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Who's really culpable in the VT Massacre blame game?

April 23, 2007 ~ 9:06 a.m.

OK, so who do I blame for the Virginia Tech gun massacre? The psychiatrist who let Seung-Hui Cho get away. Cho was taken into custody on December 13, 2005 after having harassed two women. Neither young woman pressed charges, but Cho underwent a psychiatric evaluation that had declared him mentally ill. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist in charge of his evaluation decided outpatient therapy would work for Cho and that he was not an imminent danger to himself or others and a district court judge agreed with this evaluation and did not overturn it.

This meant, when ordering his guns, Cho was assumed to have had a clean record. Had Cho had an inpatient stay at a mental health facility on his record, both state and federal law would have denied him the gun purchase.

I do feel, however, that for all our rules and regulations, gun purchases are too easy. Guns are seen too much as a commodity in American society. The Second Amendment gives us the right, but does anyone seriously think that if the Founding Fathers knew what our society was to become, they'd still be talking about an easy right to bear arms? Please. Mentally competent, law-abiding people have the right to a gun, but they should have to jump through several hoops, each one higher than the other, to obtain one.

However, gun crime in and of itself might not be such a problem if not for what my friend Eden said, that we are fed a high-violence media diet which rots our brains. It isn't of course just America that has this culture of violence. The two extremely violent films that had inspired Cho's rampage were South Korean. However, any society that allows a million-and-one versions of Grand Theft Auto as a capitalist right just might be inviting problems. Never mind how such videogames (not to mention gangsta rap, along with many films and TV programs) glorify outrageous violence.

For instance, a mentally disturbed young man in Britain went outside to stab a woman to death after spending all night smoking skunk (a very strong variety of cannabis) and playing Grand Theft Auto. Do we blame the drug or the videogame in driving his illness to a murderous level? The drug—which can induce schizophrenia in mentally incompetent young users—certainly played its part, but drugs need not necessarily encourage violence when the influence, in the form of violent audio/visual "entertainment," exists in the first place.

Besides, let's face facts, no matter how politically incorrect they may be: If it weren't for America's inner-city communities, in which gangs that constantly feed at the trough of "respec'" thrive, then U.S. gun crime statistics would take a nose-dive.

The inconsistent rules that determine gun ownership from state to state and the culture of violence which encourages gun use (or abuse, rather) are certainly culpable in last Monday's shootings. But, if Cho had been locked up 15 months ago, thirty-two Virginia Tech students would still be alive and well. And that is where
the lion's share of blame ought to lie.

– M.E.M.

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