There was another shooting at Virginia Tech today. It occurred just after noon. The Virginia Tech police officer pulled someone over, only to be shot and killed. There are reports that the second person who died in this incident was the shooter.
Aside from the obvious tragedy, this story comes with a couple of ironies. This was supposed to be a quiet “reading day” for Virginia Tech students. Tomorrow’s exams have been postponed as a result of today’s tragedy.
Also, Virginia tech officials were appealing a $55,000 for the fine they received for their handling of the previous shooting.
According to local news, students are in lock-down mode. Parents breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing their child’s voice, or seeing their Facebook message, their tweet with the words: “I’m okay.”
The Virginia tech website has a series of text alerts, to keep students and parents informed of the latest available information.
The first alert went out at 12:37 pm:
From VT Alerts (12:37 p.m.): Gun shots reported- Coliseum Parking lot. Stay Inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.
Ten minutes later, there was a very general description of the suspected killer:
Suspect described as white male, gray sweat pants, gray hat w/neon green brim, maroon hoodie and backpack. On foot towards McComas. Call 911
The most recent text alert (as of this writing):
“Posted: 3:09 p.m.) There are no new substantiated reports of suspicious or criminal activity. Status of the shooter remains unknown.
Update: Exams postponed for Friday, Dec. 9″
This is obviously, a dramatic change from the 2007 shooting. It took a couple of hours for any information to be available to students and parents.
Stories like this raise several issues, though, at this point, we really have much more to learn about this instance.
We do know that someone shot and killed two people on a college campus. We do know that this started following a routine stop by a police officer which cost that officer his life. (While we don’t know the name of the officer, reports confirm that the officer was male.)
We also know this isn’t the first shooting on a college campus, and it is not the first shooting at Virginia Tech.
Many questions remain unanswered. Without knowing who the shooter was or why they did it, it is premature to know what all the questions could be.
Was this shooting the result of someone being stressed out: be it by the economy or some other factor. Was this someone who needed but lacked access to mental health treatment? There is some speculation as to whether the individual was involved in other crimes. According to unconfirmed and unverified reports, this person may have ended their own life after killing the police officer.
Without more information, it’s pretty difficult to know if something can or should be done to prevent something like this from happening again. But any time there is a tragedy like this, it raises the perennial questions about the parameters of the Second Amendment.
I favor some gun control. But the question is how much regulation is possible without compromising the spirit and intent of the second amendment. The previous shooting at Virginia Tech was at the hand of a student who was mentally ill. The individual who shot Congresswoman Giffords and several others was also mentally ill. In the latter case, this is as much about the consequences of a for profit healthcare system as it is about gun control.
Perhaps people who are mentally disturbed shouldn’t have guns. Sounds simple, yet it begs the question how does an idea like this turn into policy. Databases could be the closest to an answer. Psychological exams may be an option. Obviously, there is no fool proof policy. But perhaps, we can at least minimalize the risk.
Do we really need to have guns on campus? There should be a reasonable expectation of safety for children or young adults going to school, including college. Yet, college campuses are open to the public. Realistically, an outright ban on a college campus would compromise 2nd amendment rights.
After four hours, the students are no longer in lockdown. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the officer’s family, or the family of the second person. If this was not the shooter, then a third family will be profoundly affected by the events of this day. These families will be in an emotional lockdown for a while.