laws. More police with guns, in fact.

Myth #6. “Mass shootings have come to define our nation”, obviously because of the “easy access to increasingly lethal firearms that make mass killings possible.”

Josh Sugarmann’s irresponsible quote, which he stated as direct reflection on the Virginia Tech massacre, is not only void of statistical evidence, it does not fit the facts as they have been observed. While it’s true that mass shootings began happening more frequently than previously in the US in the 1960s, if such things have “come to define our nation”, then so have car accidents and plane crashes, and that would just have to be because far too many people are privileged to be able to drive or fly. Sugarmann’s quote is toxically emotional.

Turning to a search at Rapid Intelligence’s Factbites reveals the fact is that “Mass shootings essentially disappear in States that pass laws allowing qualified citizens to carry concealed handguns…So, to conclude, the facts are clear–more firearms in the hands of honest, responsible American citizens means the thugs on the streets commit less violent crimes, and the thugs in the government are less likely to assault the citizenry with storm trooper police state tactics of murder and genocide… it is lamentable that 30,000 Americans die yearly from firearms.”

Myth #7. This massacre proves that Americans have too many liberties and need to have their rights curtailed.

Cho was South Korean, not American, although he clearly had assimilated into American culture. Beyond that fact, let’s look at a couple of statistics at NationMaster.

Do you enjoy having the freedom to choose your own lifestyle (provided that you work for what you want)? Most people do. Let’s note that South Korea, the nation from which Cho came originally, is not among the leading nations for offering freedom of lifestyle choice; the US ranks second in the world, just barely behind Finland. In other words, the person who came from the more suppressive culture was the one who abused the freedom of decision making that US citizens enjoy. Another statistic at NationMaster shows forth that the worst mass shooting by an individual in American history was carried out by someone who had a background of significant cultural and economic suppression of freedom compared to what Americans enjoy. And keep in mind, he raged against “rich kids”–those with the privileges that he clearly coveted (and would have been able to enjoy for the rest of his life had he peacefully graduated from the American university he attended). Cho murdered because, in his darkened mind at least, he was prevented from having freedom–not because he had too much of it. While Cho was enjoying a life of upper middle class privilege, he clearly had the suppression and poverty of his boyhood years imprinted on his psyche–he considered himself a “have not” among “haves”.

Myth #8. Cho only did what he did because he was bullied by the privileged American rich kids who surrounded him; it was not really his fault, but the fault of the Americans who bring these things on themselves.

Virginia Tech is a good school, but it is not the Ivy League school that so many Korean parents covet for their children; and the students at Virginia Tech do not come from particularly affluent families. Cho’s parents were the owners of a $400,000 house that Cho grew up in later years; he would have to have been stretching his imagination a long way to believe that he was surrounded by super-wealthy white kids who were somehow unfairly advantaged or keeping him down. Cho had acquaintances among the white American students who went out of their way to try to include him in fun, college-student-type activities. Cho in fact accompanied them sometimes when they went out, and he would drink beer with them and engage in a game of tossing ping-pong balls into glasses of beer; he was apparently quite adept at it, too. But he played the games without expression.

Even before he went to the university, Cho was known to be sullen and quiet among his family. One thing he enjoyed a lot was playing video games–something he had in common with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the pair of killers at the Columbine high school massacre-shooting in 1999 whom Cho cited in his twisted manifesto as one of his inspirations. Cho had no history of being picked on except when he set himself up to be looked at strangely–such as by writing the disgusting plays he wrote for English class, or deliberately reading aloud English literature passes in a dark, guttural accent. Or writing down his name as “?”. Cho was mentally diseased long before he went to Virginia Tech. His outgoing older sister came out just fine–at an Ivy League school called Princeton, where she would have been surrounded by the sons and daughters of millionaires. If Cho had been so abused and scarred by America, then how come she hadn’t?

Myth #9. The gun shops that sold Cho his guns should have known better and should be held legally accountable and perhaps forced to shut down.

The FBI and the Virginia State Police concur that the local gun shop, Roanoke Firearms, acted in full compliance with the state and the federal law. A background check was performed and Seung-Hui Cho was found clean. Although Cho did have mental problems, he was not listed as a possible danger because he had never been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. When he was taken to a mental ward once, he was only held overnight, did not resist, and was deemed of sound (even if bleak) mind by a professional psychiatrist. This was in spite of the fact that a special justice had, in 2005, found Cho mentally ill.

The other gun shop, which sold Cho one of his weapons via the Internet, was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and it, too, filled out the right paperwork and did the background check that it was supposed to do.

While it is perfectly reasonable to consider revising the law so that it is more comprehensive (meaning Cho’s visit to the mental ward would have shown up in his record as would his having been found “mentally ill”), it is completely absurd to point a blaming finger at the gun shops. The businesses did exactly what the law says they are to do. Suing them or shutting them down will accomplish nothing except to harm the business owners and their employees.

Myth #10. Poor Seung-Hui Cho was deeply troubled. Somebody should have helped him when he was crying out for help, and then this would never have happened. We brought it on ourselves with our indifferent society.

There is nothing evidential to back up the notion that Cho was deeply troubled by anything other than his own self-centeredness. Cho was not a victim of anything or anyone. In the words of one of his former poetry and creative writing professors, Cho “was just mean”. She goes on to say, “We’re talking about [his being a victim] and crap like that, but troubled youngsters get drunk and jump off buildings; troubled youngsters drink and drive…I’ve taught crazy people…It was the meanness that bothered me…[In his writings] the threats seemed to be underneath the surface.”

If anything, the United States needs to wake up to the realization that there are mean young people out there, full of self-centered anger for no good reason, and they neither need nor want “help”. They need to be straightened out.

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