(Note: This is a re-posting of an entry I made on April 18, 2007, on a Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)
About 48 hours ago, Virginia Tech senior Seung-Hui Cho went into Norris Hall, chained the main entrances shut, then proceeded to murder 30 people. Earlier Monday morning, he had killed two others at the West Ambler Johnston dormitory.
Mass murders and spree killings generally make no sense, and it is especially true of this one.
Here are some assorted thoughts I've had over the last 24 hours:
Sure, Cho was angry at "rich kids" and "deceitful charlatans." I've come across my share of both kinds of people throughout my life--the former group made fun of my clothes and stuff in school; the latter steal jobs from more qualified people and steal money from people any way they can. But those 32 people... what did they do?
Locking them inside the building is a particularly horrible tactic, one that the Nazis used in 1945 to prevent prisoners of war from being freed by advancing Allied troops. In two separate incidents, they locked more than 2,000 prisoners--300 in a mess hut on the outskirts of Leipzig and 1,800 in a barn at Gardelegen--and set the inside on fire so that the prisoners either burned or suffocated. I don't know how he was able to lock those doors without being caught.
Cho's rage had been great enough for him to buy a gun last month, but I have to wonder: Had that rage been festering for years? A teacher tried to refer him to counseling, but he refused treatment. His roommates mentioned red flags to their residence hall advisor in hopes that they would be passed up the usual "chain of command," but for whatever reason, that proved ineffective.
A lot of the reports I've read say he was a "loner" who had social problems. I hope an investigation is made into what happened to him in childhood--maybe he developed social anxieties of some kind and become withdrawn as a result. His plays, noted for their shocking and disturbing dialogue and imagery, were about a thieving teacher and a bad stepfather--did he come across people like that earlier in his life?
In light of the incident, the gun control debate has new life. I've read that Virginia has relatively lax gun control laws, and maybe they need to be toughened. Still, people cannot govern based on the theoretical (what could happen, as opposed to what does happen), unless the society is totalitarian, and frankly, I'd rather be free, knowing full well that someone could shoot me one day. Just because someone exhibits odd behavior is not cause to deny anyone the right to bear arms. What Cho did was extraordinarily terrible, but gun control can only go so far.