Yesterday, literally before the blood was cold at Virginia Tech, I heard some university official telling the press that they planned to import a phalanx of psychologists and counselors so that the "healing" could begin. Sorry, but this is unnatural. When something so monstrous happens, you need time for shock, rage, even for numbness. A decent interval is required before you can or frankly should think about "healing." The therapeutic instinct, so ingrained in our culture, feels almost indecent.
Some in the world press are feasting on this story, enjoying the opportunity to assail America's "gun culture." Such massacres, reports Italy's communist newspaper Il Manifesto, "are as American as apple pie." Much as one might wish to slug the communists on general principles, in this case they have a point.
The Embassy of South Korea issued a statement after it was reported that the shooter was a native of that country. "We are in shock beyond description. We convey deep condolences to victims, families and the American people." An embassy spokesman went on to express the hope that the murderer's identity will not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."
Hardly. We've spawned so many mass killers that we can't even recall their names or all the places they've struck. Columbine still resonates. But who recalls Paducah, Jonesboro, Savannah, Red Lake, Lancaster, Long Island, Killeen or Jacksonville? Those are just a few of the American communities that have suffered mass shootings in the past 20 years, often at schools. All were perpetrated by entirely homegrown fiends. In fact, it looks like we have to take "credit" for Cho Seung-Hui as well, for while the Virginia Tech killer was born in South Korea, he seems to have been in America since the age of 8.
It would be so tidy to believe that gun control or the lack thereof explains this epidemic of ravenous violence. But there are a couple of problems with the reasoning. In the first place, as a practical matter, it's impossible to imagine that we can now disarm the criminal and/or unstable people in our society. A 1994 survey (http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/165476.txt) estimated that as many as 192 million handguns are privately owned in the United States. Even if we passed a gun law confiscatory enough to satisfy the most ardent gun control advocate, only the law-abiding would comply. The black market would continue to supply the demands of criminals. But just as important, the suggestion that we restrict gun ownership does not address the matter of the conscience.
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