Have We Really Learned So Little?

April 16th of this year began as any normal day on the campus of Virginia Tech.  As I remember it, the weather was nice; warm and sunny but had yet to descend into the oppressive heat and humidity that would come in later months.  Students were heading to classes, finals looming in the near future, but that ordeal would be followed by the reward of a summer break, friends, family, and thankfully no school work.

No one at the time knew the horror that awaited them.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year old Senior, engaged in a murder rampage that morning, in the end ending the lives of over thirty students and faculty members before taking his own life.  It was a tragedy that scarred more than just the families of those who had fallen, but also the humble state of Virginia as a whole, as well as the country.

As far as I know that was the single deadliest school shooting in our nation’s history, an absolutely surreal stat when you stop to think about it.

Later, we would learn that Cho had been psychologically evaluated and deemed by a judge that he was a “danger to self and others”.  Despite this, he received virtually no mental health care, and when he purchased the guns used in the shootings, he slipped through what turned out to be a particularly deadly and traggic loophole.

Since then, Governor Tim Kaine has moved to close that loophole, but now, as we are four and a half months out, it seems we’ve already forgotten the lessons of this terrible tragedy.

I refer to, of course, the refusal of Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to sign onto a bill that would require veterans to be mentally screened for suicide risk, for, of all reasons, the risk it might pose in that veteran to attain a gun later in life.

Now, before anyone goes off on the deep end, I am not implying that veterans are going to leave the military and go on wholesale killing sprees.  Nor am I saying that the Virginia Tech slayings and the situation with the military here is completely analogous.  However, there are some similitaries that are incredibly important to look at.

The key issue in the Va Tech slayings was the fact that Cho was (correctly) identified as a threat to self and others, and yet despite this, was still able to go buy a gun as easy as anything.  Then, with that gun, he proved the psychological assessment of himself to be spot on.  There were many critical failures in Cho’s case, some developmental and societal, however the most direct and immediate failure occured there.

Someone who was on the record as being a risk was allowed to purchase a gun.

With military suicides on the rise, PTSD, and other mental maladies occurring as a result from a confusing and complex prolongued urban campaign create an atmosphere wherein a small but significant percentage of members of the military are in need of psychological help.  I think the least we can do is screen them and provide the assistance necessary when needed.

That’s that.

And if someone is designated as a danger to self and/or others, if his ability to purchase a gun is hampered as a result, doesn’t that make sense, actually?  Isn’t that a lesson we’ve learned already?

Look, you guys should know my stance on gun control.  I don’t want to ban guns, nor have I ever wanted to ban guns.  I don’t understand people’s fascination with them, but some people don’t understand my fascination with guitars  or gummi bears.  That just happens.  I don’t think the second ammendment gives blanket power for everyone to own a gun for any reason, but at the same time I have no desire to infringe upon the rights of folks to own guns, so long as we execute this right responsibly.

And I’m sorry, giving someone who is listed as a suicide risk free reign to buy a gun just doesn’t strike me as responsible.  Am I wrong on this?

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