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A bit of a rant Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One of the benefits of having your own blog is the ability to spout off on whatever topics you want, regardless of who wants to hear it. And what would a blog be without the occasional rant?

So the topic of the day is the Virginia Tech massacre. Clearly the horrid, deplorable act of a guy with some serious "issues." And of course, we feel sympathy for the loved ones of the dead, and wish the best for the injured.

Irrelevant image no. 1

What I want to talk about, though, are these people suggesting that the campus police should have canceled classes and locked down the campus after the dorm shootings.

Get real people! Sure, if they had done that, it may have saved 30 innocent lives. But the police and university administration had no indication that the gunman intended to shoot anybody else. (The argument that his professors and
colleagues thought he needed help doesn't hold any water, because—among other reasons—the identity of the shooter wasn't known until after the second incident began.)

Unless evidence like, say, a news release from the shooter comes to light, there was no way the authorities could have known that the dorm murders were any different from the dozens of other murders that happen in this country every day. Hardly any of those incidents are the acts of a rampaging gunman.

Irrelevant image no. 2

Let's look at the numbers. In 2005, there were 16,692 murders in the United States. That's nearly 46 per day. Consider the situation at about 7:45 Monday morning—two people shot dead in a college dorm. Much popular opinion these days suggests that, based on that information, the college administration should have enacted a lockdown until the shooter was found.

The Virginia Tech community comprises some 32,000 faculty, staff, and students. Two people shot, lock down 32,000 people. At that rate, authorities would have to put a hold on the life some 736,000 people in the United States every day!

Or, why don't we look at it geographically. Two people dead, lock down the 2,600 acre campus until the perpetrator is found. If the authorities locked down four square miles for every pair of murders, it would amount to shutting down an area larger than Seattle every day!

For that matter, why assume that the shooter is going to stay on campus? He (and it is always a he, isn't it?) could just as well have headed to the local shopping mall and shot that place up. Or downtown Blacksburg. Or he could have driven to the next town, next state to find more victims. And that's assuming that the perpetrator intended to shoot more people in the first place, which, as we have already discussed, was not apparent until it actually happened.

Sure, modern communications allow rapid communication, but it isn't foolproof. And the authorities have the ability to shut down the campus. But there is a big leap between ability and responsibility.

In this country, a double murder still doesn't indicate an impending massacre, and the authorities at Virginia Tech had no reason to believe it would. That's the good way of looking at it. The other way is that a double murder is just another day at the office. Either way, it doesn't justify locking down a campus or even canceling classes. Sad, but true.