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April 17, 2007

Comments

You need to develop your argument a bit further...this seems a bit of a reach. The fact that there is misuse of student visas doesn't seem, on the face of it, to have anything to do with an individual losing control and using black market weapons to commit mass murder.

Indeed, the most recent reporting this morning suggests the murderer was a resident of the dorm.

If you want to push a political agenda, you'd find firmer ground in the continuted lack of action across the political spectrum on gun control.

Thanks for your comments Sara, and for your personal link to VT. I am an alum from the Arch program and a staff architect and live in Blacksburg. I have always
thought that this region, small college town and community is a great thing, relatively unknown but with a high degree of quality of life and a great place to have and raise a family. It still is of course, but we have been shattered here and today will be a difficult day.

Much appreciation for this site, for you, KargoX, MTWheel and all your fine work and expertise. You (and others) have truly been a beacon during these dark years of the Bush/Cheney presidency.

Sometimes it doesn't take much to link one person to a place or to other people. My only link to VA Tech is housemate I had some years ago, a decent young man and hardworking scholar. I immediately thought of him as the magnitude of yesterday's events became apparent. So I can imagine the force of the wave that must have struck Sara and many others who actually have a strong connection to VA Tech and that part of the Blue Ridge.

As for the visa question, I guess we'll see what we think as the facts become known. But it does seem that a young person many miles from home and in a culture new to him might have a lot more problems and be more isolated or more inclined to the fringe if he is not a part of some structured group, where he has regular interactions with other people, than if he is in the kind of regular program for which those visas were intended. Enrollment supervision can't guarantee that something like this never occur—especially as long as it also remains so easy for anyone to get assault weapons—but at least the odds of spotting someone headed into the thickets are increased.

I'm in Blacksburg too, working in the mental health field. Nothing particular to add at the moment except CNN says this a.m.:

'The gunman who opened fire in Virginia Tech's Norris Hall, killing 30 people before turning the gun on himself, was "an Asian male who was a resident in one of our dormitories," university President Charles Steger said Tuesday. '

I'm not sure if that language is intentionally cryptic. Does "resident" mean also "student". I would think so.

I'm surprised the name of the shooter hasn't been id'd yet.

There is a good sized Asian contingent at Tech. Alienation not necessarily an overwhemling issue in and of itself.

I'm getting a funny font on this post which is very hard to read Sara. I'd suggest changing it, unless it's just my computer somehow.

I see the same very small font, kim.
(I am using Mac OS 10.9 and Safari.)

Sara the problem is not foreign students, it is the availability of guns. Each year thousands of foreign students attend our colleges as both undergrads and grad students. I have had the pleasure of studying with and working with such students for the past 27 years. Over that period of time I know of two who bought guns and killed people on their campuses in a shooting rampage: Gang Lu in 1991 at Iowa and now the man at VA Tech yesterday. That percentage: 2 out of what must be hundreds of thousands over that time period, is vanishingly small. A tracking system to follow foreign students to prevent the sort of shooting yesterday would be an exceedingly poor use of federal resources. Further it would not stop similarly criminally inclined Americans such as the guy in Texas or the Columbine students. Closing the loopholes in gun purchasing regulations would be a much better place to start.

Even then such measures will not prevent all attacks. I don't know how one stops people bent on murder. Improved gun laws could potentially reduce the number killed at any given time, but I don't think you will ever stop it completely. It is appropriate to take steps to reduce the likelihood of such attacks, but scapegoating a group of people on account of it is ill considered. There are roughly 300 million people in the U.S. and you can count the number of these sorts of attacks on one or two hands. Weeding out such ciminally inclined people is the ultimate "needle in a haystack" problem. This is why I think making it harder to get guns is a better way to go.

kim, Coyoteville, and others having the same tiny-type problem as myself: until Sara can fix it, remember you can hit "command-(plus sign)" in most browsers to increase font size (and "command-(minuns sign)" makes you smaller).

Enormously fatal traffic pile-ups make the news, daily deaths in car accidents less often. It doesn't matter which one it was if it's the one that takes someone you know, or love. A story like this, naturally, brings tremendous concerns and examination of why it happened and how to stop it. Perhaps this is the wrong perspective, but 31 people were killed in the last four weeks in NYC, many as young and many as innocent as the ones we're focused on now. Their deaths did not invite national scrutiny.

I'm still grappling with my thoughts here, but I don't think student visas are the issue and I don't think it's even gun control (though that would help). I think it's more about the lack of things like hope, a sense of fairness in the world, and places to go for help and fellowship.

Prostratedragon, I disagree with your alienation line of thinking. Most people manage to live through culture shock without becoming murderous, whether it is Americans living abroad or Asians living here. A movie has recently been released based on the Iowa shootings in 1991. I have not seen it, so I will refrain from being too critical of it, but from what I read in the review of it in the NY Times, the director wanted to explore this notion of alienation and culture shock and feelings of powerlessness experienced by graduate students in the presence of abusive thesis advisors. This is all well and good, but it is not what happened in Iowa (hence the directors use of a fictionalized account "inspired" by the events at Iowa).

I knew two of the people killed at Iowa and I was told a first hand account of what occurred by a colleague who was there. Gang Lu had already received his Ph.D. He had succeeded. All he needed to do was get a job. In fact he was still welcome at Iowa while he was looking for a position elsewhere and he continued to attend the weekly meetings held by his research group. The problem was that Gang Lu was insanely jealous of his classmate, Linhua Shan, who had received an award for his dissertation and had been offered a post-doc at Iowa to continue his studies there.

It seems to be the root of all of this business is likely to be mental illness. That is something that we don't talk about in the country, much less properly screen for or treat. And I think that to approach this as if you are dealing with a mentally healthy person alienated to the point of murder continues to skirt the issue at hand. How do we screen for and treat people exhibiting signs of mental illness, in particular those who pose a danger to others?

As I mentioned in my previous comment this strikes me as looking for a needle in a haystack when it comes to these types of extreme cases, but perhaps a better overall mental health system in this country might be another good place to start (along with closing loopholes in gun purchasing laws as I mentioned above -- although admittedly, that would have been of no help in Iowa).

These guns have already been determined to be black market guns, doesn't that make any gun control discussions moot?

But the student visa point IS valid, and the "resident" comment is certainly interesting. I know from my college days, someone's boyfriend could shack up overnight without too many questions raised, more than overnight if he was a nice guy and got to know everyone.

I also know, and not to sound like a bigot, but having roomed with a 2nd generation Chinese man for about 9 months, that their culture is a high pressure one, work yourself to death, for your family and for honor. The guy I shared an apartment with was a full-time engineering student who worked full time at the local power plant, doing engineering work, sending every spare penny he had back home to Chinatown in NYC.

When I saw reports of the shooter the lack of emotion on his face, I thought of my roommate from 20 years ago. The guy worked himself to the bone and showed no emotion about it. When you bottle that stuff up, something has to give.

My roommate as far as I know coped with American society well enough, having at least grown up in NYC's Chinatown, and is probably a successful engineer by now. But this shooter had been dumped into this country less than a year ago, surely with major culture shock. See above about something having to give.

Ok, CNN reporting he was indeed a student and he was South Korean. My above post is likely a waste of space because I have no first hand knowledge of Korean culture.

I've got the same small font & can't read the article.

cut and paste the article into a word processor and change the font!

Hi Bugboy, when I suggest improving gun control, I am referring to tightening the loopholes regarding buying guns at shows, where things like background checks and waiting periods either aren't required or aren't enforced. I also remember seeing something on PBS that indicated that gun manufacturers have the ability to identify where guns that are used in crimes are sold, but they choose not to pursue it. Those are the sorts of things I would improve...

Condolences and prayers John B. Today, we are all "Hokies."

I still strongly assert that gun control laws are followed only by law abiding gun owners, not by those that would commit crimes with guns. I'm not by any means a gun fanatic, but I am a realist.

I don't know, maybe it's something along the lines of how society treats murderers and drug addicts as criminals, when they might better be treated as mental health issues. I know that fits well with drug addiction, but murder might be a stretch.

I know my own personal take on murder is I'd have to be crazy insane or mad with rage to kill someone. After you skim off crimes of passion, what murders today are not committed in the process of a crime to acquire material goods? Goods acquired to finance a drug addiction? What do they do in the military but train you to compartmentalize your rational resistance to killing?

There is never just one cause for something like this. Our culture is highly competitive, and some subcultures are intensely competitive. Community-type ties have broken down, and we have many people who feel (and are) alienated. We have mentally ill individuals and we have insufficient mental health services, particularly for subcultures who might see treatment as a sign of weakness or failure. And we have lots and lots of guns, available for anyone who wants one. And we have media who glorify or at least give a tremendous amount of attention to mass murder. Foreign don't seem much of a dent in this picture (although I confess not having actually read the post because of the small font).

It's a tragic situation, but its a wonder we don't have more of this, really.

And note here that the trigger for this event was apparently something to do with a girlfriend (the first victim) and the campus police did nothing to warn anyone because they did not think that a man who kills his partner is a threat to others as well. So let's add domestic violence and attitudes toward women to our list of "causes" here.

I'm still grappling with my thoughts here, but I don't think student visas are the issue and I don't think it's even gun control (though that would help). I think it's more about the lack of things like hope, a sense of fairness in the world, and places to go for help and fellowship.
Posted by: emptypockets | April 17, 2007 at 09:10

The man used two hand guns very efficiently. He killed his former girlfriend first and then another person in the dorm. Maybe the second person was just a witness, nothing more.

His gun violence is about power and his ability to assert it unambiguously. His decision to start the violence was possibly motivated out of pride, feelings of low self worth, feeling disrespected or dishonored perhaps accompanied by a feeling his personal life was disintergrating. Maybe he was psychotic, probably not.

In addition to the tragic loss of 32 persons to hang gun violence, there are two things that bother me about these murders; the media asking why the school didn't manage the threat better and how surprised the public is by the violence.

As extreme as the violence is, it is surely not shocking.

We have a hand gun problem here in the US and a lobby with undue influence. If hand guns were rare, the man may has used a less lethal and efficient weapon.

There is however, no easy answer to solve the problem of alienated individuals - as their worlds come tumbling down around them - who choose to resort to extreme violence.

I agree Mimikatz. The bottom line here is that ever so often a person snap and decides to kill a bunch of people, guns, bombs, poison. It's happened since the beginning of time, and always will happen. The media is going to make a circus of this, and I think that's wrong. It's a personal event for those poor individuals involved, a great loss that the rest of us should express sympathy for, but stay out of. I'd hoped we'd let this pass on this blog.

Information regarding sequence of events surrounding initial 2 deaths at the dormitory, as reported by the media, may not be very accurate at all. The 2 individuals may have been dead for some time and eventually discovered; NOT that there were shootings that were immediately investigated as a result of gunshots. I.e., this relates to some of the criticism of the administration for not locking down the university in reaction to a shooting in progress. I believe my sources are reliable.

The young man was a South Korean student at VT and he was an English Major. I heard an interview on NPR with his former teacher who had flagged him last year as a troubled, depressed person, and had shared that information with school authorities. She said that the FBI had her information on his writings which she was not a liberty to disclose at this time, as it is being used in their investigation of the tragic event.(She has an OPEd piece in the NYTimes about VT.)

The young man was a South Korean student at VT and he was an English Major. I heard an interview on NPR with his former teacher who had flagged him last year as a troubled, depressed person, and had shared that information with school authorities. She said that the FBI had her information on his writings which she was not a liberty to disclose at this time, as it is being used in their investigation of the tragic event.(She has an OPEd piece in the NYTimes about VT.)

I still strongly assert that gun control laws are followed only by law abiding gun owners, not by those that would commit crimes with guns. I'm not by any means a gun fanatic, but I am a realist.
Posted by: Bugboy | April 17, 2007 at 11:42

You do that but recognize there is some evidence to the contrary. In 1996, Autstralia, which had also been plagued with mass murder gun killings decided to revise national gun laws. The results over 11 years has been a dramatic reduction in the same.

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