My deepest condolences to the families of the 21 students killed at Virginia Tech.

UPDATE: The most complete updating I’ve seen on this story is at Hot Air. It’s also the most disturbing, insofar as it claims that 32 (!) people are dead, and that the killer, searching for his girlfriend, lined a bunch of people up so that he could kill them execution style.

As for the fact that a gun was used, Hot Air also notes that gun control people have already been speaking out. I have a couple of off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. First, I’d be surprised if the shooter had the legal right to possess those guns, even if it is in fact legal in America to possess the ones he used. That’s a guess, of course, and I’m perfectly prepared to be proven wrong. Second, if others had guns, he would have been disabled much more quickly. As it was, he had the luxury of shooting fish in a barrel — unimpeded access to unarmed victims. It was only the appearance of policemen with guns that stopped him.

As someone who doesn’t like guns, and who spent her entire life on the gun control side of the spectrum, I can’t avoid an obvious fact, which is that bad guys have always been able to obtain weapons and do bad things with them. And because good guys obey the laws and, often, don’t like guns to begin with, they’re sitting ducks (or barrelled fish).

Gun technology is a Pandora’s box. We have the ability, and therefore do, make weapons of ever greater killing power and all the laws in the world don’t seem effective at keeping them out of the hands of those who want to use them to kill. Short of a Barnhouse effect, they’re not going away.

UPDATE II: Fox News definitely says it’s 32 dead.

UPDATE III: Here’s what happens when law abiding citizens have access to guns when bad guys are shooting. Recall, too, that, during the shootings in Salt Lake City, the matter was ended sooner because an off-duty cop, with gun, coincidentally happened to be present. I’m also trying to hunt down a story about a gunman who attacked NRA headquarters, only to be shot down within seconds of entering the building.

Greg would like a world without guns. So would I. But that’s not happening. The world is what it is, and that’s a world in which bad guys can get guns. (And, as Greg inadvertently demonstrates in his comment, they can get them even if they’re not supposed to under the law, as the Columbine shooters did.) The question then becomes how, in a world with guns, people maximize their own safety. The one thing I do know is that we probably don’t maximize our own safety by rendering ourselves helpless.

I would, of course, be interested in a study showing that there are people who, while they wouldn’t kill if they had to get an illegal gun or work hard to get a gun, would commit mass murder if they had easy access to guns. In that case, the better situation would definitely be the one we have now, where bad guys have to make a huge effort to arm themselves, weeding out all but the most malevolent, and putting a natural cap on the number of inevitable massacres. Because humans seem to have a killing instinct, and in some civilization does not weed out that instinct, we’re always going to have bad stuff happen, especially in our pluralist society. We need to figure out how to minimize the inevitable, recognizing, sadly, that it won’t go away altogether.

And please don’t give me the stuff about Sweden, specifically, or Europe, generally. When those cultures were very homogenous, it was easy to enforce normative behavior regarding guns, and their use. It’s getting harder. England, which has very stringent gun control laws, is having ever increasing amounts of violent crime, especially gun crime in London, where legal gun ownership has been barred. This almost certainly has a lot to do with the de-Anglification of England. It’s not the same people. Likewise, Sweden is becoming an increasingly crime ridden country as it becomes less Swedish. It’s still way behind America crime wise, but the sad fact is that it’s crime rates are increasing, not stagnant. With a wildly (or increasingly) diverse population, you can’t just tell people not to commit crimes, and then make those crimes go away — even in Europe!

UPDATE IV: It will be a while before we can figure out “who” and begin answering “why”: “They [police] also said that the shooter was not carrying identification and his head wounds were so severe that authorities could not immediately identify him.”

UPDATE VCurt, at Flopping Aces, has excellent information, with a lot of posts relaying information from people on the scene.  According to Curt’s data, it sounds as if the killer found his girlfriend in bed with another man, killed both and then started his insane rampage.

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  • D. Reid

    “no more hijackings after 9/11? Why do you believe that? What about the Istanbul flight last year? And there have been at least 3 air hijackings this year alone…”

    Mark your comment reminds me of a story I heard in law school:
    A plaintiff’s Atty was cross examining an expert witness for the defense.
    Atty: “You wrote in your report that the support column showed minimal cracking, so there were cracks present, correct?
    Expert: “No there were no cracks present but I put that in the report because I knew some idiot lawyer would find one somewhere.”

    Of the post 9-11 hijackings you describe one involved a drunk Russian guy and another was not even announced to the passengers as a hijacking until the plane had landed. If a hijacker tried to take over a plane filled with 80 year old grandmothers then they would probably be successful. I stand by my previous comment.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    It is still significantly lower than American, especially concerning murders, despite having a greater urban concentrated population.

    Since when did Britain have a greater urban population? Or do people think that packing people into London means it is “concentrated”? One “concentrated” city is not equal to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco. It is less.

    Not only does Britain have less urban concentrations to produce city crime, but it is illogical to say that Britain is becoming more lawful given their inability to control immigration and the Islamic Jihad inside their countries. It’s just a tad counter-intuitive for people to start thinking that Britain is safer now, given world and domestic events there.

    You’ve had 2/3 the gun deaths the UK gets in a year.

    Well duh, given that the UK has less than 50% the pop of the US. People need to learn how to better manipulate the stats, if they are trying to pull one over folks. Two thirds the gun deaths… UK has 60 million, US has 300 million. Can’t you improve your propaganda a bit?

    I’d rather be oppressed than shot.

    That’s why you’re pro-British anti-gun culture, I suppose.

    Any Americans out here agree with that? Would you rather be gripped by the hand of powerful folks, or would you rather take your chances at getting attacked by a criminal with a weapon?

    I think it is more that because others are nearby, I ASSUME that they would help me.

    I don’t know about that, Deana. There’s far less a sense of community in big cities than there are in small to medium towns.

    I thinks this belief in “significantly lower than the US” in crime whatevers, is a sort of mental rationalization. Meaning, he believes he doesn’t have to defend himself by learning how to kill other human beings, because the state supposedly does it for him. Something deficient in that kind of thinking, in my view. Unethical to the point of suicide.

  • richandmark

    Danny, I agree totally, the UK is just as violent a society as the US, if not moreso. But there are far less murders because we have gun controls. An attack with a knife, a bat, a brick is less likely to result in death than an attack with a gun – and in the UK it’s just harder to put your hands on a gun. Most people have never seen one. And, indeed, because police don’t carry guns as standard, and the public don’t have guns, criminals are less likely to feel they need guns to carry out crimes – especially considering the added sentencing for just being caught in possession of one.

    Draconian gun laws lead to less deaths, not less crime. It’s a pragmatic solution not an idealist one. Each society has to choose where it draws the security/liberty line.

    D Reid. You stand by your previous comment that there were no hijackings, even if you admit there were some? Including the flight diverted from Istanbul to Brindisi and the two 747s this year? You didn’t say there was minimual hijacking, you said there was none…

    ymarsaker – yes, the US has five times the population of the UK. That does not stop 2/3 the annual UK death rate happening in 1 day being a significant stat. Per capita, that’s 2/3 the annual UK death rate happening in five days. Assuming no one else was shot and died in the US that day.

    Not “take your chances”. I said “shot”.

    And yes, per capita, the UK has a greater urban population. Why do you only count London? What about Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, Belfast, Aberdeen…

    I don’t have to rely on the state to defend me. I don’t need as much defending by anyone, least of all myself, that’s all.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Not “take your chances”. I said “shot”.

    That’s cause you think of getting shot. You don’t think of it as a risk vs rewards assessment. Because you’re not going on that boat. It’s not a trip you’re going to take regardless.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    You didn’t say there was minimual hijacking, you said there was none…

    I don’t remember any American planes being hijacked with Americans on them going towards America.

    That would probably have created a sort of media frenzy.

  • http://richandmark.com Mark Andrich

    ymarsakar, you didn’t specify anything about American planes. look back.

    It’s true. I don’t like to think of playing risk vs rewards with guns. The only guns I’ve ever seen have been in the USA and South Africa.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    But this isn’t about me, since I wasn’t in the argument about planes being hijacked before. But I am now, and I will state the point that the only thing that matters to Americans concerning various gun control or fight back policies, is that there have been no successful hijackings of American planes. Richard the Shoe-bomber included.

    Comment by D. Reid | April 17, 2007

    My argument isn’t Reid’s argument, but I will say that I think it is a better one in light of Reid’s beliefs.

  • http://www.markandrich.com Mark Andrich

    Apologies for misattribution.

    I’m still wondering if this will be corrected by anyone: “England, which has very stringent gun control laws, is having ever increasing amounts of violent crime”

    since, the word should be “decreasing”

  • http://www.markandrich.com Mark Andrich

    D Reid.

    So basically, since there were stringent controls on anything that could be used as a weapon when going through an airport, there have been no US hijackings?

    I wonder if that could work on the ground. Maybe start with guns…