Foreshadowing Tragedy at Virginia Tech
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one."
– Thomas Jefferson, Quoting Cesare Beccari’s "On Crimes and Punishment"
Shakespeare would have been proud of the foreshadowing in the tragedy that culminated in the cold-blooded murder of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech on Monday. Two years earlier, a seemingly innocent mistake led the University to literally disarm its students and set them up as the defenseless victims for the insanity that the Korean immigrant student Cho Seung-hui would bring to campus in the form of semi-automatic pistols and a vest full of magazines.
The Roanoke Times reported in 2005 that a student with a valid Virginia state concealed handgun permit brought a gun to class and the school punished him when he was caught. The incident sparked a discussion of whether guns, should be allowed on campus. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police took the stance guns had no place on campus, even when carried with a permit.
Prosecutor and State Assembly Delegate Todd Gilbert drafted a bill to guarantee the right to carry on state university campuses. Virginia Tech fought the idea and won.
On January 31, 2006, The Roanake Times reported, "A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly."
In August of last year, an accused armed robber named William Morva escaped custody by killing a hospital security guard and while on the run killed a sheriff’s deputy near Virginia Tech. Graduate Student Bradford Wiles was sitting in a classroom at the University when all classes were cancelled, campus was closed down and students evacuated.
Wiles said this in August 2006: “We were interrupted in class and not informed of anything other than the following words: ‘You need to get out of the building.’ Upon exiting the classroom, we were met at the doors leading outside by two armor-clad policemen with fully automatic weapons, plus their side arms. Once outside, there were several more officers with either fully automatic rifles and pump shotguns, and policemen running down the street, pistols drawn.”
The Roanoke Times published Wiles’ commentary in which he argued that he didn’t want to trust his safety or security entirely to police and that he didn’t want to forfeit his entire academic career by violating the University’s rules against concealed carry.
Wiles next words seemed to nearly anticipate the deadly arrival of the killer Cho Seung-hui still seven months away.
He wrote, “I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun and urge you to work with me to allow my most basic right of self-defense, and eliminate my entrusting my safety and the safety of my classmates to the government."
But the University, fresh from its victory in the State Assembly seven months before was uncompromising. Spokesman and University Vice-President Larry Hincker answered the grad student with a published commentary making a promise he should have known the school could never guarantee.
Hincker wrote, “The writer would have us believe that a university campus, with tens of thousands of young people, is safer with everyone packing heat. Guns don’t belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."
On Monday of this week Hincker was trying to explain to news crews from all over the United States how a murderer had managed to bring not one, but two guns to campus. Those reporters either didn’t know about Hincker’s “very sound policy preventing (guns in classrooms)” or didn’t think it was politic to ask how the deadly South Korean English major had managed to buy the two guns and apparently keep them in the on-campus dorm where he lived.
"He was a loner, and we’re having difficulty finding information about him," Hincker said.
I do seven hours of live talk radio every day, and was willing to give Hincker the time to explain how his policy forbidding concealed carry of weapons by law abiding students had done the campus no good on Monday. But Hincker’s voicemail was full and he wasn’t answering email.
I reached Wiles by phone as he left the memorial convocation held Tuesday afternoon as the university grieved.
Wiles said, "I think it’s quite clear that the university’s policy makes you choose between your education and your life. To me this is what you get from gun control you get places where people can inflict the most amount of damage with the least risk of armed resistance and people now that and they target schools because they know they can get the most devastation with fear of reprisal and I would like to see law abiding citizens be able to protect themselves from those who have no regard for the law."
Wiles told me live, on the air that he had been scheduled to meet his academic advisor on campus Monday when the shooting happened, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute.
It turns out that the killer had been on the same kind of anti depressant medication that we’ve come to associate with too many of America’s mass shootings in recent years. His creative writing assignments were so disturbing that his professor referred him for psychological counseling. He was suspected of arson in a dorm room and of stalking co-eds. But in the tolerant, politically correct environment the education elite has created on campuses all over America…why worry?
In 2006, after the first incident, Wiles said, "I would also like to point out that when I mentioned to a professor that I would feel safer with my gun, this is what she said to me, "I would feel safer if you had your gun."
Wiles tells me he lost a professor friend on Monday as well. He was an Israeli in his 70’s who had survived the holocaust and immigrated to America to teach. Liviu Librescu blocked a doorway with his body so his students could escape out a window. A hail of gunfire ended his life.
"To know that the university took a very active role in preventing people from arming themselves, it’s heartbreaking," he said.