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Thursday, February 20

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Mikey / February 15, 2008 11:38 AM

As an NIU alum, here's my take:

Nothing can effectively be done to stop this trend. At least not unless you want to live in a police state, and even then...

Sure, people are going to add to this post and suggest tougher gun regulations, improved healthcare for the mentally ill, metal detectors in all public institutions, etc. But ultimately, it's just like terrorism--if somebody is really hellbent on death and destruction, they will always find a way...

All we can do is continue to live our lives without fear, and pray that we or our loved ones never find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time...

My condolences to the families and friends of the victims and the shooter...

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 11:45 AM

While it is impossible to stuff this particular genie back in the bottle, I think that the 24 hour news cycle and the morbid media circus that surround these events does nothing but give disaffected lunatics some pretty dangerous ideas. Any ideas on this? Really, I'm sort of asking?
I also just unfortunately think that we have a society that is sort of collectively mentally ill, with terrible priorities, and a distinct lack of compassion.
I just think that these types of shootings are symptoms of such broad and deeply entrenched problems that we kind of need to, as Mikey sort of mentions, just live our lives , keep a heads up, and hope for the best.

jennifer / February 15, 2008 11:51 AM

how do you answer this sort of question? it is frightening that education institutions are the sites of so many of these incidents, esp. as I am a grad student on a large campus. I don't know what my university's protocol is for this kind of situation.

this might be a bit of the standard response, but what about tightening gun laws? granted that this won't prevent all shooting incidents, but it would have to have some effect on the ease of getting a gun in our country. I wonder if any of the candidates in the '08 general election will touch on this issue.

Hal / February 15, 2008 11:57 AM

"But ultimately, it's just like terrorism--if somebody is really hellbent on death and destruction, they will always find a way..."

True enough, but the more opportunities you weed out through the tougher gun regulations and improved healthcare for the mentally ill you mention, the smaller the pool of the hellbent will be.

I think with four incidents in one week, even simply reducing the level would be a win.

Daniel / February 15, 2008 11:58 AM

I don't think anything can be done, really. How can any campus, especially one with over 25,000 students, be safe?

I just hope we won't see campus architects reverting back to the old "riot-proof" designs of the mid-to-late 1960s.

Ben / February 15, 2008 12:05 PM

As someone who comes from the UK, where gun ownership is pretty much zero, I am always puzzled by people in the US who wring their hands and wonder what can possibly be done to prevent school shootings.

There has been exactly one school shooting in UK history (Dunblane) and it is regarded as an anomaly. Here, by contrast, it's always shocking but no longer particularly surprising, when we hear of yet another one -- or four in one week, as we saw recently.

So, yeah, if you were serious about keeping this from happening again (and again, and again) in the future, you'd simply take away guns. But good luck getting elected on that platform -- they'd laugh you off the ballots.

To borrow the NRA's famous phrase, there are a lot of "cold dead hands" in Dekalb today.

And will there be more? Do you even need to ask?

Meh... / February 15, 2008 12:06 PM

But ultimately, it's just like terrorism--if somebody is really hellbent on death and destruction, they will always find a way...

True enough, but how about making it harder for guys this like to "find a way", i.e. slow down the proliferation of guns? This guy went off his meds and bought a gun a week or so before this incident (according to news reports). Fine, if he's "hellbent", take the easily availability of guns out of his hands and let him study chemistry or something for a year if he wants to destroy people.

All we can do is continue to live our lives without fear, and pray that we or our loved ones never find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time...

That's all we can do? You sure? Damn, that sounds kind of weak (no offense). You sure we can't do more than just pray?

P.s. I'm not "anti-gun", more like "anti-so-many-damn-guns".

Ben / February 15, 2008 12:07 PM

(And yes, there are always going to be unhinged and unmedicated people, but if all they could get their hands on was a knife, things would be quite different -- do you have any idea how hard it is to go on a stabbing spree in a crowded lecture hall?)

Mikey / February 15, 2008 12:15 PM

Although, I would agree that cutting down on the number of guns out there would be a good thing, if somebody has the inclination to carry out a mass murder, tougher gun regulations will not stop them. The guy bought two of the guns a week ago--this was planned out, as in premeditated. At best, you could have only delayed the inevitable. It's not like we can send out task forces to make sure that everybody on psychiatric meds is taking them daily as prescribed. Just as was the case with that model who drove her car into oncoming traffic and killed those four guys, if somebody is that suicidal, they could really care less about anyone they happen to take down with them...

Spook / February 15, 2008 12:38 PM

We live in a rapidly increasing anti intellectual gangster violent culture from our water boarding president and congress to our get rich or die trying come what may corporate board rooms. These shock waves permeate every sector of our society that grows increasingly tuned out and ignorant.
Until it we are willing to “get real” about ourselves and have some painful conversations about who we are starting from our landing on Plymouth Rock, things well not change.

Meh... / February 15, 2008 12:42 PM

Well, not to turn this into a one-on-one personal debate, but...

...if somebody has the inclination to carry out a mass murder, tougher gun regulations will not stop them.

Why not? If it's very tough to get a gun, then they most likely won't get a gun. It's tough to get a tank for your personal use, so I guess that's why we don't see teenagers blowing up their high schools with mortar fire.

But I do agree with you that if someone wants to off themselves and others, they'll find a way to do it. Let's just make it tougher to do so.

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 12:45 PM

To play devil's advocate a bit, why not try to stem the tide of shootings like these by INCREASING access to firearms for defensive purposes by allowing well-vetted, law abiding citizens to carry? While of course there are studies on boths sides of this issue, there is a fair ammount of statistical evidences that this works. Hypothetically, what if there was a legally armed person, perhaps a former LEO, sitting in the front row of that auditorium? The gunman would have accomplished his apparent goal (suicide) without the collateral damage, or without as much.
Chicago doesn't allow private handgun ownership, yet last year there were, oh, around 400 handgun deaths. A lot of other statistical evidence indicates that stricter gun control laws do little, if anything, to curb GUN violence, and in some cases seem to correspond to an increase in OVERALL violent crimes. When you start talking about banning or restricting guns, it just sounds a lot like the war on drugs, which we all know has worked out so swimmingly.

Justin / February 15, 2008 12:47 PM

We might shift our cultural ethic from personal fulfillment to community -- solipsism to ubuntu.

I recognize how simpleminded and laughable this sounds. It shouldn't.

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 12:49 PM

And while usually I think that Spook is kind of a kook, I think he (she??) is really onto something here. I think it is hard for the individual to be a better person when so much of our society is just downright callous and hostile.

eric / February 15, 2008 12:57 PM

Taking away guns would reduce the number of gun killings. Then some but not all of the would-be shooting spree people might turn to making suicide bomb vests. The number of events would probably go down. But the number of deaths may not be reduced - you can kill more with a bomb in a crowded place.

These shooters were at the end of their rope, somehow painted into a corner, deep in some kind of story about how they were out of options. I have to believe that if they were shown compassion and listened to well before things became dire, then the likelihood of a shooting spree goes way down.

Andrew / February 15, 2008 12:57 PM

I know you're playing devil's advocate, but the "increased access" deterrent theory just doesn't work. You can look to North Africa, the Middle East and the slums of Brazil and Argentina to see that increased access to guns just leads to increased gun violence.

eric / February 15, 2008 1:09 PM

increased access to guns just leads to increased gun violence

Yes, because more people inclined to shoot people would have guns in their hands. Of those that don't want to shoot other people, very few will want to play vigilante enforcer.

eric / February 15, 2008 1:11 PM

I have to believe that if they were shown compassion and listened to well before things became dire, then the likelihood of a shooting spree goes way down.

Oi, I absolutely massacred the tense.

Pedro / February 15, 2008 1:16 PM

You know, the first week I was at school in London, there was some nut who walked into a church and started hacking people to pieces with a samurai sword. Its not about the means, its about the end.

Personally, I think the media has some degree of complicity on these shootings. Endless TV coverage provides a platform, and nothing gets ratings like violence.

Eamon / February 15, 2008 1:21 PM

I love guns (and have even recently taken up hunting), but the simple fact is that we need stricter gun control. Period.

Justin / February 15, 2008 1:29 PM

Endless TV coverage provides a platform, and nothing gets ratings like violence.

And celebrity foibles and athletes' salaries.

The viewers responsible for these ratings (i.e. us) have a high degree of complicity in what makes the news. The media profit off violence and we enrich them by demanding coverage.

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 2:00 PM

Andrew, I don't think you really can compare those places. The problem is you are comparing apples to oranges. The slums of Argentina and Brazil arguably have some of the worlds most intractable socio-economic problems in the world, and North Africa and the Middle East are regions that are arguably in the midst of war, plain and simple. How can you compare that to a society that, for all the emphasis on things like this, is still a reasonably well-behaved and civil nation? I am certainly not advocating widespread black market availability of firearms (something that is kind of already reality, and certainly the situation in the regions you are trying to draw comparisons to) but positing that maybe increased availability of defensive firearms TO WELL VETTED, LAW ABIDING citizens might be an interesting experiment. Crime happens for many reasons, socio-economic factors, straight up mental deficiencies, etc, etc. All of these factors remaining the same in the US, do you really think you can say, without any empirical evidence, that increasing the number of people capable of defending themselves and others would decrease the safety of society as a whole? I ain't saying I'm right, but I haven't seen any really well thought out counterarguments either.

Mikey / February 15, 2008 2:07 PM

@Dutch101

It might be interesting to test your theory as it relates to common crimimals and everyday crime (i.e. robbery, rape, assault, etc.), but certainly arming citizens would not be a deterrent as it relates to mass shooters. These people are already planning on either taking their own lives or going down in a hail of cops' bullets anyway...

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 2:07 PM

I also would like to just throw it out there, does anyone have any real suggestions for better gun control laws? I mean just generally? There is already a huge black market in firearms in the US that is already, theoretically illegal. Just saying, "We need less guns," or "Make it harder to get guns," is kind of like a beauty queen saying that she wants world peace; a nice sentiment, but pretty short on substance.

Justin / February 15, 2008 2:11 PM

Dutch101, the gunman at NIU was by most accounts a "well vetted, law abiding citizen" who purchased his guns legally.

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 2:15 PM

With someone like this person, from what I can gather from the various media sources, you wouldn't be trying to deter, you would be trying to stop, plain and simple, hopefully before they kill or hurt innocent people.
It sucks too, and I think this is where the media comes into it. Even 20 years ago, I suspect that someone like this would have quietly blown their own head off and saved about 20 families a lot of pain. I just don't know what has changed in our society that makes this sort of lunacy a viable option.

Dutch101 / February 15, 2008 2:19 PM

Justin, I don't know how well vetted he was, but he was, seemingly, a law abiding citizen, you are right. But given the fact that there is pretty much no way, legally or socially, that you are going to somehow "take" guns from owners that already have them, or end gun sales altogether, what do you propose to do?

steven / February 15, 2008 2:52 PM

As mentioned above, the 24 hour news cycle doesn't help. Sure, it gives much needed focus on issues surrounding the tragedy, and the tragedy itself, but it unfortunately also gives some unstable people ideas. But anything can do that...we can't just blame the news.

Can it be stopped from ever happening again? As we've seen over the years, the answer is no. People will always find a way. But what we can do is react as quickly and efficiently as possible, as the security force at NIU did.

Justin / February 15, 2008 3:05 PM

Dutch101, I was in Denver the week after the Columbine shootings. I joined the anti-NRA march on the Adams Mark hotel, the one depicted in Bowling for Columbine. I kept a flier announcing the march and a corrugated sign that reads, "Shame on the NRA." I remember the front page of the Rocky Mountain the day after Daniel Mauser's father removed from the hilltop memorial the two crosses for the gunmen, and I won't forget Mr. Mauser's face as he passed me, hard and indignant. I was also angry that the National Rifle Association defiantly refused to in any way alter their planned convention. Their tenacity struck me as juvenile: no sympathy, no tact. Out came the beloved, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," and, effectively, "We're holding our damn convention."

Personally, I no more support the NRA than Michael Moore. On the other hand, I sympathized with both the father who removed the crosses and the human beings whose reprehensible act took the lives of 12 other humans. Fresh out of a miserable high school experience that left me traumatized for years, I could imagine what drove Klebold and Harris to pure destruction. I at least saw my bullies' humanity, idiots that they were, and lived with the hope that the world was bigger than my hometown. I got out, and I was right.

Let's not talk about guns. It only pisses people off. Let's talk about what makes shooting others an OK thing to do, and how we stop that.

What I propose is hard because we 're bred narcissists. I propose giving a shit about others. Until the bullets fly, we don't, and suddenly it's tears, songs, and prayers. "Never again," right?

It took years of being stuck in traffic jams for me to realize my car was part of the problem.

Carrie / February 15, 2008 3:40 PM

I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately, but haven't been able to come up with much. I was actually composing an email to lawmakers to see what their plans are because this can't keep happening. Whether one person is dead or 30, it should not happen.

Would we be able to limit the number of guns bought at once or in a one year period? It might sound dumb, but if someone had only one weapon to do damage with, then maybe the end results of these incidents wouldn't end so badly.

Could we reduce the variety of guns available? There's a good chance that most citizens don't need an automatic machine gun with 100 rounds in it, ya know? Guns for protection, 10 rounds? Hunting guns, a few more? (how many do they even usually have?)Less rounds means less bullets before needing to take a break and reload, which would give victims more time to run.
-I'm trying to be realistic b/c I know that we won't simply stop selling guns and I doubt that this is the last school/public place shooting-

Rubber bullets? They hurt and will knock people down, but most likely won't kill...

And I'm sure many of you will say it's not as simple as this and we can't take rights away, which I get, but hey, change needs to start somewhere and somehow. It's better than the Presidents idea of sending blessings.

C-Note / February 15, 2008 4:07 PM

I get into this discussion all the time. I think it's ironic that in Chicago, the city with the second most-restrictive gun laws in the country, people still like to go on saying "we need stricter gun laws." And I say, OK, but there's at least three problems, aside from the fact that we already have extremely restrictive gun laws: (1) the same document that gives Congress the power to make laws says that the people have a right to bear arms that Congress can't take away; (2) the obvious effect is to leave guns only in the hands of police and criminals, as guns are generally made of metal, and do not disintegrate quickly if properly taken care of (Chicago as a case-in-point); and (3) your Supreme Court is about to go in the opposite direction on the 2nd Amendment, and I'm taking straight bets the Chicago gun laws will have to become LESS restrictive.

Not only that, but it's not as if people decide not to kill their classmates because they can't get guns. It's because they're SANE. We are talking about desperate acts by insane people, not law-abiding gun ownership by sane people. Over-legislation is a classic knee-jerk reaction, and I ask you whether you want the same people that brought you draconian mandatory drug sentencing to give you laws that will, in effect, leave you at the mercy of criminals and police. I realize statists might not have as much of a problem with that as I do.

So, like Dutch101, I ask you, since the easy "solution" of "more laws" doesn't have a chance in hell, what are you going to DO about it? Government cannot, and will not fix all your problems, even the major ones.

C-Note / February 15, 2008 4:08 PM

I get into this discussion all the time. I think it's ironic that in Chicago, the city with the second most-restrictive gun laws in the country, people still like to go on saying "we need stricter gun laws." And I say, OK, but there's at least three problems, aside from the fact that we already have extremely restrictive gun laws: (1) the same document that gives Congress the power to make laws says that the people have a right to bear arms that Congress can't take away; (2) the obvious effect is to leave guns only in the hands of police and criminals, as guns are generally made of metal, and do not disintegrate quickly if properly taken care of (Chicago as a case-in-point); and (3) your Supreme Court is about to go in the opposite direction on the 2nd Amendment, and I'm taking straight bets the Chicago gun laws will have to become LESS restrictive.

Not only that, but it's not as if people decide not to kill their classmates because they can't get guns. It's because they're SANE. We are talking about desperate acts by insane people, not law-abiding gun ownership by sane people. Over-legislation is a classic knee-jerk reaction, and I ask you whether you want the same people that brought you draconian mandatory drug sentencing to give you laws that will, in effect, leave you at the mercy of criminals and police. I realize statists might not have as much of a problem with that as I do.

So, like Dutch101, I ask you, since the easy "solution" of "more laws" doesn't have a chance in hell, what are you going to DO about it? Government cannot, and will not fix all your problems, even the major ones.

Ruth / February 15, 2008 4:31 PM

In addition to stricter gun laws and tougher enforcement of them... what if we stopped giving these shooters any infamy for their acts? What if the media refused to broadcast their photos and names, refused to make them famous for their crimes. What if instead, the media gave attention only to the victims and the potential that was ended when they were killed? Just a thought, but perhaps then it would be less attractive to someone who wants to gain fame while killing themselves....

Jim C. / February 15, 2008 5:03 PM

I suggest you all read Dan Savage's column in the Chicago Reader about the Columbine killings. It can be found in their free archives and its darkly witty title is "Clique...Clique...Bang!'

A quote: "While I didn't suffer the extreme abuse some of my friends did, I was fucked with enough to spend four years fantasizing about blowing up my high school and everyone in it... I wasn't shocked that something like this could happen in a high school. I was shocked that it hadn't happened in any of mine."

The NIU and Virginia Tech shooters were clearly mentally ill and should have been stopped. For others, the solution is right in front of our noses. And more/better gun laws isn't it.

Carrie / February 15, 2008 9:03 PM

One more random idea- what about do what we did when Sept 11 happened? We put air marshalls on planes, why not security in classrooms or at least in the buildings?

maardvark / February 15, 2008 11:40 PM

Carrie, whatever the answer is, putting police or metal detectors in classroom buildings is not it. Strictly aside from the logistical nightmare, it would make people feel less secure, not more. And part of the problem is student morale--how will the at-risk guys (the ones on the edge of being gunmen) react if they find themselves in a lockdown?


ApCp / February 17, 2008 1:09 AM

Analyzing these shooters as poor victims of some sort of society out of which they were left out is a lame excuse. I didn't have many friends in high school, middle school, or as a young student. I was deliberately ostracized because I am foreign. I never shot up a school. I never inflicted pain upon another human being.

When an African American performs an act of violence, he/she is viewed as perpetuating the stereotype of the out of control, reckless black person. When a Caucasian young person performs the same action, it is society's fault for not giving him a way to connect with other people.

What these and other "depressed" students need to be shown is an outlet. The problem needs to be stopped where it begins; that is, we don't depend on a bunch of metal detectors once a shooting happens. We show these kids that they have an outlet, an option, and we start paying attention to them and providing them what they need in terms of mental health services. Sure, teenagers are all moody, but psychology is not such a new science as to make it impossible to tell who is being moody and who is actually chemically not okay.

We can't stop the "cliques" that are created in schools, and we can't stop them from picking on certain students, but we can place a lot less focus and attention on popularity and popular culture. I didn't dress trendy, and if people in high school hated me for that, OH WELL. There are other things to do with life and though it would be hard to teach a bunch of young people that what is happening *right now* is not forever, it is not impossible to show them that there is more to life.

JOE / February 17, 2008 8:15 AM

Stricter gun control laws would be a good start in controlling the shootings in our country. How about revisiting the Constitutional right to bear arms...I feel it is antiquated, and doesn't belong (as written) in today's society. Finally, maybe if the media would quit sensationalizing theses shooting, the disturbed individuals who are doing all this shooting, wouldn't be so inclined to go out and execute their plans, knowing the media won't give them martyr status for their crime.

Cheryl / February 17, 2008 2:16 PM

To play devil's advocate a bit, why not try to stem the tide of shootings like these by INCREASING access to firearms for defensive purposes by allowing well-vetted, law abiding citizens to carry?

This is an interesting meme coming from the gun nuts. I work at a large university. I can imagine the mayhem that would result from someone walking in here with a gun and several people pulling theirs out and letting loose.

anon / February 17, 2008 7:00 PM

On the bullying - I can't say I didn't fantisize about blowing up my elementary school and the bullies inside of it. And, I have a hell of a temper. What I didn't have, though, was access to weapons. So instead I got in a few fights involving some slaps and punches, and they pretty much left me alone after that. I think maybe the kids being bullied need to be empowered to stand up for themselves and maybe even throw a few punches, instead of depending on your parents or the school system or the police to save you from the mean kid - its not going to happen. I think it would be good for the mean kids too - sometimes you just need to get a black eye once in fifth grade to learn your lesson. Any former schoolyard bullies out there - would you agree?

Regarding this situation, however, it seems to me that a combination of limiting the amount of guns and ammo a person can buy as well as making healthcare, including mental health services, universally free would do a lot to reduce these incidences. Seriously ill people aren't able to be reasoned with, so the focus should be on dealing with the illness and limiting access to things that could cause harm, like guns.

I also can't help but think that the constant war we've been engaging in since 9/11 and the thousands of innocent lives we have taken in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn't somehow contribute to the American culture of violence and the disrespect of human life.

taj / February 17, 2008 7:18 PM

i am very saddened by this, since i am alumni. but even if i wasn't it's still hard hearing about these things.
it's a symptom of an unhealhty society and human nature, our relations to one another...and we keep treating the symptom and not the cause.

anon / February 17, 2008 7:49 PM

Folks, this was not a teenager. This was a 27 year old man.

Everyone seems to focus on gun laws!?! That is so cliche and reactive.

Why hasn't someone brought up the issue of overdrugging our young people? This guy went nuts once he stopped taking his medicine! Sounds like that was some serious stuff they had him on.

Dutch101 / February 17, 2008 9:03 PM

I wouldn't consider myself a gun nut. Maybe enthusiast? And I don't know that I necessarily believe in having more people armed, but maybe it is a worthy talking point.
Ultimately, guns are either a tool or a sporting good. That's it. They either get a job done (killing food, or people for good or bad) or they are the functional equivalent of a tennis racket or a bowling ball (when used to shoot targets, clay pigeons, etc.).
What if someone responsible, sane, well trained, thoroughly background checked, law abiding, had been armed in that classroom.
Maybe the gunman would have been deterred from trying to shoot up the place. If he wasn't deterred, then what if that armed person had acted in accordance with their training and practice and shot him before killing anyone else, or as many people.
At that point, you can equate the gun to a fire extinguisher. Something that is there in the unlikely, and unfortunate event that you have to use it.

Leelah / February 17, 2008 9:55 PM

I'm an alum, and it makes me sad.

Jack up the price of bullets. Problem solved. If it costs $50/bullet, who is going to be firing random shots into the air on New Year's Eve, let alone shooting up a classroom?

Charles / March 8, 2008 5:44 PM

I am writing a paper on this topic and so i am doing research. the topic is; "School shootings. Is it society's fault?" think about this. To me, it depends on the parents and how the child is treated at home or is it being bullied at school? This is a big thing at my high school in Sioux Center in Iowa, "Surround yourself with good people". This could have a big part in this discussion. What do you think?

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