Five Days Later, What Have We Learned?

It’s been 5 days since the massacre at Virginia Tech and we’ve learned a great deal since then. We know now the name of the shooter and because of the material he sent to NBC we have heard and read his delusional thoughts. We’ve seen the pictures and heard about the lives of those who were killed and wounded that day.

We’ve also been debating some of the events of this past week. Most concerning for me was the packet Cho Seung-Hui sent to NBC. They rightly forwarded it along to the FBI but not before the copied it and broadcasted it (which was, of course, picked up and broadcasted by nearly everyone else). The executives at NBC say they struggled before showing clips of the tape but I have a hard time sympathizing with them for their struggle. Had
they forwarded it to the FBI without keeping a copy we never would have heard of it and I don’t think we would be the poorer for it. Though they don’t say so I have to believe part of their decision was based on the fear that Cho had also sent packets to other media outlets.

We’ve also been talking about mental illness and how to deal with adult sufferers. We hear that Mr. Cho came to the attention of the police and mental health professionals because he was stalking young women. Unfortunately until April 16th he did not pose a danger to himself or others and there appears there was nothing anyone could do. I wish there would have been a way to predict this level of violence but we are not there yet. In generations past we could have institutionalized someone like this but we also institutionalized many people who did not belong in custody. This is perhaps a call to continue to learn about mental illness.

I also believe this is a call to re-examine laws about who may purchase and possess a gun. There is some debate over whether or not Mr. Cho bought his guns legally given his history, but even if he was there was no way to check on his mental health background. I guess the Commonwealth of Virginia depends on mentally ill people being honest and up front.

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