Tragedy, Gun Laws, and Loose Ends

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This isn't just a story about guns. It's a story about a mentally disturbed young man who got his hands on guns. Believe it or not there's a difference. As a gun owner I urge everyone to keep these two issues separate. But since this is America, this story is also about heroes. Professor Liviu Librescu lost his life by trying to save his students. He's pictured on this post.

One thing that seems obvious is that there was mass confusion at Virginia Tech when the shooting started. One parent interviewed stated that an email went out to report "suspicious activity," but there was no lockdown. One thing is clear is that on a campus of 2,600 acres, 100 buildings and around 28,000 students you need to have a plan in place when students are threatened. Only 9,000 students are on campus at a time. There were patrolling vans with a loudspeaker. But without a lockdown the shooter was able to walk through the campus to another building and continue his rampage. After Columbine, this seems just incredible to me. There's much more to this if you want to look.

Chief Wendell Flinchum said they believed the shooter had left the campus. They were wrong. There was a decision not to lock down the school because of this. This was a mistake.

As is expected after something this tragic, everyone wants to talk about gun laws. Some want to talk about banning guns, which is wrong and unconstitutional. However, the one issue that is really serious to talk about is the leniency of Virginia's gun laws, which even in a rural hunting state are beyond comprehension.

One thing that is absurd is that Virginia does not require much for a person to get a concealed carry permit. My husband, who is a Democratic gun expert and has a concealed carry (at my urging because of his business), was on my radio show yesterday and he found this shocking as well. No background checks are required and no training is required either. It's madness. Colorado has the right approach, as does Nevada.

Colorado (04/09/2007): Victory! Database of Permitees to Carry Concealed Handguns Remains Intact

Today, the Colorado State Senate successfully passed HB 1174, an important bill that will keep in place an already existing database of those permitted to carry concealed handguns in public. Despite the efforts from the gun lobby that would have tied the hands of law enforcement officials, the state senate passed the bill 18-17. The bill provides law enforcement with an important tool to keep guns out of criminals' hands, including domestic violence offenders, by maintaining a statewide database of those permitted to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public. The bill is now awaiting Governor Ritter's signature.

Virginia has no gun show background checks either. This needs to be changed.

Many states are moving on legislation for positive change and pushback on the NRA. Virginia is not.

Another issue many do not talk about is "secondary sales." That's when a person sells a gun through the newspaper; someone shows up and buys it, but no one knows that person has the gun. Obviously, there are no background checks on these types of sales. Someone should figure out how to regulate this because it's obviously very dangerous. Not knowing who has guns is not part of the second amendment last time I checked.

Democrats who are second amendment advocates should try to find a gun manufacturer with whom to partner so we can encourage "ballistic fingerprinting." The short version is that this is when a manufacturer actually shoots the gun made and then keeps possession of the bullet on file so it can be cross-referenced with bullets found in crime scenes, etc. This is a battle worth waging, too.

A waiting period for gun sales is also important, I believe, for obvious reasons. Maine just had a public hearing on this in February. Virginia has no waiting period.

New Mexico also just defeated the ridiculous NRA "shoot first" legislation, as did Colorado.

New Mexico (03/17/2007): Dangerous "Shoot First" Legislation Defeated

Today, as the New Mexico legislature was concluding its work for the year, a dangerous NRA-supported bill that would have allowed people to use deadly force as a first resort in public was successfully defeated. This type of "Shoot First" legislation permits the average citizen to bypass our entire justice system by permitting him or her to assume the role of police officer, prosecutor, judge, and executioner. This victory is due to the courageous legislators in New Mexico that stood up to the gun lobby and refused to compromise public safety.

We can do many things to ensure gun safety without banning guns. Fighting what the NRA has done in Virginia is a place to start. Virginia activists should get busy. There's no time like the present, which includes your own state. Being pro second amendment also includes being for good gun laws that help keep us all safer.

Prayers go out to the families of the victims, the students wounded, as well as all the officials involved in this horrendous tragedy. It's incomprehensible that after Columbine any school would be so unprepared for this challenge. I can't imagine how tortured the administrators and others at Virginia Tech. I pray that people in charge of every school in the country learns a lesson. The minute there was a shooter on campus it should have been locked down. Period.

As for what it says about this country, well, the judgment is harsh. Viriginia Tech is a microcosm of our entire country, I believe. There is not a city, a county or a state prepared for a direct attack on our usually tranquil lives. We are no more prepared at home psychologically, technically or tactically today than we were during Columbine and dare I say 9/11. The sad fact is that if any large institution in this country was attacked it is doubtful people on the scene could handle it. Just think of Virginia Tech a moment. Eight years after Columbine this is what we get? It's truly frightening. Further complicating matters is that local officials in most cities wouldn't react much better. If something really got serious and we needed the National Guard, well, let's be honest about it. We'd have to call Iraq.

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