Target: Guns

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

A week after the Virginia Tech massacre, it's as predictable as the post-tragedy media blitz... the post-tragedy gun debate. The "what-ifs" abound: what if Seung Hui Cho hadn't been able to get the guns? What if the students could have carried their own firearms? Surprisingly, the gun laws vary from state to state, and from campus to campus. Hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to guns, the target is unclear... what do you think the right policy is, given that these terrible incidents don't actually happen that often?



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Why are we talking about guns? The problem here is one of mental illness. We've abandoned people who are seriously mentally ill, as if they can manage themselves to know when they need help and how to get it. Gun control of any kind can only work in concert with a support system that allows us to support those with severe mental illness.

Sent by P Blau | 2:07 PM | 4-23-2007

As a lecturer at Northwestern University I would be very upset if students and staff were allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus. Allowing concealed weapons would most likely not stop a determined killer, and I would be very unseasy as a teacher not knowing if any of my students or co-workers were carrying a concealed weapon. It's up to law enforcement to prevent the type of tragedy that occured in Virginia, not vigilantes.

Sent by Jason Betke | 2:12 PM | 4-23-2007

The idea of letting students and teachers roam around schools armed is absurd. Quitting teaching would happen in mass and the amount of violence would soar. Can you imagine sporting events with rival schools with students armed?? How about problems with relationships? The ex-boyfriend shoots the new lover of his ex will be the headline many times over. The whole idea of letting students pack heat is just ignorant at best. In my opinion it is just more garbage from the gun lobby to continue this idea this society is safer with more guns.

Sent by D.Barton | 2:16 PM | 4-23-2007


Sent by VIRGINIA CORNELL | 2:17 PM | 4-23-2007

May be we should allow all students to carry weapons so that when anyone hears gunshots each of these inexperienced, untrained students can starting shooting their weapons. It'd then be the survival of the luckiest !

Sent by Ram | 2:19 PM | 4-23-2007

The issue is not about guns. I believe that The citizens of the United States need to retool their thinking regarding public safety. Police officers can do little to protect the public in the first moments of any crime taking place. It is the Publics responsability to protect themselves in the event of a crime. I propose a system of First Responders to protect the public. Develope a system to train willing participants to various levels of civil self defense. Level 1 might have in depth training in hand to hand defense as well as tactical training. Level 5 might be able to carry concealed weapons. The training should be on a continuing basis and participants can start and stop at their discretion. The most important factor in this system is funding. Persons should pay a fee that may be subsidized by the government for which they receive a degree upon completion of any given level. The resultant degree should be of value to the holder in negotiating for pay. A teacher for example would be payed more for a level 2 Degree in civic defense. They may also be given discounts on airlines and hotel stays. The economy could benefit form the increase in security. We could eliminate or drastically reduce air marshals etc.

Just a thought.

Sent by Robert Hewer | 2:24 PM | 4-23-2007

I am not so sure that the notion of arming civilians with the idea of taking someone out who is commiting a crime is such a great idea. It might have saved a lot of people, and then again maybe not.

Our own cops here in Boise, Idaho have had to be re-educated in taking down suspects after some shoot outs in recent years which frankly endangered themselves and the public at least as much as the suspect himself. These were people supposedly trained in the use of deadly force and the law and yet managed to lose control of some situations and in some cases actually escalated their possible impact. Some folks might be cool headed enough in a situation like that at VT to bring down the shooter, but others could just as easily act no better than our trained law enforcement officers did when faced with a lone looney after a high speed chase ending in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in our downtown area. They and the gunman shot it out right there, more than two dozen cops surrounding him, people ducking for cover as the cops shot an incredible number of rounds at the gunman, and each other. Bullet holes in the cruisers proved that! Most of those holes were from Police rounds.

Just plain stupid, if you ask me, but the gunman died, and that was supposed to have justified the endangerment of crossfiring officers and any number of civilians ducking bullets coming from gunman and officers alike. Perhaps a statement more about hysteria than guns and gunmen. Those that day at VT who got people out of the building and sacrificed themselves probably did at least as much good, if not more, in that situation as having too many people armed but with no real plan.

Sent by Bob Muenchausen, Boise, ID | 2:26 PM | 4-23-2007

A few months ago, an Oregon State University student shot a homeless person who was rooting through a dumpster for cans to recycle. The student was recently sentenced to 150 days jail plus community service. Students are not necessarily mature enough to make important decisions regarding firearms usage. They definitely should not be armed on campus.

Sent by Philip Scott | 2:27 PM | 4-23-2007

allowing students to carry weapons to the classroom would be the biggest mistake. In case there would be 1 perpetrator and 1000 shots fired. probably 100 cases of friendly fire victims, because no one will proceed in an organized manner like SWAT would but would fire it blindly. There would be many more deaths from accidental and friendly fire.

For the Public/Safety/campus police - definately, they receive the training and are capable of executing an organized response.

Sent by martin | 2:27 PM | 4-23-2007

In an armed society, campus should be open to members of the campus community to keep and bear arms. However, the police cannot be everywhere at all times with the needed firepower to thwart a planned murder spree. Also I don't think we want to live in a society, or live on a campus, where police are everywhere at all times. Furthermore here at the University of Arizona we've had problems with police making false arrests and assualting students and teachers.

Given the ability of anyone like Mr Cho to obtain firearms and his obvious willingness to disobey the law, this ensures that any people like him face a defenseless pool of victims. A 20 min response time is not unreasonable to expect from the police, and it's obvious that a lot of killing can take place in that period of time.

Campus should be open to anyone with the legal right to bear arms. Additionally, the police should be trained to keep the peace in an environment where citizens, students, and professors may be armed and have a basic ability to defend themselves.

Sent by Andrew Tubbiolo | 2:28 PM | 4-23-2007

Do people seriously believe that armed students would have saved lives at Virginia Tech?

Here's a scenario:
March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan steps out of the Washington Hilton, surrounded by Secret Service Agents, likely with their hands *on* the Uzi submachine guns they carry, and by who knows how many armed Metropolitan Police. Lots of guns, lots of expert marksmen, all primed for possible danger. AND REAGAN STILL GOT SHOT!

Does any NRA nut seriously believe that anyone in America was better protected that day? Does any NRA nut seriously believe that the Virginia Tech students would have been better trained, more alert and better shots than Secret Service Agents?

If so, they certainly live in a different reality than the rest of us.

Sent by RAD | 2:28 PM | 4-23-2007

Wouldn't confusion result when there are additional weapons drawn, making it difficult to tell who the "bad guy" is, and perhaps resulting in volunteers being shot?

Sent by Bruce | 2:29 PM | 4-23-2007

This is such a meaningless, dead end subject, should students carry guns or not?
The real problem is one of human relations & understanding. One can only wander what a simple pat on the back, a sincere "how are you?" ANY display or excercise of human mindfulness would have done to prevent this massacre.
Cho displayed all the signs of a disenfranchized individual (just like a suicide bombers)whom I believe some sincere human attention would have played a great positive role in this individual

Sent by felipe | 2:29 PM | 4-23-2007

Concerning the issue of students allowed to have guns on campus, the question is to know where do we stop? It has to be said that nobody in the rest of the world is speaking of allowing students to carry weapons. Only in the US can we have people speaking on arming students. Will colleges still be colleges with so many guns on site? Also not that long ago, a study revealed that a third of students are suffering from mental disorders going from depression to more severe disorders. If we have more guns on campus we can be sure there will be also more suicides in colleges. Is it what we want?

Sent by Jean-Marie Dumar | 2:30 PM | 4-23-2007

More guns in the hands of people is only going to increase the amount of violence perpetrated by guns. Why do gun owners think more guns is going to solve gun violence. Why does the rest of the world "get it" and the USA is still living in the days of the wild west? Should we also allow people carry guns on airplanes to stop the next hijacking?

Sent by Casey Helbling | 2:32 PM | 4-23-2007

If guns are allowed on our campuses, the community colleges in particular will become much more dangerous. I taught on such a campus for more than a quarter of a century and counted gang members, ex-cons, survivalists, far right wing aryan nations members, and a variety of mentally disturbed folks among my students. Obviously they were not a majority but to make gun-carrying easier for them would endanger everyone. Remember that we would not still be talking about Virginia Tech if it had not been horribly aberrant in the first place.

Sent by Bronwen Edwards | 2:32 PM | 4-23-2007

As a professor at a major state university, I have spent the bulk of my life on college campuses. Their great virtues are two-fold: that they are open invitations to all people; and they are repositories of values that provide alternatives to those of the so-called "real world."

The very thought that campuses should be opened up to America's insane gun infatuation runs against both of those great virtues. Should we begin to do so, we might as well give up the idea that a campus is a special place. We would no longer be universities.

Sent by David Steigerwald | 2:33 PM | 4-23-2007

It is scarry to hear that some people believe that students should be allowed to carry guns. I think some people forget how it is to be a teenager or young adult. In my opinion, there'd be much lurger numbers of death by guns, due to verbal or phisical conflicts ending in one of the students losing his/her temper and pulling out a gun...

Sent by E.G. Sebastian | 2:35 PM | 4-23-2007

The idea that campuses should allow all students to carry handguns is preposterous. Consider the settling of the American west. Then, anyone could carry a weapon. However, when towns became more civil, handguns had to be checked at the town limits.

Since you are fielding what if questions such as allowing anyone to carry a weapon. Why aren't you discussing the "what if there was no tolerance for any civilian, except a controlled militia, to possess a weapon.

If the weapons manufactures had not proliferated our society with weapons and actively promote expanding this distribution, a no tolerance legislation might have been successful and Cheung would never had access. The "no tolerance" is a far more reasonable and civil reaction to this trajedy than the "arm everone" argument.

Sent by Michael from Portland Oregon | 2:35 PM | 4-23-2007

Boy, does this discussion bring out the crazies...

No guns, no gun violence.

Mr. Cho shows how effective backgound checks can be.

Sent by Brad | 2:37 PM | 4-23-2007

Thinking back to my own college experiences, I cannot think of a single place that where gun possession is more inappropriate. Where are you more likely to see binge drinking, drug use, immature & destructive behavior. Adding guns to that mix is absolute lunacy.

Sent by Jim | 2:38 PM | 4-23-2007

It's absolutely ridiculous to even think putting more guns on campuses or anywhere would create a more peaceful situation. How long until elementary kids are pistol packing. My father is a professor and I can't imagine him carrying a gun to class just in case there is a problem. He shouldn't be placed in that type of situation whether or not to pull out a fire arm. What if that professor ended being the one with a mental problem and does something to the students and he was allowed to bring this weapon to work. It's an open invitation for more injuries and deaths. People will become paranoid of each other. Create peaceful environments not scared ones. The gun laws have to change in America.

Sent by Dawn Ferguson | 2:40 PM | 4-23-2007

I went to a small state school in PA, and the campus had armed officers. I was there for 4.5 years and not once I did see them even pull out their weapons. Our campus policy was no guns on campus for students, but if you had a firearm, say for hunting, you could drop it at the police station and they would keep it for you.

I knew a few people that would carry weapons with them at all times, legally. They would leave them at home when they came to class.

Finally the point that I haven't heard anyone touch on is that if you want to get a gun and commit a crime with it you will. Not allowing students to carry guns isn't going to stop someone like Cho from doing what he did.

Sent by Robert | 2:41 PM | 4-23-2007

Allowing only officers to carry firearms would lead one to assume that those officers will uenter the danger - putting their own lives in immediate risk. However, time and again we see officers standing outside while students are being shot INSIDE. If schools are going to have policies against students carrying guns - they must have security personel that will enter dangerous situations (possibly to their own peril) immediatly. Thanks.

Sent by SC | 2:48 PM | 4-23-2007

As a logical extension of this policy, it should be MANDATORY for everyone to be armed all the time. In fact, in order to avoid the situation where a law-abiding citizen is out-gunned by a criminal, everyone should be issued an assault rifle, and be required to carry it with them at all times. It wouldn't cost much: every goat-herder in Afghanistan carries an AK-47, so how much could this policy cost?

It's been said, "An armed society is a polite society." Just think how polite it will be next time you have a "discussion" with your neighbor concerning his (or your) dog or children.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sent by Barry | 2:50 PM | 4-23-2007

It is a perfectly logical conclusion that a gunman is less likely to start shooting if he believes that others in the vicinity are armed. Most violent crimes are perpetrated by individuals who believe that have some sort of superiority or advantage over their victims. If that perception can be averted, it is feasible that such crimes could be severely reduced.

Sent by Jeffrey Stephens | 2:51 PM | 4-23-2007

I feel the media has missed a grand opportunity to discuss mental health and current TREATMENTS (pharmacological) that are prescribed willynilly by physicians and phychiatrists.

I speak from personal experience with Paxil, that it altered my mental state very negatively. I found myself avoiding other people, feeling enraged at my roommates, for no real reason, contemplating all sorts of wacky scenarios that i would never contemplate unmedicated. I would like to hear more information on Seung's treatments and other homicidal instances where SSRI's like Prozac and Paxil are involved.

Sent by Kevin | 2:52 PM | 4-23-2007

Congratulations NPR on yet another terrible show about the topic of concealed carry of weapons.

How many canards can be brought to bear in a mere thrity-five minutes?

First, a Syracuse campus cop who seems to think that anyone with a valid conceal carry license would need 1000 hours of training in order to be able to capably shoot a threat like Mr. Cho was. I seriously doubt that poring over the traffic code, a suspect's fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights, sensitivity training, emergency driving, CPR, and all of the other "non-shooting" hours that go into police training matter at all to being able to identify and shoot a man like Mr. Cho.

Many people, such as myself, who carry with a license, are former military and/or peace officers. I arguably have more "trigger time" than about 80% of the police officers on duty, most of whom go to a short qualification course but twice a year. I shoot weekly.

More Bronx cheers for some of the callers. "More guns=more violence" is the same rented mule that has been walked out and publically flailed in over thirty state debates over concealed carry reform over the past two decades. "Dodge City" and "streets flowing with blood" have not been the legacy of responsible adults carrying legally sanctioned concealed firearms. In fact, studies have shown that in some states, concealed carry permit holders have lower criminal offense rates than do sworn peace officers.

Anyone who thinks that a person vetted by the local police force for a concealed carry permit is suddenly going to "go off" during a heated debate about the Kant's dialectic are in serious need of a reality check.

Reality in the United States:

1. Guns have been legally purchased here for well over two hundred years. There is no putting that genie back in the bottle.

2. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the police forces of the United States owe no individual duty to the citizen to protect them from even known imminent criminal danger absent a special relationship such as already being in the immediate custody of an officer. The upshot of these rulings are that the only one who is ultimately responsible for one's own physical safety is yourself.

3. Many governmental authorities, such as Virginia Tech did, bar the otherwise lawful carrying of arms and create situations that folks like Mr. Cho can (and do) exploit. What reasonable person would disagree that having some small chance to stop a madman is better than having no chance at all?

4. Apparently about half the nation or so has little or no problem facing the prospect of being slaughtered by a criminal and backing the further use of so-called "gun-free zones" which are only observed by the law-abiding.

Sent by Eric Jensen | 2:52 PM | 4-23-2007

I do not think it would be wise to have armed students on campus. This recent case may seem very clear cut, but how many other cases could result in unnecessary deaths and injuries from reactions to emotionally disturbed individuals who are not a serious threat, but who may seem so to untrained students. In the last few years, in the area I live in, there have been some unfortunate situations where police have shot and killed individuals who they thought were threats, but who should have been dealt with differently. These are officers with some training (perhaps not enough) in dealing with difficult individuals, yet they misjudged. What would students do who do not have the experience and training? And would students with limited experience be in enough control of themselves to not hurt other bystanders in such frightening circumstances?

Sent by Karen Wilson | 3:00 PM | 4-23-2007

As an American travelling abroad, I experience the exact sense that you are elliciting from listeners that may be members of a minority or ethnic group.
Those who may feel shame, embarassment or disgust following a horible act by one of their own. In this case, it is the actions of our President, for whom I am continuously attempting to apologize for and distance myself from. It is incomprehensible that this man continues to make decisions that result in loss of life, destruction of property and worse, damaging the good name of the United States as perceived many of our friends abroad. This criminal behavior is a constant source of shame that hangs over me and my family like a cloud. The squandering of good intentions and concern for others is eclipsed by his arrogant, misguided, heavy handed, poorly reasoned deeds

Sent by jim Torson | 3:02 PM | 4-23-2007

The idea of letting citizens carry and conceal a firearm is absurd...anywhere in public as far as I'm concerned let alone on a college campus. All of the rhetoric on this topic has been spawned out of fear and in my opinion media hype. I've got news for're never going to prevent crimes like this from happening. They will happen and happen again in mass casualty efforts. And, incase you didn't know, your odds of being hit by a bus on the way home today are greater than being killed by an assailant with a gun. Better watch your step off the curb!!

Oh and for what it's worth...I'd like to see what our outlooks on life would be if the nightly news would have daily reports on who died of a cardiac arrest and of cancer instead of those who were murdered. I think maybe your local fastfood restaurant, bar, and cigarette vendor might oppose. But, I digress :)

Sent by Mike Listiak | 3:07 PM | 4-23-2007

Why are we talking about allowing students and teachers to carry hand guns, when we should be discussing a complete ban on assault weapons?

I see no reason why any civilian should be allowed to carry, own, or use a semi-automatic weapon.

When my son was in college, he broke up with his girlfriend. She consequently stalked him, and threatened not only her life but his life. A restraining order was issued, which she consistently violated. I shutter to think how terrified I would have been if she had been allowed to carry a hand gun on, or off, campus. And am sickened to think that any student can currently walk around a college campus carrying a semi-automatic weapon.

Sent by Lucy Anderson | 3:09 PM | 4-23-2007

Armed students compound the problem- how is the officer to determine who is the offender, who might also be a student?

Sent by George Jarrett | 3:09 PM | 4-23-2007

As a faculty member in the State Univ. of NY system, the idea of having armed college students presents some difficulties. Though some, especially former combat veterans, would be proficient in firearm use and potentially helpful in a carnage situation on campus, there is one problem.

College students have a very high rate of alcohol use and this is combined with relative inexperience in attenuating alcohol abuse. Armed college students and Saturday night drinking parties presents an image worthy of a Trenton Tarrentino film.

Sent by Gene Tinelli, MD | 3:10 PM | 4-23-2007

Should we deny an effective defense to this kind of immediate threat because we would be "upset?" Because college students are immature / drinkers / whatever?

No one has proposed this--except for the strawman argument implied in the opening comment. Fortunately, the on-air discussion did not pursue this chain of thought.

I see no problem with U staff and students who are licensed by the appropriate authority to carry firearms in class, on campus, wherever in the student community.

The history of these people show they are far more law-abiding than the general population. Further, the anecdotal reports of armed intervention by such civilians in at least two campus shootings gives the lie to this kind of fear-based argument.

AFAICT, the only real question is whether or not the frequency of the threat gives rise to the need to respond.

Sent by Jim Hanson - MN | 3:11 PM | 4-23-2007

I think it is important to recognize that Seung Hui Cho enacted a very American cultural act, NOT a Korean one. The image of gun toting hero in a gun loving culture, the Rambo fim icon and now the Columbine teenage shooter are American not Korean. As long as this nation condones these things- disturbed citizens will reenact this senario. Americans should take responsibility for these events.

Sent by Will Pappenheimer | 3:12 PM | 4-23-2007

Jeffrey Stephens writes: "It is a perfectly logical conclusion that a gunman is less likely to start shooting if he believes that others in the vicinity are armed."

Ahem. First, see my previous comment about Ronald Reagan getting shot when totally surrounded by *trained* and armed people.

Second, logic? Do "logical" people show up with two pistols and pocketsful of clips, and then start shooting at apparently random targets?

Sent by RAD | 3:20 PM | 4-23-2007

Have people forgotten what it is like to be a college student ? Especially, a freshman ! I could just imagine putting a gun in the hand of my son, who was raised by a hunter, experienced with guns, while he is a student, away from home for the first time. He is a well-balanced, good student. However, his roomate took up with his girlfried, of three years while he was away from campus for a few days. He got into a fight with his roomate, was thrown out of his dorm. Letting him, or his roomate have a gun in their hands, during this incident would really have been the answer. I am outraged by some of these comments, especially those made by college professors who must be completely out of touch with their students. What happened at Virginia Tech is horrific, but rare. I doubt there is much that could have been done to prevent it, but letting kids have guns, especially at school, while they are learning to be adults, learning to deal with the ups and downs of living with other people, drinking, and partying is a serious lack of responsibility of the adults raising these kids.

Sent by Lynn | 3:20 PM | 4-23-2007

1) Virginia Tech probably has several hundred student-owned guns on campus. Like many other large universities, I believe VT has a policy of students storing personally-owned firearms in the campus police station. Firearms may be retrieved by the owners for hunting and recreational purposes, then checked back in. In a major university in a southern state, there are no doubt several hundred students who are intimately familiar with firearms, having grown up with them. Denying these people the ability to carry on campus (if they have also obtained the required training for a Concealed Carry Permit from Virginia or the many other states with which VA has reciprocity re: CCW Permits) relegates them to "sitting duck victim" status, along with everyone else. CCW holders are by definition age 21 or over.
2) The Israelis put an abrupt end to Palestinian terrorists shooting up schools by ARMING the TEACHERS.
3) Based upon observations made during several years working at a gun range: civilian gun carriers are better shots than the average law enforcement individual, spend more time and money on training,and are far more familiar with their firearms, which they researched, bought, and train with frequently. Police officers are generally issued a sidearm--some of them cannot even accurately recount the model and caliber of their pistol. They often come in to practice only right before they have to re-qualify to keep their jobs.
4) Colleges and universities need to include some type of "Flight 93 mindset" training in orientation--part of the college experience is becoming an adult, taking responsiblity, recognizing that the world is not all sweetness and light, etc. "Where are the exits? Fire extinquishers? If the lights go out, how many steps in the hall to get to the stairway?" and similar questions are good seeds to plant in young minds as training for the awareness and observations that help keep us alive as adults.

Sent by Anne Tucker | 3:26 PM | 4-23-2007

The answer is not more guns. There is no way to predict whether having more guns would help or harm in different contexts. Probably both would be at play over all.
Thinking of a classroom of 20 facing a single determined shooter reminds me a little of the 911 hijacked plane over Pennsylvania. I have no doubt in my mind that, if the thought had occurred to one or more to rouse the rest, all 20 could have rushed Cho- perhaps throwing objects at him to help disturb his concentration a little - and ultimately overwhelmed and disarmed him. Of course, a few probably would have died, but this would have saved the great majorityof students now dead and immediately eliminated the dangerof further shootings.
It would not have been necessary for all to have thought initially of rushing the gunman. A single 'leader' or two could have shouted to his classmates: "LET'S TAKE THE GUN AWAY FROM HIM!" (recall again the PA plane of 911) and that would have sufficed to rouse the rest of the group.
We need to think more about taking responsibility for our own defense. Th The persons threatened are the real "first responders". They are the ones with the best timing advantage since they are there at the very moment of the attack.
It bothers me greatly that- with all the media focus on trying to come up with effective solutions to this sort of crisis- I have heard no one suggest the plan that I think is the most obvious and most effective counter to such attacks.

Sent by Nick Carstoiu | 3:36 PM | 4-23-2007

As a mother of a daughter in college, the last thing in the world I would want to ensure her safety is to allow the young men around her (because let's face it, the men would be much more likely to carry guns than the women) to carry a concealed weapon. She already tells me of female friends who've been stalked and date raped. And these are not uncommon, unfortunately. Yes, let's give often-drunken men who are encouaged to feel "powerful" in our culture with violent games and guns, some guns! Sounds reasonable to me. . .

Sent by beth maschinot | 3:37 PM | 4-23-2007

The central question here is whether students could have prevented this tragedy if they had been allowed to carry weapons. Tragedies like this happen everywhere - post offices, diners, schools. This time, armed professional officers did not and could not deter the shooter. Would armed students, without professional law enforcement training, have done a better job? Or would they have been mistaken for perpetrators by the officers arriving on the scene. How many non-lethal incidents would turn into gunfights and homicides in the meantime?
Look to the problem, not the outcome. Seung Hui Cho was disturbed. More than one person trained to recognize mental health issues - and many others who weren't - recognized it. If legal and human services systems had been effective, he wouldn't have been able to purchase a handgun. The states and the Federal government continue to give mental health scant attention and paltry fiscal support. They spend a lot of time discussing gun ownership and gun control, though.
Without trivializing the pain and suffering of the VT incident, your chances of being involved in a mass shooting are infinitesimally small. These acts are, by their very nature, random. But consider the odds if Cho had been able to get the help he needed. No doubt the gun lobby will yet again persuade Congress and the states to loosen gun laws. Virginia Tech, of course, will be held up as an example of what not to do. That's the right solution to the wrong problem.

Sent by M. Schmidt | 3:50 PM | 4-23-2007

As a staff member at a university the idea of allowing students to carry guns on campus scares me to no end.

Undergraduate education for traditional 18-22 year old students is always a time of intense personal and intellectual change. At its best, a university education is supposed to challenge students' assumptions and understanding of the world and themselves. The idea of adding guns wholesale into this difficult and uncertain mix of change is abhorrent.

The question of how to make college campuses more secure is a difficult one. In addition to serving their students, almost all universities serve a significant role in the life of their communities via access to university resource, public fora, debate, discussion and sharing. So, how do you secure someplace with hundreds of buildings, tens of thousands of students and staff, spread over a vast area?

I would very much like to see some universities discussing the feasibility of installing electronic locks on all of their doors, together with some form of electronic billboard. This would allow all of the campus buildings to be locked down in the event of a campus emergency, and provide an effective means of communicating with students and staff as they move around the campus.

Sent by Todd | 3:58 PM | 4-23-2007

I just overherd the conversation on NPR regarding allowing students to carry firearms to class. This has taken the discussion of solutions to this societal problem to the lowest level.
I agree with those that have previously stated that the answer to this incident and problem is not to allow students and others to carry weapons to campus.
I have worked in higer education for 15 years and I am from Denver and have contacts to individuals who were at Columbine or were directly affected by that tradegy and I still would never agree that a solution would be to arm our students. Yes, we should have the right to protect ourselves but I am in danger everywhere I go not just on campus. If we alow firearms at college campuses then why don't we just revert back to the days of the old west and just give everyone a firearms permit and at the slightest incident of disrepect, prejudice, bullying, etc. just start shooting. Too many Americans have not shown respect for and proper usage of firearms. We lead the world in gun related crimes and murders.
We are supposed to be a civilized society and I thought we had left behind the era that we had reason to carry a weapon wherever we went.
Understanding, appreciation, and civility need to rein once again in our country not the right to bear arms.

Sent by Mark | 4:00 PM | 4-23-2007

Carry Concealed Weapons (CCW) Permits are NOT just handed out to anyone, multiple in-depth background checks take place, as well as gun-board reviews.

I believe that the statistics speak for themselves: CCW holders are the MOST responsible citizens

Sent by Mitch B | 4:31 PM | 4-23-2007

I completely agree everyone that this was a disturbed individual. The central issue now comes to the proverbial fork in the road: do look for ways to prevent an incident like this before it occurs or do we focus on ways to stop it (or minimize the effects) while it is happening--or both? Unfortunately, there is no solution (which ever road is taken) that will fit all situations. Case in point: a team of psychologists and psychiatrists most likely would have concluded at an early age that Seng Hui Cho had a propensity to commit a violent crime - diagnosing him with say conduct disorder. Here's the difficult part - if he stops seeking help (and, if you believe in medication, stops taking it) or his parents or guardians do not care to help him, he is a ticking time-bomb. This individual was born into this world with something wrong physiologically. Society at large can do nothing to prevent individuals such as this from committing a serious crime. We do not live in a country where we incarcerate people based on probability. They first have to commit a serious crime, and then we can let the courts decide--life in prison or a psychiatric hospital? The mental health community can only "lead the horse to water" but they cannot "force it to drink". We can only hope and pray individuals like Cho seek the help they need and follow through with it--for life if necessary. More guns certainly is not the answer. We will never control those who are living among society and are emotionless, have a total disregard for life, and want to harm others and/or themselves. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in.

Sent by M. Listiak, MN | 4:48 PM | 4-23-2007

As a former college student with diagnosed a mental disorder, please consider this -
Drugs are illegal, but I had EXTREMELY easy access to them.
Alcohol is illegal for underage students, but I was plastered plenty of times before I turned 21.
Guns are "not allowed" on campus, but if you want it, it's easy enough to get.
If my roommates ever had a gun, even though I don't want one, who's to stop me from stealing theirs and killing myself or others if I had an episode?
In my current job, I have a choice to be armed. I do not choose to be because I know my limitations from prior mental health issues. Not everyone is as fortunate or capable as I am to be able to make rational decisions. When I was in college, I was not under any medical treatment. My roommate insisted I get help and went to the counselor with me. I refused help and injured myself numerous times. When I finally went, I was OFFERED a chance to commit myself to a hospital by the counselor - and I declined. Let's just say, I'm glad I didn't know where a gun was, but again, if I wanted one, I am 100% certain I could find one.
Banning guns will not help. Allowing everyone who wants one will not help either. Mass murders have been going on for over 100 years. If someone sets their mind to it, you aren't going to stop them. And if you stop that person, there will just be someone else right behind them.

Sent by Sara H. | 5:11 PM | 4-23-2007

Most of the comments here revolve around "arming students" but perhaps the more appropriate question might be: "Why can't people (faculty, staff, and students) who have *already* met the state requirements for carrying a concealed weapon not do so on campus? Would it have helped, I don't know. Maybe. We'll never know. And, to be clear, you have to be over 21 to *apply* to get a concealed weapons permit in Virginia.
From a security perspective, it is helpful to have layers of defenses, and not depend on any single process (legislative, police, etc) to address our individual safety.
I live in a county (in CA) where, amazingly enough, it is fairly easy to get a permit, and less than 1% of the county population has such a permit. Am I worried about this 1%? The 1% that followed the rules, took the classes, paid the fees, learn what "brandishing"means, scared silly about the legal risks, were fingerprinted, and did the background check? Nope. I'm worried about the ones that don't bother. These are the ones that don't care where it legal or not to acquire or carry a gun, and those are my concern. The statistics I've heard is that a person with such a permit is 5-14 times *less* likely to commit a crime (the numbers vary based on the crime) [Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Census Bureau, reported in San Antonio Express-News,September, 2000].
I feel that part of the reaction to guns (concealed or not), is frankly a lack of knowledge and familiarity about them, how they work, and how hard it is to consistenly hit the bulls-eye without a lot of practice. Perhaps the open-minded individuals who are responsible for shaping the minds of our youth should consider taking a firearms class or two, and perhaps that would calm the rhetoric.

Sent by James | 5:12 PM | 4-23-2007

Mental illness, and moreover evil intent, is of issue here. Had Cho not had guns, he would have found some other means to carry out his maniacal plan. He would have killed many even if no guns were available to him. Of all the things said to date about Cho, no one has said that he was not intelligent. Explosives and incendiary devices can be devised from products readily available at Home Depot or even your corner gas station. Our country's greatest mass murder took place just 17 years ago at a New York nightclub when a deranged individual killed 87 with a dollar's worth of gasoline in a makeshift gas can. So how do we prevent these issues or stop them in their tracks if prevention doesn't work?
What makes active shooters different from other types of mass mayhemists is that the shooter is required to select specific targets and take somewhat careful aim if they want their shots to count. And that takes time. Not necessarily enough time to prevent the first couple of shootings, but enough for someone nearby who is armed and trained to prevent the numbers of victims from approaching a dozen. But that doesn't mean that I am an advocate for arming students. I am not. Having been an undergrad once myself, I know that sometimes only the grace of God gets us past the lack of judgment that the typical college-aged undergraduate at times exhibits. However, not all undergraduates or even graduate students are equal. I wonder what if an off-duty police officer or an Iraq combat veteran had been in class in Norris Hall as a student or instructor that fateful morning had been armed? Certainly lives would still have been lost, but I bet far fewer than what were. Calling 911 certainly got a police response, but most likely not for several minutes, and then when the responders tried to enter, they found the doors chained shut. That gave Cho added time to further carry out his maniacal plan. Again, no one has said that Cho was not smart. He was just deranged and evil. The responders tried, they just couldn't get there soon enough.

Sent by DJ Ostrem | 6:03 PM | 4-23-2007

Many of you bring up the good point about youth, booze, immaturity and the impact it would have if guns were laying about for the kids to play with. I know that when I lived on campus as a student, many of my cohorts kept firearms in spite of the laws and rules against them. They drank, had bad relationships, got bad grades etc. I'm sure my experience was repeated nationwide. Yet the occurance of campus shootings from 1987-1991 is well known. In other words the combination of guns, youth, drugs, and failure in life is, has been, and will be experimented with.
We seem to survive for the most part.

This is an American problem. No doubt caused by our individualistic culture and easy access to arms. Given that, direct experience shows that it's extreme nut cases who pull these things off. We should not make laws to try to respond to the lunatic acts of an extreme few.

Sent by Andrew Tubbiolo | 9:37 PM | 4-23-2007

The issue is how to keep the immature or ill brained person from being able to get (and possibly use) a gun. Our society is allowing the wrong people to have guns.

Research shows that the frontal cortex is not fully developed until mid twenties (which is why teens lack the judgement and discipline), and this is also the time most mental illnesses make their appearance, before age 30. Step one would be to make it so no person under the age of 30 except those who are on active duty military or policework (and are therefore, supervised) should be able to buy a gun.

Step two is requiring all potential gun owners to pass a safety course and also must pass an examination by a psychiatrist. Step three is to require guns to be designed such that only the licensed owners fingerprints will operate the gun.

This makes procuring a gun expensive and difficult while still allowing responsible gun owners to exercise their "right" to be able to hunt and target shoot. If young people want to learn to shoot a gun, as a sport, maybe there is a way that guns used inside a facility for target practice are designed to not leave the sport facility.

Sent by S K McIntee | 12:03 AM | 4-24-2007

Lessee, 32 people were slaughtered and no one was there to defend them. Nor were they permitted to defend themselves. The consensus here seems to be that this is better than allowing anyone a chance to help.

There are valid concerns about student maturity, but faculty should be mature enough to be allowed concealed carry. If they wish to shirk responsibility for students who are being slaughtered they can opt out.

There is also quite a bit of bigoted hysteria about firearms owners. It is much safer to be around firearms competitors than your local jock. It is common to require police presence at basketball games, soccer games and the like and to experience riots after games, but this has NEVER to my knowledge been the case at firearms competition. Ever.

States which have allowed concealed carry did not experience the "blood running in the streets" suggested by hysterical opponents of concealed carry.

Likewise I think it is reasonable to expect that there are enough mature individuals on campuses to provide some deterrent to criminals. Probably without ever having to draw their gun as the criminal will just decide not to test the odds.

Sent by Guy B. Meredith | 2:32 AM | 4-24-2007

Cho was determined to do something horrific to others and ultimately to himself. If he hadn't been able to procure guns he might have set fire to the dorm or the classrooms, or bombed a whole building. I believe it is marginally comforting to each of us to say in hindsight, we could have done THIS or we could have done THAT and this wouldn't have happened. But this man was determined to make some kind of bloody statement and he made it.

Sent by Kathryn | 9:44 AM | 4-24-2007

To all those who think allowing students to carry weapons on campus is a bad idea, I ask you to consider the following hypothetical scenario.

You have just been saved from a criminal attack of some sort by a "good samaritan" who has a license to carry a concealed weapon. Are you grateful to the person or critical of them for carrying a concealed weapon?

If you are grateful, then isn't it hypocritcal of you to be against allowing people to carry concealed weapons in the first place?

Sent by Michael L. Bane | 1:55 PM | 4-24-2007

It seems to me that many people have been successfully convinced that we are unable to make decisions equal to those of "trained" personnel. Students are incable, citizens are incable, we have to let the government and authorities have all of the responsibility. Do you know how this sounds to someone who has traveled and lived in primitive areas worldwide, where kids and adults share in roles of enormous responsibility? It's amazing to me that many people distrust the president and politicians on the Patriot Act, surveillance issues, wars, and so much more, and yet want to surrender the final tool they have to resist should that same government actually become what it is they fear most. Don't be so blinded by hatred of political opposites. We all benefit from the right bear arms. Thanks.

Sent by Sam Tucker | 2:32 PM | 4-24-2007

In a state where those over 21 can carry a concealed weapon with a license, what is the difference between a student over 21 carrying in a mall versus in their classroom? Why should it be any different.

It shouldn't be different because it isn't any different.

The issue is that the law abiding will leave their piece in their car where it can be stolen, while criminals (dare I say Cho was a criminal?) walk straight through the gun free zone like the moral barrier it is.

Those who oppose CCW in universities are using purely emotional arguements. If their arguments had merit, Utah licensee holders would be shooting folks regularly, and as we all know.... that has not manifested itself. The fact is CCW's are law abiding - far more law abiding than the general population.

Sent by wqbang | 2:39 PM | 4-24-2007

As the 2nd Amendment clearly states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Here's the late 18th Century definition of the word "militia," from my Oxford English Dictionary, "The body of people...legally liable to military service, without enlistment." Why doesn't it follow then that all citizens of a certain age have a right to own a gun in a well-regulated manner--one that SHALL NOT be infringed by any majority? The entire purpose of the Bill Of Rights is to protect certain individual rights from The Majority's will. Some of you seem to be suggesting that the question isn't where in our Constitution we should look to see what our fundamental rights are, but whether we should look there at all.

Sent by David | 4:48 PM | 4-24-2007

After reading some comments on this program, I find that there seems to be a common misunderstanding here.

I don't think people are recommending we actively arm faculty and students. I think the idea here is that we allow the same people who legally carry and have been permitted to do so by the state to do at campus. Can *anyone* come up with an argument that applies to legal concealed carry in schools and not legal concealed carry in general?

These people have already met the qualifications to carry next to you in the mall, supermarket, movie theater and a tons of other places. These people have been statistically shown to be a very safe subset of the American population. does being a student automatically make them a murderous recluse?

Sent by Sean L | 9:17 PM | 4-25-2007

Typically,I see a ratio of about 20to1 against gun control in every comments section.Either they don't even think NPR is worth the minimal bother and effort of a reply or you're screening them out.

Sent by B.C.King | 2:00 AM | 10-13-2007

Hi B.C.,
Rest assured, we post the comments we get without screening for pro/con - as long as the comments follow the rules, up they go. So whatever balance - or imbalance - you see here is a result of the comments we've received.

Sent by Sarah Handel | 8:59 AM | 10-15-2007