Wednesday, April 18, 2007

US mourns campus mass murder

Heart-breaking stories of the all too familiar school shootings has happened yet again.

Tragically a deranged senior student brutally gunned down the lives of 32 people including students and teachers of Virginia Tech University on Monday.

Virginia Tech - a sprawling complex of over 100 buildings on 2,600 acres - has 26,000 residents.

Monday's shootings occurred in two separate locations, two hours apart.

It was the worst since Charles Whitman went to the top of a tower at the University of Texas on Aug. 1, 1966, and opened fire. He killed 15 people, including his mother and wife the night before, and wounded 31 others.

The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colorado. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

As police begin to unravel how 32 people were killed , the authorities were facing tough questions over why they waited more than two hours to inform staff and students of the first murders.

Were there any warning signs that may have given out clues that one of their own students could embark on this ferocious killing spree?

In the wake of this tragedy many questions are being asked and will stir the US debate over gun control and what drives people to go on shooting rampages through schools and colleges.

Cho Seung-hui, the 23-year-old South Korean student who carried out America's deadliest massacre was in the final year of an English degree at the university. He was a loner. His creative writing was apparently so disturbing that his teacher referred him to the university's counselling service for help.

People who commit killings in schools and colleges are sometimes motivated by a specific grievance against that institution or people within it, said Nadine Kaslow, a professor and chief psychologist at Emory School of Medicine.

They are sometimes mentally ill and may equally be reacting to a trauma, either real or imagined, that they have suffered, and decide to take that trauma out on everyone else, Kaslow said in an interview.

The Huffington Post says the US has to be honest about what price it has to pay if gun ownership is to stay legal.

Advocates of gun freedom such as the National Rifle Association argue that the right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. constitution and dispute efforts to link the incidence of gun crime with access to firearms.

Many recent studies have looked at student-on-student violence and its causes and after Columbine intense scrutiny focused on the lives and backgrounds of the two gunmen, who committed suicide.

It also focused on school bullying, social cliques and the potential effects of the music they listened to and the video games they played. Experts also looked for ways to spot warning signs of violence.

Sadly, university campuses in the US seem to be wide open spaces where criminally-minded individuals are able to carry out their warped fantasies.

In the days and months ahead there will a lot of soul-searching over how this senseless shooting happened and to determine ways to provide a safe learning environment.

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