Tragic omission

The Reno News & Review received its first letter to the editor attempting to take political advantage of the murders at Virginia Tech only a few hours after the tragedy:

More school killings, this time in Virginia, what a terrible and sad thing.

All of a sudden State Senator Bob Beers’ proposal to arm teachers doesn’t seem so outlandish!

However, I’d like to one up the Senator. It is my personal opinion that any former military member that was honorably discharged should be allowed to carry a handgun, concealed or otherwise, with certain restrictions, anywhere in the United States!

This would make all the bad guys think twice and would also serve as a powerful deterrent to our enemies and terrorists.

We beg to differ. An insane person would not have cared if every student on that campus carried an assault rifle.

Any attempt to make sweeping changes to laws, particularly gun and privacy laws, in light of what is clearly an isolated incident will be a mistake. There are 300 million people in the United States. According to the NRA, there are about 200 million privately owned guns. Not to be politically incorrect, but considering the incidence of untreated mental illness in this country and the availability of weapons, the surprising thing is that this type of tragedy happens as rarely as it does. Cho Seung-Hui, the 23-year-old senior English major who is accused of the murders, should have been removed from the community when he first began exhibiting threatening behavior—like stalking women and lighting a dorm room on fire.

Arming teachers? Why not arm psychiatrists? Why not exclude 8-year-old male emigrants from South Korea? Or better yet, why not encourage institutions to develop open policies in emergency situations?

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the scene in the administration’s offices at Virginia Tech after the first murders took place in the dorm room. It appears they chose to put the school’s reputation ahead of students’ and employees’ safety. By most accounts, there were two hours between the first murders and the second. At deadline, most of the facts of this tragedy have yet to be revealed, but early reports suggest that the school waited until after the bloodbath began in Norris Hall to alert the campus community to the presence of a killer at large.

People died because that university was not locked down immediately after the first murders. People died because the administration chose secrecy over the dissemination of information that might have saved lives.

In this age of “terror,” many government agencies have chosen to withhold information from the public, often using “public interest” as a rationalization for keeping people in the dark. This horrible tragedy offers universities and other government agencies across the country a chance to enhance their security and openness policies. But it should not create an opportunity for people with hidden agendas to take political advantage.