Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Students Discuss Guns

The first day back from spring break, I asked students what news stories they heard while they were gone.

“All those shootings in Virginia,” said a boy. Others nodded and several side conversations started, each about a detail of the story.

“I’d like to hear all your comments about it,” I said, “but only one at a time and let’s be systematic about it. First we’ll summarize what happened, then discuss why it happened, and finally how to prevent shootings like this in the future. So, who can sum up what happened?”

“An Asian guy killed two people in a dorm, then shot a whole lot more people a few hours later in another building,” said the boy.

“Okay. Any other details?”

“He had two guns and a lot of clips for them, and he just kept on shooting,” added another boy. “He sent a DVD of himself and all his guns to NBC too.”

“He bought the clips on Ebay,” said a girl.

“A teacher blocked the door so his students could jump out the window, and the guy killed himself when the police showed up,” said another student from the back of the room.

“All right. Why did he do it?” I asked.

“He killed a girl he had been dating,” said another girl, “and someone else who was in the dorm with her. Then he just went crazy and killed all those other people.”

“His teachers reported him when he wrote some papers that scared them.” said another. They said he needed counseling. He went away for a while when he was in high school, but it didn’t do any good I guess. He was really quiet. He didn’t talk to people.”

“Anything else about why he did it?” I asked.

“He was crazy,” said a boy.

“Obviously,” said a girl.

“How can we prevent shootings like this in the future?”

“Don’t let people like him have guns,” said the girl. “He was obviously crazy and he shouldn’t be able to buy guns.”

“Nobody was allowed to have guns at that school,” said a boy, “but he had them. You can’t stop people from getting guns.”

“The gun store has to check on people who want to buy guns, don’t they Mr. McLaughlin?” said the girl.

“States make gun laws and they’re different state to state,” I said. “Maine, for instance, is lenient about guns. Other states like Massachusetts or New York are stricter. Virginia is a lenient state, but the Virginia Tech campus was a ‘gun-free zone.’ The federal government has gun laws that all states must obey and an FBI check is necessary for anyone who wants to buy a gun at a gun shop. They check on whether the customer has committed a serious crime. I think Virginia checks his past for mental illness.”

“The guy was mentally ill though,” said a girl. “Why didn’t they find that out?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe because he was in an institution when he was a minor child under eighteen and records are private. I’m not sure.”

“So, people can carry guns in Virginia, but not at Virginia Tech?” asked a boy.

“Nobody was allowed to bring guns onto the campus but the police and the school has its own police force.”

“They didn’t do much good, did they?” said a boy.

“Evidently not.”

“He shouldn’t have been a student at that school. Colleges shouldn’t let mentally ill people in.” said the girl.

“Many people struggle with emotional problems and mental illnesses and recover from them with medication or counseling or both. A lot of college students and a lot of professors do too, but it’s a private thing and you don’t hear about it. Most are not dangerous,” I said.

“If Virginia had tougher gun laws, he wouldn’t have been able to buy the guns,” said the girl, “and none of this would have happened.”

“He could still have bought the guns from someone else, just not a store,” said a boy. “Most people get guns that way and if the school let people have their guns in class, that guy would have been shot before he killed thirty-two people.”


Anonymous said...

The last statement by the boy says it all. If someone had a gun, perhaps the crazy would not have been able to kill so many people. Guns don't kill people. People kill people!

Harvey in North Baldwin

Tom McLaughlin said...

Yeah Harvey, it does. We have to be vigilant while our state becomes more and more liberal.