Blogs > Liberty and Power > Two Thoughts on Virginia Tech

Apr 18, 2007 9:18 am

Two Thoughts on Virginia Tech

First, although none of the victims of the V.T. massacre deserved what they got, I was especially struck by the obit/profile of Professor Liviu Lebrescu, who survived the Nazis and the Communists, and died a hero: “According to media accounts quoting students,” the NYT reports, “Mr. Librescu and the class heard shooting in a nearby room. The students said their professor blocked the door to prevent the gunman from entering while some students took cover underneath desks and others leaped out from windows.” Amazing guy. UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has more on Prof. Lebrescu.

Second, the gun-control issue. As David and Lester have noted, we have here a clear example of how disarming the people makes everyone less safe. The NYT letters-to-the-editor this morning (go look, no reg nec) are interesting. While some are of the predictable “guns should be banned” variety, others make the case that calling something a “gun-free zone” doesn’t mean anything, and that disarmed people are defenseless people, and that the responsibility lies with the deranged character of the perpetrator rather than some abstraction like “gun culture.” See especially the third and sixth letters. (Bonus: that #3 letter is by L&P reader Daniel Schumtter. Kudos!)

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Lisa Casanova - 4/23/2007

Dr. Luker,
How do you feel about the possibility of having students in your class without your knowledge who suffer from serious mental illness? Your argument seems to suggest that everything's fine as long as no one has access to guns, but the VT situation seems to me to be as much about how we handle people with mental illness who truly need help as about gun policy. Would you support greater intrusions on the rights and autonomy of the mentally ill to force them to get treatment? Otherwise, the conclusion is that it's better to take away the rights of law-abiding gun owners than to take away the rights of people with a psychiatric condition who show a propensity for violence. How do you decide which set of rights is more deserving of protection?

Demetria H - 4/23/2007

i feel that if students want to bring guns to school that is their choice as long as it is for protection and not trying to show it off to everyone. everyone needs to proct themselves from everything but there are some cases that guns should not be allowed.

Aeon J. Skoble - 4/20/2007

Of course not. But if V.T. is a state school, then VA's powers to infringe 2ndAM liberty there should be just as limited as its power to infringe 1stAM liberty there. And in general, The State should not have the power to declare defenselessness zones.

Oscar Chamberlain - 4/20/2007

Are you arguing that the owner of a piece of property should not have the right to ban guns from the premises?

Anthony Gregory - 4/19/2007

Lew Rockwell argues that we don't know which universities should have which gun policies, because it's not a free market:

Ralph E. Luker - 4/18/2007

Do you mind if I ask all the students who come to my class with weapons to transfer over to your section?

Lester Hunt - 4/18/2007

Thanks for the link to the NYT letters page. It is very refreshing to see that people are thinking of other responses besides simply magically removing guns from the civilian population.

Aeon J. Skoble - 4/18/2007

Yes, I really think that. (Why would I blog something I think is false?) If _any_ of them had been armed, he wouldn't have been able to kill so many. Cf. the Kileen Texas massacre. One young woman who watched both of her parents murdered had left her gun in the car, because it was illegal to take it into the restaurant. She regrets she lost the chance to save her folks, and is now a state legislator who has pushed for far more liberal gun laws. I regret I can't recall her name, maybe another commenter will know it.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/18/2007

Your "disarming the people" line is pretty misleading, since Virginia has laws that protect the right of the murderer at Tech to purchase his weapons of choice. Do you _really_ think that the answer is for students to come to class armed with their weapons of choice?

Amy H. Sturgis - 4/18/2007

Great links - thanks!

Members of the science fiction community have been keeping award-winning science fiction author Michael Bishop especially in their thoughts; his son, Jamie Bishop, a German instructor, was killed during the attack. Here are a few links:
* Read the Roanoke Times article about Jamie Bishop.
* Read an excerpt from Michael Bishop's essay "A Reverie for Mister Ray" about reading Ray Bradbury to his then 9-year-old son Jamie.
* Visit Jamie Bishop's website and art portfolio.
* Golden Gryphon has posted the wraparound cover by Jamie Bishop to Michael Bishop's 2003 collection Brighten to Incandescence