Upping The Columbine Ante

On Monday (April 16th), my wife and I were in a local coffee shop when, shortly before, all hell broke loose at Virginia Tech. What was to be a relaxing morning of sipping coffee and engaging in quiet conversation with each other (a prized commodity these days for us), turned into a mouth-gaping quiet horror as we watched the drama unfold live on one of the major news channels that the coffee shop big-screen had running. People came and went in the shop (which its owner-roasted coffees top the nationals — sorry, Starbucks!), and no matter if they were there to sit with free Wi-Fi and work, or whether they were just stopping in for a quick cup of java-to-go, it seemed everyone had his or her eyes glued to the screens. Even one of the employees was overheard to be upset over the fact that one of her friends attends Virginia Tech and she was worried if her friend was among the living or one of the then rapidly-changing numbers of dead.

It seemed as if the whole world stopped for that Monday morning, transfixed on the actions of at least one “postal”-minded shooter taking out scores of kids for even now unknown reasons. Did we just give this bozo what he wanted, in international media spotlight and worldwide audience attention? Or was he even thinking that millions upon millions of civilized people around the world would be mesmerized by his actions when he picked up his subtly-gotten weapons and had at it?

My wife and I sat there, and I couldn’t help thinking that this guy was just upping the Columbine ante… for years, we’ve been consumed by greater protection in our high schools, especially after horrible incidents that are burned with instantly-recognizable names in the collective consciousness of the nation: Columbine, Red Lake, Jonesboro… But these were high school kids, they shouldn’t be handling weapons anyway. This wasn’t a college shooting.

That happened later. With the Dawson College (Canada) shooting last year, we seemed to graduate young Mr. Shootist from high school and place him firmly into college. The shooting at Virginia Tech, among other things, seemed to recall the 1966 University of Texas-Austin shooting, just at a time when we perhaps looked back and said “it can’t happen here” and went on our merry ways.

Go figure that the media would blow out of proportion Internet rumours about the pro-gun NRA lobby’s position on the shooting, just at the time when it should have been time to pause the debate and grieve for those lost. Even Mr Murdoch’s own News Corp. holdings had jumped into that raucous discussion, and later with collective red-face backed off the story when they found out it was as much of an Internet snope-hunt as the one about Starbucks defiantly refusing to send coffee to our troops in Iraq (if you still believe that one, there’s some property in Florida I’d LOVE to sell ya).

Now don’t get me wrong… I am very much a proponent of the Second Amendment, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms – with my personal caveat of those arms being kept for self-defence and for pure “sport”, such as animal/game hunting. But in light of the Seung-hui Cho’s apparent ease of obtaining weapons with which he ultimately did the OTHER “dirty deed”, and let’s not forget the local Pittsburgh, PA, area problem of state representative Bob Regola and his son being firmly in the middle of a teen suicide in which Regola’s gun was the deadly weapon, there needs to be in this country much LESS political side-stepping over the issue, and much MORE honest, fruitful discussion about how guns can be kept at a minimum in the hands of the criminal and the mentally disturbed.

I recalled in the past several days through the mountains of audio and print media discussion over Virginia Tech, that it was said one of Cho’s teachers had recognised a disturbing trend in Cho’s class writings, and when she reported this to school officials, it was basically fluffed off as irrelevant, in the light of the fact that Cho as of yet hadn’t “done anything”. Brilliant. Just allow nut-jobs to obtains deadly weapons, then wait for them to do something before we slap their hands saying “no-no” or allowing some SWAT junkie to whack them down.

No, what needed to happen there, was for this young man to have been “told on” to the Virginia State Police, who then should have monitored this kid just like the Feds monitor suspected terrorists without our knowledge or consent. C’mon, if it’s good enough for the FBI to be listening into peoples’ phone conversations because they suspect they’re going to hijack the next plane-bomb, why can’t they do the same with students suspected by their teachers of harbouring some killing-spree rage inside them? And if after some type of evaluation, psychological or otherwise, they’re shown to be wrong, we give them an apology and a hefty credit for their next year’s tax return.

But to sit idly by, saying “sorry he didn’t do anything yet” is the same as some standing below Two World Trade Center, watching the plane hitting the building, and saying, “gee, maybe we should call the fire department or something.”

Well, DUH.