Cho Seung-Hui and the Rights of the Mentally Ill

Since the morning of April 16, Virginia Tech students, professors and administrators have displayed extraordinary dignity in the face of one of the nation’s great tragedies. My respect for the institution and those who are part of it has increased immeasurably. I can only hope that I, if faced with a comparable horror, would acquit myself as well.

Although punditry is my business, I have largely withheld commentary about the public policy implications of the shooting rampage for two reasons: First, I thought it appropriate to let the mourners bury the bodies of their loved ones before pontificating on the meaning of it all, and second I wanted to see more facts emerge. We do no honor to the fallen by jumping to conclusions based on preconceived notions. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has done precisely the right thing by setting up an independent review panel to inquire into the April 16 tragedy and the events leading up to it.

Presumably, the review panel will endeavor to determine if the rampage could have been prevented, and what it will take to prevent another such incident from reoccurring. The panel’s inquiries undoubtedly will follow many of the same trails blazed by journalists investigating the massacre: Were Virginia’s gun laws tight enough? Is Virginia’s system for treating the mentally ill too lax and unaccountable?

To my mind, the central question is this: How was it possible for someone as mentally unstable as Cho Seung-Hui to acquire two guns? In 2005, a Montgomery County magistrate had found the student to be a danger to himself and others. But, according to Bill McElway with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, state and federal authorities disagree over whether such a finding restricted Cho’s right to purchase a gun.

After the magistrate found Cho to be a danger, McElway reports, he was detained for assessment at a county mental facility, then released the next day. State law did not permit him to be institutionalized: He was to be provided the least restrictive appropriate form of medical care: in his case, outpatient treatment. Because he was released, authorities did not deem him to have been “admitted” to a mental facility. Writes McElway:

That means no record of the person’s assessment, even if the person is found to be mentally ill and a danger, is forwarded to law-enforcement agencies for background check purposes.

So, the “obvious” remedy is to tighten up reporting requirements for mentally ill patients. If future Chos are found to be a danger, that information should be conveyed to law enforcement officials and should be grounds for blocking the purchase of hand guns.

But it’s not quite so simple. The desire to restrict the rights of crazy people to acquire hand guns — a restriction that I totally support, incidentally — will run smack into the rights of the mentally ill. I dare say that the review panel will uncover a host of advocates who work tirelessly to expand the privacy rights of the mentally ill, to avoid actions that would stigmatize them and to require due process before institutionalizing them against their will or depriving them of other civil rights. Cho fell through the cracks, I hypothesize, because a broad-based social movement dedicated to taking the mentally ill out of institutions and integrating them back into society has worked diligently to expand their rights.

We might well find that the problem in Cho’s case wasn’t insufficiently tight gun laws, or inadequate spending on mental health care. As Walt Kelly said, “We have found the enemy and it is us” — our culture and legal system, which gives primacy of the rights of individuals, including those of the mentally ill, over the collective good. Should the review panel find that to be the case, the “obvious” solution isn’t so obvious at all.

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45 responses to “Cho Seung-Hui and the Rights of the Mentally Ill”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    I think this whole discussion should start with the verbatim wording of the second amendment. From Wikipedia, it is as follows:

    “ A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. ”

    The copies distributed to the states, and then ratified by them, had different capitalization and punctuation:

    “ A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”.

    The guy who shot all those people at Virginia Tech (I refuse to remember his name) was not part of a “well regulated militia”. Neither am I. Neither of us have/had a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.

    From the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence:

    “In 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger referred to the Second Amendment as “the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime…[the NRA] ha(s) misled the American people and they, I regret to say, they have had far too much influence on the Congress of the United States than as a citizen I would like to see – and I am a gun man.” Burger also wrote, “The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon…[S]urely the Second Amendment does not remotely guarantee every person the constitutional right to have a ‘Saturday Night Special’ or a machine gun without any regulation whatever. There is no support in the Constitution for the argument that federal and state governments are powerless to regulate the purchase of such firearms…”

    It is time for the state government in Virginia to do something useful:

    1. Ban all handguns. Period. Only military and law enforcement personnel shall have any kind of handgun.

    2. Allow cities and counties to sue gun manufacturers for the damage done by their products. Presently, there is an exemption to these lawsuits for gun makers. No more.

    3. No more assualt weapons. None. Not for any reason.

    4. Full registration of all rifles and shotguns. If you are deemed to be mentally unstable then the state police show up at your door and take your rifles and shotguns.

    It’s time to close the door on this gun loving insanity.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, in my opinion, this is the most reasoned post you have made in a long time. Your assessment of the situation is quite accurate.

    I find Groveton’s comment above, as usual, quite extreme. Handguns and assault-style weapons *may* be fair game to make illegal. However, there are 70 million gun owners in the nation. A substantive number of which own handguns. I don’t think it is going to happen.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Handgun restrictions and prohibitions have been enacted all over the country. City asfter city has made the decision. Countries all over the world have decided that the benefits of handgun ownership are outweighed by the the damage those (admittedly few who vilooate the law) do with handguns.

    The right to bear arms, in an extreme definition, should allow me to keep live hand grenades in my closet and bolt surface-to-air missles onto my roof. In many ways, that kind of armament would be alot more effective against the king of England returning with an army or me trying to actually fight the US Marine Corps – whatever the “gun lobby” thinks is the actual basis for everybody having an imaginary constitutional right to own hadnguns.

    Anon 5:36 – handguns will be outlawed in America. It’s just a matter of time.

    The devastation caused by bad people owning handguns is not worth the limited good they serve in the hands of good people.

    Maybe I am extreme.

    So are the deaths of all those good people in Blacksburg.

  4. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Australia banned guns more than 10
    years because of a tragedy in that
    country similar to what took place
    at Va Tech last Monday.

    The comments on this posting are
    thoughtful and constructive.

    Virginia needs to take a lead in our country to bring about major
    changes in our dealing with the gun
    problem and the mentally ill.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with the idea of getting facts out .. and to strive to establish a rational context before we start making changes or even comptemplate them.

    One question I have is what is the experience of other countries when it comes to an individuals becoming serial/mass killers – in what kinds of numbers and how they killed.

    We need to know where this is an “American” culture issue or not.

    Also – guns are not the only way to kill.

    explosives, poison gas, poisoned water, beheadings, machetes, arson, car bombs, etc all are alternatives for someone insane enough.. and denied easy access to a gun.

    How hard would it have been for a crazed individual to hijack a gasoline or propane tanker truck and drive it into a dorm at 80mph?

    Harder than a Glock? yes but not impossible if the person is crazed and determined enough. Oklahoma proved that as well as 9-11, Japan, England and Madrid.. et al.

    And before we head down the path of trying to “detect” those who “might” come unglued – please consider how many folks with mental issues who were NOT committed .. and did NOT kill 30+ people vs the one who did.

    Do you want a system where all of those folks are now locked up?

    What I don’t think we want .. is our kid coming home from school .. and saying that other kids were bullying him and he beat the crap out of one of them.. and then the principal reported him to police where his name was put on a database list of people to “watch”
    and then from that point on – whether he tried to get into college.. or get a security clearance or … just a job where money was handled – that “mark” follows them… and employers have a choice between him with his “mark” and someone without a mark.

    We should think long and hard about setting into motion – events that gain momentum and go where we don’t want them to go.

    It’s time to get facts – and take a breath… and keep our emotions in check – as hard as that might be at this point.

  6. Groveton Avatar

    My understanding from Australia is that the results were somewhat mixed. I am in Australia every two months or so. This is what I’ve been told informally…

    In mant ways, the Australian experience was different than where we are in the US. Handguns were tightly controlled before the “Port Arthur” massacre. After Port Arthur, the number of mass killings went way down. However, the number of homocides was different depending on the state within Australia. Some were flat and some were down.

    The change in Australian law after the massacre was about regulating “long guns”, not regulating handguns. As I understand things, it was more or less a ban on assualt type weapons and weapons with large ammunition clips. The government bought these weapons from the people who (prior to the Port Arthur massacre) had legally owned them.

    I would be happy to hear from anybody who has more detailed facts from Australia.

    However, I can say this for sure from my many travels to mant different countries all over the world – the United States is virtually alone in its love of guns and willingness to let almost anybody have one. We are also almost alone in our belief that the benefits of handguns outweigh the problems that handguns cause.

    I know that being like the rest of the world is a questiionale goal. But sometimes we should listen to others as we consider our own situation. Maybe we are right and the rest of the civilized world is wrong. Sometimes that’s true – but rarely. More often we are wrong and the rest of the world is right.

  7. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    I would suggest to you Virginia should:

    -set standards for the mentally ill
    to limit their ability to buy guns
    and to include that information in
    the national data base which is used for background checks when one purchases a gun;

    -eliminate the right for persons to
    buy one gun a month in Virginia, not allowing the sale of more than
    one gun to a buyer during their
    life, unless they prove their handgun was lost, damaged or sold
    to someone else legally entitled to
    own a gun;

    -ban gun shows in Virginia;

    -and close gun shops in the state.

    That is a progressive program for our state that would set new standards in the county.

    This program would be a responsible
    reaction to the loss of lives at
    Virginia Tech.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    Mr. Provo:

    I applaud your willingness to question the “status quo”. I imagine that your apporach is more likely to fall on responsive ears than my more extreme view.

    However, with all due respect for you and your views, I don’t think you go far enough.

    There is no constitutionally guaranteed right to own handguns or assault weapons.

    In my opinion, the benefits of owning handguns and assault weapons are overwhelmed by the bad things that happen with that ownership.

    One handgun per person is better than what we have now but (in my opinion) it’s still one handgun too many.

    Mr Gross:

    My position is not taken from an emotional perspective. I have come to my conclusions over time. I don’t know whether it was Colombine or Luby’s or Kentucky or whatever. I just know that, at some point along the way, I changed my mind about the decision about handguns and assault weapons.

    The massacre at Virginia Tech didn’t make me anti-handgun and anti-assault weapon. It just helped to confirm what I already had come to believe.

    Sometimes things are really more simple than they seem:

    1. Is the broad ownership of handguns a net positive or negative for the United States of America?

    2. What value does the ownership of assault weapons bring to the populance in general? Are the benefits worth the costs?

    My answers to these questions are:

    1. No.
    2. None.

    If we don’t act there will be another Virginia Tech – like tradegy and then another and then another. Eventually, people will take the actions needed to stop this madness. In my mind it’s just a matter of how many more senseless deaths it will take to get people to act.

    As for me, I’d had enough of this long before last Monday’s mass murders at Virginia Tech.

  9. Groveton Avatar

    OK – My answers should have been:

    1. Net negative.
    2. None. No.

    Sorry for the typos.

  10. gold_h2o Avatar

    Sadly, a mentally deranged individual like Cho Seung-Hui who is willing to die in support of his beliefs is impossible to defend against in a free and open society.

    The U.S. Military, the best trained and equipped in the history of the world, can’t win the current war it’s in because one person loaded with explosives is just as deadly and effective as 50 people carrying guns. You could pass a law tomorrow that made it illegal to be a suicide bomber. Guess what? There will still be suicide bombers.

    The point I am trying to make is that more gun laws would not have prevented Cho Seung-Hui from doing what he did….he was on a suicide mission.

    IMO, BETTER enforcement and MODIFICATION of existing gun laws might have given authorities more time do a COMPLETE background check on him which in turn might have enabled them to prevent him from buying a gun legally.

    That being the case, one modification of existing gun laws that I support is a longer waiting period so that a COMPLETE and THROUGH background check can be carried out. Sure, they did a background check in this situation but the question is was it through? The obvious answer is no.

    Also, and perhaps of even greater significance, is that if Cho Seung-Hui couldn’t have gotten the guns in a legal manner, one must assume that he would have found a way to obtain them illegally like so many other criminals.

    Anyone can get a gun and not everyone should have a gun – that’s the problem.

    You can pass all the laws you want….if you are not willing to take guns off of the street and make it harder for people who shouldn’t possess a gun to have a gun then you are not addressing the real problem.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    You should read the national media besides the Times-Dispatch, which in my view, has done a truly lousy job overall of covering the VT tragedy. Lots of cheesy grief pictures and no substance except for maybe the McKelway piece and even then he missed a lot of the story.
    The New York Times reported several days ago that federal law forbids people like Chou with official, registered mental issues from getting handguns. Period. It isn’t a “disagreement” between federal and state officials. It is federal law and what the feds say it is.
    Another major issue, largely ignored by the TD, is how Chou could slip through the cracks in the state mental health system. Professors note that more kids are getting admitted with mental issues. According to recent federal privacy laws, college admissions officers can’t know about them. And when professors do try to do something, as Profs and famed poets Giovanni and Roy admirably tried to at Tech, nothing happened. The university and its cop force said they didn’t have responsbility although they later sought a court ordered remanding Chou to a psychiatrist. Even then, he was treated as an outpatient and there’s no evidence he was treated for more than a day.
    These are issues Virginia MUST deal with. Despite the right wing gun fanatics, it simply does not make sense to allow mentally unbalanced individuals to buy handguns and all the ammo they want. It is NOT an issue of the Second Amendment. It is not some liberal dogma. We’re not talking about arming militas. We’re talking about allowing dangerous, unbalanced individuals to be able to murder at will. That’s what happened here. And the state must seriously refocus on its mental health system even though it’s anything but a sexy topic.
    It is time for all state leaders, especially Tim Kaine, to start addressing these issues straight on. Right here. Right now. They must not wait for some commission months forwward when a lot has been forgotten. That is what happened with Columbine, Amish School, etc. Nothing happened. And it will happen again.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Anonymous is right. It will blow away in the dust. What we need to do is demonstrate in Washington DC. Does anyone remeber doing that anymore? MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!!!!???? Right to free speech and all that? Yes, anyone can run a truck or car full of explosives into a building but perhaps if Cho had not had the easy accessibility to handguns, his options may have been limited, or better, his intentions detected beforehand. Anonymous 2

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I often play Devil’s advocate in discussions. It’s my way of trying to understand the opposite view.

    I ask provocative questions – on purpose sometimes.

    In the case of Virginia, our state has been accused in the past of being a supplier of cheap and easy guns to folks who take them out of state to places where handguns are much more restrictive.

    In fact, isn’t New York now investigating gun dealers in Va that are not 100% kosher in their transactions?

    Is it a tad ironic that now that Va itself has suffered such a terrible trajedy that more folks are questioning the way that Va does business with respect to guns?

    Did it take Va Tech for us Virginians to pay attention?

    For myself, I distinquish between a well-regulated militia and an individual who is not affiliated with any militia except by virtue of being a citizen that “could” band togther in a future citizen militia. It’s a tenuous connection – and if we REALLY belived in it – we’d all be able to own bazookas and shoulder-fired missiles – right? So instead, we apparently believe that small diameter weapons like Glocks are not as harmful as other weapons and thus “ok”.

    I don’t think the framers of the constitution truly forsaw just how advanced guns would become in terms of their capability to not only fire virtually automatically but to be clip-reloaded in an instant and start firing all over again. Reports are that Cho fired over 150 shots in less than 5 minutes and each victim shot multiple times.

    Having said the above and acknowledging the sheer deadliness of guns to commit mayhem on innocents,

    1. – there are other ways to kill besides a gun – and they are practiced in parts of the world where guns are harder to get.

    2. – there is no static bright line in the world of mental illness. There are graduations – that change – over time – as with ANY illness. Some folks get much, much better with treatment.

    3. – guns that are available to those who qualify, are, in fact, also available to those who don’t.

    bottom line: I’m not opposed to more restrictions on guns but I think all of us should recognize that future trajedies like Va Tech won’t go away just because access to guns is made more restrictive.

    I think we do need to be very careful and cautious about how we deal with folks – long-term who at some point in their lives, stray over the mental illness line, especially young folks.

    We cannot forget that mental illness, like other illnesses CAN BE treatable. Think of your own flesh and blood who becomes sick and needs help – and societies response might be to forever tag them as not to be trusted.

    For every Cho, there may be literally thousands of youngsters who do something very anti-social and destructive… and need help
    to straighten themselves out – before we essentially cast them away in terms of the rest of their lives.

    This goes to the heart of whether you “correct” a behavior or not – and if you cannot – then should they be locked up – forever?

    Let me be more blunt.

    If you take a person who is mentally ill – and you deprive them of the ability to improve their situation by tagging them as such… and they eventually end up in prison with hardened and violent criminals – then can you ever let them out after that?

    Perhaps the policy to turn folks out from mental institutions was wrong and perhaps what we did was the equivalent of shirking our responsibility of properly treating them – with taxpayer money.

    I just would hate to see us return to the days when mental illness was justification for essentially abandonment…. because of fear and suspicion. Imagine if we approached Cancer in this way and yet mental illness is often.. just like Cancer.

    Let’s keep ourselves open-minded enough to wait for the facts and be cautious in changes.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry Gross,
    What “facts” are we waiting to hear? It seems rather simple to me.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think some of the worst mistakes and decisions are made by people who simply don’t know… that they don’t know….

    they think they know. .but they sometimes lack important info that they don’t even know they need and they move to actions that are not warranted by the facts (that they don’t have and failed to obtain).

    The Gov has created a commission to assemble a comprehensive set of facts which will surely include more info – and I believe make recommendations.

    My view:

    Wait for this commission to do it’s work.

    Any recommendations that come from that commission that are unanimous should have strong weight with the public for changes.

    Recommendations that are not unanimous needs more consideration by a wider group of folks, including the public to be sure that we get the policy changes “right”.

    Things not recommended by the Commission but advocated by interest groups – need to be in the public realm for more dialogue.. but extreme caution about their agendas and possible implementation.

    Due Diligence.

  16. Groveton Avatar

    I am more with anon 6:46 than Mr. Gross here.

    Sometimes I think these commissions are a technique employed by politicians in the hope that people will begin to forget the horror of something like VA Tech before the politicians again fail to act. The failure to act will seem less egregious in a few months than it seems now.

    The one thing that I think we all should keep in mind is – Who has an extreme position on guns?

    Is it people like me who would ban handguns and assault weapons? Or is it people who would perpetuate the status quo in the face of world opinion, changing US attitudes and mass murder?

    Sometimes the extreme position is the one which advocates continuing to do what we have been doing.

  17. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    I am in fully support of Groveton
    possitions articulated so well on this posting relative to the gun issues and what happened at Va Tech.

    Families lost sons, daughters, fathers and mothers a week ago today — all of those who died
    had brothers, sisters, grand parents, uncles and aunts, friends
    and love ones they will never know.

    Larry Gross’s essays and twisted
    questions about this matter are
    really off the mark.

  18. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Corrected Posting:

    I am in full support of Groveton’s
    positions articulated so well on
    this posting relative to the gun
    issues and what happened at Va Tech.

    Families lost sons, daughters,
    fathers and mothers a week ago
    today –all of those who died
    had brothers, sisters, grand parents,
    uncles and aunts, friends
    and love ones they will never

    Larry Gross’s essays and twisted
    questions about this matter are
    really off the mark!!!!!!

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree that we should be very careful when talking about changing/limiting the rights of the mentally disabled.

    What about people who maybe are experiencing a traumatic life event, maybe the death of a loved one, a divorce, etc. and confide to a friend that they “just can’t take it anymore”. The friend reports them to the authorities and bingo, they’re mentally disabled. When these folks get back on their feet and maybe they’re now taking antidepressants like half of society, are you going to restrict these people from being able to own a gun for the rest of their lives?

    As far as I know, federal and state authorities had no reason to know that Cho was seriously ill.

    The court psychologist found him dangerous to only himself.

    All three schools that had problems with him (Middle, High, and VT) did not expel or press any charges on him even though he was causing such a disruption in classes that he had to be privately tutored.

    His family thought he was autistic and not harmful so they never reported him.

    The women he “stalked” wouldn’t press charges.

    I don’t see how we can blame the gun dealer or the gun laws here unless you work at all of these other levels to find out when someone is over the line of mental stability and is dangerous to others.

    Believe me, I’m all for protecting the public, especially our children. I am terrified to send my daughter to college because of things like this. But you always have to be careful when you are walking on the line of what is mentally ill since so many in society could be considered ill because they take antidepressants. If you make all these people unable to buy hand guns are you also going to make them eligible for full disability because of thier illness? Are you going to bring back the stigma that kept so many suffering people from seeing a doctor for help?

    Please, walk very slowly down that line!

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, the logic and reasoning my Provo and Groveton have convinced me to side with them and the other livberals – lets eliminate guns. period. Only the cops and military should own guns, and we will make gun ownership a capital offense with no right of appeal.

    Of course, this may not stop the crazies from getting illegal guns imported into this country by those same folks who import pot, cocaine, opium and other drugs (or is this a problem — after all those are illegal too) anyway, let’s assume some may get in illegally. It would be best to strip mentally ill people of any rights…or lets identify those who have a propensity of mentall illness and strip them of their rights.

    But, that could get expensive, so let’s keep pushing genetics so we can identify those people in the womb and just execute them before they are born…that way they won’t be a threat. Think of all the happy, happy parents that won’t have to consider the possibility they might end up with a mentally ill child, or one that becomes a mentally ill adult.

    Look at the drug war you brilliant individuals…it has worked so well.

    sick of the self-righteousness of this blog that continues to be taken less and less serious in state government.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    My heart is with Rodger and Groveton with respect to gun control.

    I am no supporter of easy gun availability.

    I just don’t think that restricting guns to those deemed “unfit” is as easy as we would like it to be…

    because it probably means keeping records on people and their behavior – in school – before they are adults.

    it’s easy to say that if we had a system where folks like Cho were identified – that he would have been denied a gun.

    Probably true – but in the process – how many thousands of innocent young people with mental illness who need treatment – will be stigmatized for life in the process?

    If we do this – even for the best of reasons to stop people like Cho – will we will drive underground anyone with a matter how slight?

    Will everyone refuse to be evaluated or treated BEFORE they get worse?

    Do we want, Employer background checks to extend to checking the same database that prevents one from buying a gun?

    But I do have a suggestion – and I offer it knowing full well that Rodger may label it as “twisted” also but I offer it for dialogue purposes.

    No mental health checks for folks UNLESS you apply for a gun permit – and THEN you must schedule a visit with a mental health provider.

    This would be similiar to what Cops and others who carry weapons in the performance of duties would have to do.

    So why not make sure than anyone who wants a gun is deemed “fit” just the same as being tested (and periodically retested) for a license to drive a guy?

    It like this better than testing everyone… whether they want a gun or not.

    Wrong idea?

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …. “drive a guy?” ?????

    sorry….. “drive a car”…

    I dont’ know where “guy” came from…

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon – Thanks for making an attempt at discussing a better way, for trying to inject a smidgen of reason and rationality into this. It’s a shame that even after waiting an appropriate time and presenting a good starting point for discussion, the lunatics swarm on to paste their screeds.

    Yes, they are lunatics. At no time in the history of the earth have firearms restrictions reduced the violent crime rate. In every US jurisdiction where it’s been enacted, murders and other violent crime increase.

    Lunacy is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. There are already thousands of laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and use of these items, yet these people suffer from the delusion that ‘just one more law’ will solve the problem; a problem shown to be totally unresponsive to any and all firearms restrictions.

    They are lunatics; they believe machined metal products procreate, so much that the usage of the word ‘proliferate’ has changed. They believe the mere sight of the item will drive normal people to homicidal frenzy, a primitive animism that the rest of our civilization abandoned hundreds or thousands of years ago.

    It’s lunacy —not misunderstanding— for citing lower but clearly worsening crime statistics from more restrictive places while ignoring America’s improving condition. Then there’s the clear evidence of the District versus the Commonwealth; of Mexico’s border with the US, and of England compared to Switzerland.

    Call it willful ignorance if you want; but it’s an intractable, determined ignorance to the point of a disorder. In every case, restrictions produce no reduction in violent crime —and frequently much more— than freer jurisdictions.

    Jim – to have any meaningful discussion on reduced crime, the idea of firearms restrictions must be off limits. This isn’t an ideological position, it is a matter of absolute fact and statistics: gun control has never decreased murder or violence. Never.

    Set that part off-limits, and you may get some fruitful discussion.

    Jim Patrick

  24. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Patrick –

    Lunatics would advocate that we do
    nothing as a result of the horrible
    events at Virginia Tech.

    I think you have a grim view of the
    world – that a person with mental
    problems should have the right to
    buy two handguns, one of which was
    able to unload 19 rounds from a
    single cartridge.

  25. Groveton Avatar

    From the Economist:

    “But the tragedies of Virginia Tech-and Columbine, and Nickel Mines Pennsylvania, where five girls were shot at an Amish school last year-are not the full measure of the curse of guns. More bleakly terrible is America’s annual harvest of gun deaths that are not mass murders: some 14,000 routine killings committed in 2005 with guns, to which must be added 16,000 suicides by forearm and 650 fatal accidents (2004 figures). Many of these, especially the suicides would have happened anyway: but guns make them much easier. Since the killing of John Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have dies by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century. In 2005 more than 400 children were murdered with guns.”.

    Later in that article:

    The news is not uniformly bad: gun crime fell steadily throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. But it is still at dreadful levels, and it rose sharply again in 2005. Police report that in many cities it rose even faster in 2006. William Bratton, the police chief of Los Angeles (and formerly of New York) speaks of a “gathering storm of crime”. Politicians on both sides, he says, have been ‘captured’ by the vocal National Rifle Association.”.

    Having quoted statistics and the police chief of LA (formerly NYC) the article adds another of Mr. Partick’s lunatics to the mix:

    “The assault weapons ban should be renewed, with its egregious loopholes removed. No civilian needs an AK-47 for a legitimate purpose but you can buy one online for $379.99. Guns could be made much safer, with the mandatory fitting of child proof locks. A system of registration for guns and gun owners, as exists in all other rich countries, threatens no one but the criminal. Cooling off periods, a much more open flow of intelligence, tighter rules on the trading of guns and a wider blacklist of those ineligable to buy them would all help.”.

    “Many of these things are being done by cities and states, and have worked fairly well. But jurisdictions with tough rules are undermined by neighbors with weak ones. Only an effort at the federal level will work. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, has put together a coalition of now fewer than 180 mayors to fight for just that.”.

    So, on the side of lunatics who support increased gun control:

    The Economist
    William Bratton
    Michael Bloomberg
    180 US mayors
    Roger Provo

    And on the side of the sane who think everything is just fine:

    Jim Patrick


    I prefer the company I am associated with on this one.

  26. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Patrick-

    One of our sons is on the staff at
    Virginia Tech.

    A few weeks ago he, his wife and
    our two grandchildren were having dinner
    at a restaurant in downtown
    Blacksburg, when a young female VPI
    student who was having dinner with
    some friends went out of her to play
    with our grandson, who is yet 2.

    She was a bright, energetic person that evening –
    speaking English and French to the little one.

    She struck our family
    members as an extremely talented
    and good person.

    That young woman met her death a
    week ago today — at the hands of
    that troubled young man who should
    have never been allowed to buy two
    handguns in our state.

    Our country lost the great potential
    of some wonderful students and the service of
    dedicated, able professors that
    sad day in Blacksburg.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Provo – that’s not what I wrote, and you’ve deliberately twisted what I posted.

    Groveton – you’ve done the same.

    Despite the mass of misinformation you posted, it’s all pointless until someone —anyone— comes up with examples of firearms restrictions causing crime to decrease.

    In other words: cite or silence.

    Jim Patrick

  28. Rodger Provo Avatar
    Rodger Provo

    Patrick –

    Please share with us what I twisted
    that so offends you – in other words:
    cite or silence – you really
    do believe that a young college
    student with a history of mental
    problems should be able to buy two
    guns in our state, one which was
    able to use cartridges with 19 rounds —
    are you a member of the

    You see no need for our state
    to provide
    the public additional
    protection from gun abuse in
    light of the horrible events at
    Virginia Tech, do you Patrick?

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    According to the CDC, 32,600 people die annually from alcohol or alchol-related illness. This exceeds the 31,000 quoted above regarding firearms death…why don’t crusade against alcohol and make it illegal?

  30. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Sorry Provo, what Groveton & you propose is sheer, unadulterated madness: further application of what has never worked.

    Jim Patrick

  31. Groveton Avatar

    I don’t suggest making firearms illegal. I propose making handguns and asault weapons illegal.

    As for alcohol, the US has been steadily cracking down on the more obvious aspects of alcohol abuse – raising the drinking age from 18 to 21, sobriety checkpoints, lowering the impairment point from .1 to .08, etc. I wish I saw the same progress with respect to gun related violence. Meanwhile, the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. I think we’re headed the right way with respect to alcohol and the wrong way with respect to guns.

    Jim Patrick – Please add the city of council of Philadelphia to your list of lunatics –

    “City officials’ repeated calls for tougher gun-purchase laws have gone unheeded at the state Capitol, and Philadelphia does not have the authority to pass its own firearms legislation.”.

    From the article –

    And, finally, if no level of gun control makes any difference to the level of violent crime why can’t I keep a sack full of live hand grenades next to my bed? Or ring my house with Claymore mines? Or mount a .50 cal machine gun on the back of my Boston Whaler?

    There are legitimate limits to the “right to bear arms” and you know it. The question is whether we have those limits set at the right place or not. The more I see mass murders of students at schools, the more I think the limits need to be tightened.

  32. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Patrick, your simplistic response to my questions of you reflect an inability to offer a constructive response – to the writer who wants
    to throw alcohol into this debate,
    many people harmed by alcohol abuse make a decision to drink to
    much – those who died last Monday
    at Virginia Tech only made a sad
    decision to report for work to
    teach or to attend a class – I do
    not seek the link….

  33. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    My response is simplistic because your solution is so simply wrong. Time after time after time after time . . . . gun control has failed and failed and failed and failed to reduce the exact crimes it was promised to. Unanimous, undeniable, constant failures.

    Faced with these perpetual failures, the Grovetons & Roger Provo’s of the world ignore and ignore and ignore and ignore them. It’s such an intractable, determined ignorance that it can only point to a thought disorder.

    Roger Provo said “. . . you reflect an inability to offer a constructive response”

    It’s not an inability, at this time it’s a refusal. Trying to have a constructive conversation with people who keep shouting, “Abolish gravity!” —or its equivalent— is futile.

    When the inmates regain their sanity or are silenced (Jim Bacon declares the topic off-limits), then we can resume some sort of rational conversation.

    Jim Patrick

  34. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo


    So it is your position that we should not as a society take measures to restrict access of
    firearms to those with mental
    health issues …. the criminals
    amongst us …and your harsh comments:

    “thought disorder”
    “abolish gravity”
    “inmates regain their sanity or are silenced”

    …, what an arrogant person your are….how dare you belittle Groveton and myself for exercising our right to express our views …

  35. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo


    Jim Patrick is a member of the
    Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors ….

    I wonder if he treats residents there, as he has Groveton and myself?

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The only think I’d wish for here is that we stick to the issue and not get into personalities….of those whose ideas are being debated.

    As long as we believe that we ALL are people of principles – strongly held but legitimate – we can respect each other – and if we can do that – we can find paths that we agree on…

    I know… easier said that done… but golden rule also comes to mind.

  37. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Larry Gross-

    I think if you review the flow of
    the discussions on this posting
    about the tragic events at Virginia
    Tech it was Jim Patrick who made
    arrogant remarks, personal attacks
    that caused this discussion to digress
    from the issues important
    to all of us touched by this awful
    event …

  38. Groveton Avatar

    As Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, properly points out – gun control has never been really tried in America. Controlling guns in New York while people in Virginia could buy guns by the dozens and drive them to New York for illegal sale is not gun control. Under pressure, Virginia changed its laws to allow only one handgun purchased per month (something South Carolina did years before).

    Most importtantly, Mr. Patrick, your NRA-supplied facts just don’t hold up.

    For example:

    “In the 29 states that have lax CCW laws (where law enforcement must issue CCW licenses to almost all applicants), the crime rate fell 2.1%, from 5397.0 to 5285.1 crimes per 100,000 population from 1996 to 1997. During the same time period, in the 21 states and the District of Columbia with strict carry laws or which don’t allow the carrying of concealed weapons at all, the crime rate fell 4.4%, from 4810.5 to 4599.9 crimes per 100,000 population. The decline in the crime rate of strict licensing and no-carry states was 2.1 times that of states with lax CCW systems, indicating that there are more effective ways to fight crime than to encourage more people to carry guns.”.

    For a mre detailed explanation, please see:

    The “More Guns, Less Crime” hallucination is just one of the gun lobby’s attempt at manipulating the facts.

  39. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Roger Provo, it’s called straight-talk and an (unmet) appeal for logic. Jim Bacon tried to open a conversation that was immediately derailed by obsessive hogwash.

    Feel free to show where your proposals have already worked to reduce violent crime or murder. There’s been more than enough opportunity.

    It’s a shame. Some normal people might think gun control makes sense, but if asked about it would step back and look, to see if there were some places where it actually did reduce violent crime.

    What the thread has devolved to (unfortunately, but as expected) is that the Provos and Grovetons of the world will do anything —twist, turn, dodge, dissemble, hedge, quibble, stall— rather than show that their proposals work. Your posts are obsessed with restricting firearms.

    All that’s been asked for is examples where firearms restrictions have reduced murders and/or violent crime. Normal people understand that proof of concept is a rational requirement. The longer you avoid this, the more you make my point.

  40. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Patrick, more personal attacks and insults from
    one who advocates the status quo … in the only hogwash in this
    debate is sitting around your
    computer … my friend Groveton
    and I have made our case for
    constructive change in Virginia …
    the arrogance of your comments is
    beyond belief ..

  41. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Roger Provo, do you mean the ‘arrogance beyond belief’ of posting real facts? Or is it from being held to the same standard —some smidgen of proof— that everyone else is held to. LOL

    All you have to do is point out where firearms restriction reduces violent crime.

    The example Groveton gave of a restrictive gun law ‘working’ resulted in thousands of people dying; people who would not have died if the law hadn’t been passed. To rational people, that’s not ‘working’.

    Jim Patrick

  42. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Patrick –

    You are very opinated man — with
    this note I will let you have the
    last word – for I am sure you will
    feel the need to send back some
    sort to reply!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Rodger Provo said… “You are very opinated man” [sic]

    I’m of the opinion that your “case for constructive change” is simply ‘lots of others are for gun control’ and ‘it was terrible . . . do something’.

    I’m of the opinion that ‘doing something’ is not an imperative unless you first know it will not cause harm. When Larry Gross asked for due diligence and investigative facts, Provo labeled it “twisted questions about this matter

    I’m of the opinion that ignoring facts, the unsuccessful results from thousand of existing laws in the US and hundreds in other nations, can only be ignorance, irrationality, or possibly even malice. Even studies by the National Academies of Science and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t find credible evidence that gun control laws work.

    This shouldn’t be the ‘last word’ on the matter . . . unless you’re so obsessively fixated on firearms bans that’s all you can consider. Jim Bacon tried to explore several other areas that we know can be altered to reduce the root of crime.

    Opinionated? I’m of the opinion facts trump feelings; that repeatedly trying the same failed policies of gun control —expecting different results— is madness.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    Hi –

    I wonder if you’ve considered that review panels with regulators drawn from the state might not make a fair judgment on a case subject to the doctrine of sovereign immunity under which V Tech operates? The victims have 6 months to plead their case. The review panel will take at least a few months to draw a conclusion. The bar is also higher than usual – gross negligence needs to be proved. Although not a gun owner myself, I think debate about the public policy issues is the standard way that the government enhances its power and extent while ignoring the simple fact that the university and the police did not do their jobs.
    I am collecting material on the case at and would welcome any input or new information on laws and policies i Virginia.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    The Washington Post says on 5/6 that Chou NEVER got the mental health care he was remanded to get.
    How about them apples, Virginians?

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