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South Korean Identified as Virginia Tech Shooter
[Opinion] Biggest shooting in U.S. history highlights the need for social action
Alan Mota (al0021)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-17 12:11 (KST)   
On the morning of April 16, the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history took place on the Virginia Tech campus, where South Korean national and senior English major Cho Seung-hui, 23, gunned down 32 people, both students and faculty, and wounded many others before fatally shooting himself. Cho's family came to the U.S. in 1992 via Detroit, before settling in Centreville, Va., a suburb of Washington.

The first victim, Emily Jane Hilscher, with whom Cho appeared to be obsessed, was hit at 7:15 a.m. in one of the biggest dorms on campus. The police arrived on campus and an e-mail was sent to students by faculty communicating the crime at 9:26 a.m., minutes before the second session of the shooting started at an engineering building, where the shooter, after chaining the doors shut from the inside, began a rampage that ended the tragedy.

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A second e-mail was sent by the faculty, but by this time it had already made worldwide news, from mass media to amateur You Tube videos from students' cellphones. The repercussion, in less than 24 hours, went as far as shocked parents demanding the firing of the dean of Virginia Tech and the Police Chief, for not properly handling the situation after the first report of the shooting at 7:15 a.m. President George Bush also made a statement on the shooting, saying he was "horrified" by the tragedy.

Much more can be said about the shooting, or how the police and the faculty handled the situation, or what motivated the shooter. But the real issue with the shooting is above this one case, or any other case in particular. This is the fifth school shooting to take place in the U.S. in the last 12 months and the biggest since the world famous Columbine shooting, where 14 students -- including the killers -- and one teacher were killed.

Out of the over 40 school shootings that have taken place in the world in recent history -- since 1996 -- more than half happened in the U.S., with Germany having a distant second place with three shootings.

Between 1992 and 2002, 234 youths between 5 and 19 years old were killed inside a school, with 390 school-associated violent deaths during the same period. The data is so alarming that it can be considered almost an epidemic of shootings in the U.S., a country that had already became famous for its raging gunmen who kill innocents for apparently no reason.

With so much violence occurring inside institutions that are supposed to house no violence at all, the same question comes up over and over again, still with no answer: What is being done in the U.S. for gun control?

The same question was asked right after the Virginia Tech massacre, in an interview held by the White House in Washington, and the same vague answer was given by the White House spokesperson:

"We've had a consistent policy of ensuring that the Justice Department is enforcing all the gun laws that we have on the books, and making sure that they're prosecuted the fullest extent of the law."

An even more evasive response was given by the spokesperson when asked if there should be a federal age of restriction to buy guns -- recently a law was approved in Texas where there's basically no age restriction on who can buy guns. Basically it means that nothing will change in terms of gun control policy in the U.S., arguably the easiest country to legally buy a weapon in.

This controversy is not new. After the Columbine shooting, there was massive discussion over the creation of a gun control policy, spurred in great part by Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling for Columbine," where the director showed how simple it is for someone to buy a gun in America, and how simple it was for the Columbine shooters to buy their supplies.

The government, lawmakers and lobbyist groups -- notably the NRA -- were involved in the issue, which was soon forgotten and nothing effective was done on a national level to control the selling of weapons. Eight years and 24 shootings later -- 25 with the Virgina Tech massacre -- there's still no sign of significant change on a national level for this policy.

With the government's answer to the first question being pretty obvious, a new question must arise in the heads of Americans all around the country: How many deaths will be enough for lawmakers and the White House to finally open their eyes and create some measure of gun control in the U.S.? Even better: Why does an administration so fierce in protecting its people from foreign threats lying thousands of miles away from American territory seem so uninterested in protecting its people against its own criminals, living and studying inside American territory, in this case going to school only 270 miles from Washington D.C.?

The answer to this question lies, more than anywhere, in society itself. In America's recent history, it seems that the people are more worried about gay marriage and immigration laws -- both attracted massive demonstrations with thousands of people in major American cities -- than with the safety of their families. For the 24 shootings that took place after Columbine, how many demonstrations took place and how many people went to them? How much coverage did they get in the news?

Before criticizing president Bush or local governors, the American people should look at themselves and wonder if there has been any pressure from society to control the fate of the millions of weapons produced in the United States. Politicians will always suffer the influence from lobbyist money and corporate pressure, but with a certain amount of pressure from the population, especially in a openly democratic country such as the U.S., concrete changes can be achieved quickly and with political support.

Meanwhile we stay with images of students leaving campus because they can't sleep after what happened. Parents mourning their children on national TV, anchormen updating the body count. And somehow the certainty that, based on recent history, sooner or later it will happen again.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alan Mota

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