Don Kates' take on the tragedy
It's in extended remarks below. Insightful, as usual.
THE VA TECH KILLER AND THE ABERRANCE OF HOMICIDE (AND MASSACRE) PERPETRATORS
The futility of trying to reduce violence by trying to ban guns to the
general population is virtually self-evident. There is an inverse
correlation between who it is most desirable to disarm and who will obey
the ban. That is to say, compliance will come only from law abiding,
responsible adults whom there is no need to disarm while the dangerous
people who should be disarmed will not comply.
To deal with this virtually self-evident problem, anti-gun advocates
have constructed a canard: That "most murders" are committed by ordinary
people just because they had a gun which they used in a moment of
ungovernable rage. For example, Professor Frank Vandall reiterates and
endorses law professor/anti-gun activist David Kairys’ assertion "That
gun in the closet to protect against burglars will most likely be used
to shoot a spouse in a moment of rage....The problem is you and me --
law-abiding folks." To the same effect he quotes leading medical
anti-gun activist Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, claiming that "most
shootings are not committed by felons or mentally ill people, but are
acts of passion that are committed using a handgun that is owned for
These assertions fly in the face of studies of homicide perpetrators
dating back as far as the 19th Century. These studies show that
murderers are virtually never ordinary folks. Rather they are extreme
aberrants with life histories of prior violence, prior arrests and
convictions, substance abuse, psychopathology, etc. Over 90% of adult
murderers have criminal records; over 95% have prior violence records;
40% or more of domestic murderers have had restraining orders issued
against them. These facts apply to massacre perpetrators as well as to
the perpetrators of ordinary murders. (Anyone who is interested in a
collection and discussion of these studies and data may write to me
[firstname.lastname@example.org] for an electronic copy of the "Virgin Killer"
paper which Dean Polsby and I presented at the 2002 annual meeting of
the American Society of Criminology. You must specify whether you want
it in the Word version or the WordPerfect.)
THE VA TECH KILLER
The facts now emerging as to Mr. Cho epitomize the foregoing. Like over
90% of adult murderers he had previously been arrested, in his case for
stalking two separate women both of whom had reported him for it.
Unfortunately, and all too typically, his case was not carried through
to a conviction which would have prevented him from legally buying guns.
Instead the authorities asked for, and received, a temporary commitment
order from a judge who found that Cho was a danger to himself and
others. But this order was never carried out because Cho voluntarily
committed himself. And the overworked psychiatric facility eventually
released him onto the public.
Note incidentally that there is no issue here (or in most other murders)
of someone just snapping under a momentary rage. Cho apparently bought
the guns for the purpose of murder. Having killed his first two victims
he went back to his dormitory apparently thought it over for a couple of
hours and then emerged to kill 30 more.