Last week the Vice President and the Obama administration decided to go back in time to politicize the Virginia Tech massacre. Their goal was not to provide an honest portrayal of the events nor to find real solutions to the problem based upon careful analysis. They simply hoped to advance their gun confiscation agenda by standing on the graves of dead college students. Ironically, an objective analysis of what happened on that day in April 2007, undermines their whole premise on gun control.
The Virginia Tech massacre - and just about every school shooting - makes it abundantly clear that "gun free zones" simply do not work. In fact those laws make the situation a lot worse by ensuring that the intended victims are unable to fight back with equal force. These shootings also give light to the lie that waiting on the police is the best option.
The Virginia Tech Massacre - A Timeline That Speaks for Itself
The massacre began at 7:20 am when the shooter entered a dormitory on campus and randomly killed a young girl and the resident assistant who came to check on the noise. He then exited the building, walked to his dormitory, and changed clothes. He then went to the post office to mail his package to the media and prepared for his next assault. In the meantime, campus and city police responded to the shooting at the dormitory. They concluded - erroneously it turned out - that the killing must be part of a domestic dispute in which the boyfriend had killed his girlfriend and then fled the scene. Since they could not locate the boyfriend's car on campus, they assumed the shooter had left and the university did not proceed into lockdown. Although police remained on campus, they were not prepared for what happened next.
Between 9:15 and 9:30 am, the shooter entered a classroom building on campus to resume the massacre. Yes, you read that correctly. The shooter had been on campus, completely armed, and moving amongst his fellow students for almost two hours despite the police presence due to the earlier shooting. There is not indication that breaking the "gun free zone" laws troubled him any more than the double homicide he had just committed.
Once he entered the classroom building, the shooter removed chains from his backpack and then chained all the exits closed from the inside. The goal was to keep his victims from escaping and to delay the police. He then proceeded to the second floor where he carefully scouted out all the classrooms, selected the one with the most people, and then began to viciously gun down his fellow students. Police received the 911 call at 9:41 and were at the scene in 3 minutes. It took them several minutes to gain access to the buildings due to the chains. All they found was the human carnage and the shooter dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The shooter shot 47 people in the first 11 minutes - 25 students and 5 faculty members were killed and 17 others were shot. He expended 174 bullets using two handguns - not an "assault rifle." The whole attack lasted between 10 to 12 minutes. In that time he visited each classroom repeatedly and shot the wounded and those pretending to be dead. Nothing impeded his attack with the exception of a few classrooms that were able to barricade the door and deny him entry. Even then several lost their lives in that attempt.
1. "Gun free zones" do not work.
2. Active shooters often target "gun free zones" because they know their victims are unarmed and cannot respond with equal force. In the Colorado theater shooting, the shooter specifically chose a theater that prohibited guns.
3. When seconds count, police are minutes away. The standard response time to an active shooter is between 10 to 15 minutes once they receive the call. The police responded quicker at Virginia Tech because they were already on campus but were still too late to stop the slaughter. According to police sources, a mass killing (defined as 4 or more people) occurs in the United States every two weeks. The majority of these are over before the police arrive.
4. Many of these events are premeditated and carefully planned. The Virginia Tech shooter studied the Columbine massacre. He went to the gun range and practiced shooting at targets on the ground. He prepared for an assault - chains, guns, clips, ammo, etc. He may have even committed the homicide in the dorm to draw the police away. (It is still not clear why that happened and its connection.) The Columbine shooters studied their schools emergency response plans and then adjusted their attack to cause maximum damage.
5. We are dealing with second and third generation shooters who learn from the prior shootings and then adapt. As the police adapt their methods to respond to these events, the prospective shooters will adapt as well.
Real World Response to a Real World Problem
1. End gun free zones and allow concealed carry on campus. Not everyone needs to carry a gun but people trained in concealed carry and in how to respond to an active shooter should have the ability to do so if they wish. As an educator and a potential target, I feel that 10 to 15 minutes is too long to wait for the police when someone is aggressively trying to take my life. Like many of the faculty, I teach in a room with only one door and no windows. It is a death trap. I have the training and would like to be able to carry a weapon to defend myself and my students.
Allowing concealed carry on campus will not end the violence. But it may bring each incident of violence to an end quicker and thus save lives.
2. Training. People need to be taught to respond to the aggressive use of force with the aggressive use of force. In light of Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc., the police have had to change their response to active shooters. The active shooter is there to kill as many people as possible in the time he is allowed. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Police no longer attempt to negotiate. Now their goal is to neutralize the shooter as quickly as possible. Like, the police, the targets of an active shooter must change how they respond. Non-resistance will get you killed. Playing dead no longer works. In case of an active shooter, people should escape if they can. If they cannot escape, they should hide. If they cannot hide safely or if the shooter will find them, then they should fight. The following link provides an excellent video that police now use to train civilians: Run, Hide, Fight: Surviving An Active Shooter Event.
The Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel can be found at: Virginia Tech Review Panel