Controlling the threat

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Controlling the threat

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In my opinion
By: Elon Glucklich | Opinion Editor
Issue date: 4/23/07 Section: Commentary

The list of communities stricken by gun violence rings out like a grim roll call - it's best left out of mind, if possible. But now there is no such luxury; we find it back in the spotlight, following last week's tragic shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.

People raised around here know this all too well. In 1998 Kip Kinkel, then 15, walked into the Thurston High School cafeteria in Springfield with a semiautomatic rifle. By the time he was apprehended, he had killed two students and left 25 wounded.

In Blacksburg, VA, 33 people are dead, and an entire community finds itself grappling with feelings of grief and shock. And I sit here, 3,000 miles away, trying to sort through it all for some meaning. I could recount the tragedy, minute by minute. I could try to psychoanalyze the shooter - look into his past and try to figure out what drove him to such a depraved act. But what good would that do? All that there is to say has already been said. Besides, none of it really matters. He and 32 of his classmates are dead because of his actions. Nothing is going to change that.

But have times changed? Look at the past ten years: Springfield, Columbine, Colo., Red Lake, Minn., Lancaster, Calif. and a slew of others are still fresh in the nation's mind. Now, as members of the Virginia Tech community try to sort through their anger and pain, the rest of the country begins to ask questions. Are there too many guns on the street? Are we in the midst of an irreversible moral decline? Should we prepare for more incidents like this? Certainly it will happen again. When, where and to what capacity is anyone's guess, but it will happen again.

In the meantime, we must not be afraid to ask these difficult questions - questions that cut through the unbridled emotions of the present in hopes of finding some reason, some underlying cause as to why this happened, and how such an event can be prevented in the future. Every incident of this kind has two main components: The unstable individual and the weapon. Determining who has the capacity to take lives is nearly impossible. Furthermore, when a potential shooter decides they no longer have the will to live, there's really no stopping them. I mean, how do you deter someone who, like Seung-Hui Cho, has already embraced death?

The answer: You take away their guns. Of course, that answer raises a whole new set of questions. In the wake of this tragedy, some advocates have renewed their efforts to bring the gun control issue back into the spotlight. But gun rights advocates, led by the National Rifle Association and backed by the Second Amendment, have been quick to counter. Their argument is that gun control legislation will leave our criminals as the only ones with weapons.

But when you examine Cho's mental history (he was deemed "an imminent danger" to himself and others as recently as 2005), and the ease with which he came to legally obtain a 9 mm Glock and a .22-caliber pistol, it becomes clear that more stringent gun control is needed. Besides, what exactly defines a criminal? Cho wasn't a criminal when he walked to the pawnshop across the street from the Virginia Tech campus and purchased that .22. What we need are more thorough background checks to ensure that criminals are not the only people exempt from buying weapons; people with the capacity to resort to criminal acts must be exempt, too. And yet, as the Second Amendment and its unwavering supporters make abundantly clear, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The Second Amendment used to make a lot of sense. When I say "used to" I mean about 200 years ago. The United States of America was a lot different back then. Its inhabitants lived under the constant threat of conquest: England and France occupied land to the north, the Spanish lay in the south, and all around were Native Americans; it's easy to see why an early American's life was steeped in fear.

I guess, in a lot of ways, we're just like those early Americans. We're all just as scared. But while our early ancestors lived in fear of outsiders, we fear each other. This is a different America we're living in. We don't like to admit it, but the rugged individualism that defined our frontier forefathers is largely a thing of the past. Still, many choose to cling to this old mentality - a mentality so interwoven with gun obsession that the two are practically indistinguishable.

In the meantime, the guns are still here. And the violence is still here. Complaining about them isn't going to make either go away - especially when a lot of people believe the answer to stopping gun violence is to give people more guns. Maybe we as a society are just desensitized to guns. Maybe we need to re-sensitize ourselves.

eglucklich@dailyemerald.com

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Original Source: Daily Emerald
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Elon Glucklich

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2008-02-19

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Kacey Beddoes

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Judy Riedl <jriedl@uoregon.edu>

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eng

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Elon Glucklich, "Controlling the threat," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1729, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1729 (accessed December 19, 2014).