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 V: Curt, 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.