Today I received
half a dozen frenzied calls, all from people quite panicked and
stricken with fear, and all of whom shared one thing in common:
they know my nephew is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, or VPI as those
of us who grew up in Virginia still call it.
morning a man with a gun opened fire and killed upwards of 30 innocent
people, apparently at random, at the Tech campus. (The details
of the tragedy are still coming in, at the time of this writing,
Monday afternoon, 4/16/07). Before the local police killed the
shooter, he managed to spread terror in two different dorms and
the engineering building, the latter for which Tech is famous.
When I first
heard the news from my father in South Carolina, I was not alarmed.
Not as alarmed as I was in September, when another shooting incident
happened at Tech when a convict escaped and killed a man on campus.
Back in September, which incidentally happed to be the first day
of school, the incident was an anomaly.
time around, I thought to myself, as I was being given the news
that yet another gunman was on the loose at Tech, students will
have armed themselves after such a diabolical incident at the beginning
of the Fall semester of '06.
I made the
irrational assumption that the students who hunt, (Blacksburg is
located in excellent duck and deer country, having been born in
nearby Roanoke), would either bring their hunting guns to campus
after Christmas break — sorry "Winter Break", and keep
them on hand and ready, prepared for the dim chance that another
shooting incident would happen at the beautiful Tech campus.
folks, I assumed, would head on down to the local gun shop, either
at home or in Blacksburg, and buy them selves a .30/'06, a .30-30,
or maybe a Remington 1100 and keep it stashed somewhere in their
dorm with the improbable prospect that another shooter would rampage
But the casualties
continued to mount throughout the morning. Here in my office in
New York, I kept checking in with the CNN website. I managed to
see some footage at the bank where CNN was on. New York news radio
reported live from the scene.
But it only
got worse. Students kept getting killed. When is this horror going
to end? Why is nobody on campus taking charge of this and dropping
this mad man with a shot? Where are the hunters, and why aren't
they taking this idiot out? Where are the regular Americans who
were brought up with guns — the great grandsons of Confederate veterans
who rose up out of the Virginia clay like their grandparents and
enrolled at Tech. WHY AREN'T THEY SHOOTING AT THIS GUY?!
When I was
in college, further south and twenty years earlier than my nephew,
we all had guns in the dorm and later, our houses off campus. I
recall an incident one night during my junior year, when my friends
and I were drinking beer and cleaning our guns, and as college students
who have been drinking beer are prone to do, we ordered pizza. The
delivery man came, and was shocked — shocked at the horrible scene
laid out before his apparently yankee eyes — several men in their
early twenties cleaning guns, drinking beer, talking politics, and
generally having one hell of a good time.
our own shock when a half hour later a local policeman knocked on
the door and said it was his duty to investigate a report of "guns
and alcohol in the dorms."
ended with the policeman giving us duck hunting and shooting tips
on the local river, and inspecting the quality of our cleaning jobs
on the various guns. (Incidentally, one was an AR 15, the civilian
version of the M 16, and is not, and never will be, used for hunting).
morning I went to the BBC website which catalogued the incidents
of killings in American schools. The presentation seemed smug. The
detail went all the way back to 1997 and ended with this morning's
British need to take a look at the current and ever-changing gun
laws in this country, and ask themselves, why do so many shootings
seem to take place in our schools? Why have there been eighteen
separate incidents of people with guns killing innocents in schools
lies in the gun laws themselves. Schools are one of the best places
to commit murder with a gun because guns are not allowed in schools.
Criminals with the intention of killing in a school know they will
be unmolested until the police are called and the criminal eventually
shot. This allows ample time to invoke tragedy on countless families,
just as the horrific events this morning in Blacksburg.
And yes, my
nephew is okay. I talked to him after lunch. He was driving back
stunned to North Carolina without his gun. His 12-gauge is still
at his parent's house because current school rules prohibit students
from bringing guns to campus.
LJ Clarke [send him
mail] is businessman in Manhattan. He is a native of Virginia,
and avid marathon runner and duck hunter.