2007-04-21 : US tech slaughter sparks gun control debate

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2007-04-21 : US tech slaughter sparks gun control debate

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-04-24 10:19

<<<<<<<<<<<<Please note Saturday Star contains the 2 Telegraph
articles pasted below with slightly different headlines and slight
format changes>>>>>>>>>>>

US tech slaughter sparks gun control debate
April 21 2007 at 02:06PM

By Michael Schmidt

Political power flows from the barrel of a gun, Mao Zedong stated
early in his career. Politics is the least likely cause of the
shooting deaths of at least 33 students in Monday's bloodbath at
Virginia Tech University in the US - but the heated politics of gun
control has been given new urgency.

The blame is already flying thick and fast on internet blogs. Some
blame America's gun culture, enshrined in the US constitution as "the
right to bear arms". Some blame the apparently tardy official

Surviving students are also asking why the bulk of the killings by the
lone gunman, armed, it seems, with only two handguns, was allowed to
occur in the campus's engineering studies hall two hours after his
first two killings in a campus dormitory without police or varsity
authorities warning them the man was at large.

'Availability of high-powered personal weapons puts mass killing
within easy reach'

The Virginia Tech shooting spree is automatically compared to the
massacres at the University of Texas in 1966 and Columbine High School
in 1999.

In the early 1960s, Charles Whitman projected the kind of
lantern-jawed jock, buzz-cut blond good looks that marked him as an
all-American college boy. Quiet, bespectacled literature student Cho
Seung-Hui, named as the Virginia Tech killer, may have been at the
opposite end of the varsity social spectrum to Whitman, but he also
seemed destined for a solid career in Middle America.

Whitman's history as an altar boy who had enlisted in the US Marine
Corps against his father's wishes seemed to demonstrate that he had
the right stuff. But while enrolled in the engineering department of
the University of Texas on a Marine scholarship, his "prank" of
skinning a deer in the dormitory showers warned that something else
was bubbling under the perfect facade.

His parents' divorce plunged him into a depression. He complained of
suffering from headaches (and, in a later suicide note, of having
"unusual and irrational thoughts") and started popping prescription
Dexedrine, a powerful euphoric stimulant.

He warned a psychiatrist in March 1966 that he wanted to shoot people
with his deer-rifle from the university's 27-storey clock-tower. This
clear signal of impending doom went unheeded. Four months later, on
August 1, Whitman ascended the tower carrying a pair of binoculars, an
M1 carbine, two Remington rifles, a sawn-off shotgun and three
pistols. He had already killed his wife and his mother, leaving behind
his note.

'Victims were shot like dogs'

From his eyrie, Whitman shot indiscriminately at pedestrians below,
marking the onset of the first large-scale demonstration of that
modern American bloodsport, the campus shooting. By the time two
policemen shot Whitman, 13 people were dead and 31 injured.

The Columbine High School killings of 12 students and a teacher and
the wounding of 24 others by social misfits Eric Harris and Dylan
Klebold is the third-worst campus massacre in US history.

Harris hinted darkly at their plans in his blog - which the county
sheriff's office had been monitoring since late 1997 - by listing
schoolmates he wanted to eliminate, and by noting his steady
collection of weapons. As with Whitman, the warning was ignored.

Still, the presumed causes behind each of America's "landmark" campus
killing-sprees differ significantly.

An autopsy of the Texas sniper showed he had a cancerous growth in his
brain, prompting speculation that this was the source of his mental
imbalance - though it later also emerged that he had been physically
abused by his father, another possible cause of him going over the

By comparison, the blame for the Columbine tragedy was laid at the
door of everything from the shooters' passion for German industrial
band KMFDM to shoot-and-kill video games like Doom.

It was all a futile and directionless, yet understandable, stampede by
the parents, survivors and school administrators to answer the
unanswerable. The phenomenon was still harder to understand because
there were so few apparent common triggers between America's notable
campus killings - unless it was the firearm itself.

That is what anti-firearm lobbyists have always argued: that the sheer
availability of high-powered personal weapons puts mass killing within
easy reach, a stance echoed in the overly earnest 2005 film American
Gun, with its tag-line "one nation under fire".

The uncomfortable reality, according to Charl van Wyk, of Gun Owners
of South Africa, citing a 1999 study of multiple shootings in the US
by John Lott and William Landes, is that mass murders "are far more
likely to occur in areas designated gun-free zones" - such as Virginia

Van Wyk recalled that "16 people were killed in a public school
shooting in Germany in April 2002. Another two public shootings were
the killing of 14 regional legislators in Zug, a Swiss Canton
(September 2001), and the massacre of eight city council members in a
Paris suburb in March 2002".

He argued, however, that in Israel, school shootings had fallen to
zero because teachers and responsible parents who assisted them were
allowed to be armed.

I'm not a gun-nut, but it is obvious to me that many lives could have
been saved if a single armed lecturer or campus guard had been on hand
at Virginia Tech this week.

Instead, victims were shot like dogs, though they vastly outnumbered
the killer.

Jackson Katz, author of the book The Macho Paradox, in an article on
the CommonDreams.org website last year asked why a central aspect of
so many massacres at educational institutions was completely missed by
commentators. He noted that in Canada, 14 women were executed at the
University of Montreal in 1989 by a suicidal gunman who had let the
men in the class go free.

Then, on September 27 last year, an armed man walked into a Colorado
schoolroom, forced the boy pupils to leave and terrorised the girls,
killing one and sexually assaulting others before committing suicide.

Katz went on to say that less than a week later, another armed man
walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, forced the boy
pupils, four women and the infants to leave, before executing five of
the remaining girls and critically wounding several others before
taking his own life.

"Incredibly, few if any prominent voices in the broadcast or print
media have called the incidents what they are: hate crimes perpetrated
by angry white men against defenceless young girls who - whatever the
twisted motives of the shooters - were targeted for sexual assault and
murder precisely because they are girls."

We don't yet know all the circumstances of the slaughter at Virginia
Tech - but we do know the massacre was committed after a "domestic
argument" between the shooter and Emily Hilscher, with whom he was
apparently fixated and who was the first to die, so this may well fit
the unspoken pattern that Katz highlighted.

And while Harris and Klebold's first victim was a girl, most were
male, their prime target being the school jocks (Cho also railed in an
apparent suicide note against "rich kids" at the varsity, which may
explain why the Virginia Tech slaughter widened out beyond Cho's
doomed love interest to include so many fellow students). Whitman shot
all and sundry - but he first killed his wife and mother before going
on the rampage, so he may well fit Katz's profile also.

Gun violence in South African schools has not happened on the same
scale as in the US. But our levels of socially-tolerated sexual
violence against girls and women are monstrous. It is only a matter of
time before this translates into a bloody Virginia Tech Massacre of
our own.

School bullying clue to killer's motive

By Toby Harnden and Alex Spillius in Blacksburg

The student who carried out the worst mass shooting in American
history had been bullied at the high school which two of his 32
victims at Virginia Tech also attended.

Police were last night examining whether there was a connection
between Cho Seung-hui's days at Westfield High School in Chantilly,
Virginia and his killing spree on Monday. Erin Peterson and Reema
Samaha, both 18, were among those he shot.

Christina Lilick, another former Westfield pupil studying at Virginia
Tech, told friends that she had been stalked on campus and a question
mark had been scrawled on the notice board on her door.

Cho, 23, was known as "the question mark kid" by fellow English
students after he insisted he be called "question mark" in classes and
on his page on the Facebook website.

Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech student who graduated from Westfield
with Cho in 2003, recalled that the South Korean immigrant rarely
spoke and would ignore those who tried to talk to him. Mr Davids said
that in an English class, the teacher had the students read aloud and,
when it was Cho's turn, he looked down in silence before being
threatened with failing to complete the year if he did not speak.
He then read in an odd, deep voice "like he had something in his
mouth", Mr Davids said. "As soon as he started reading, the whole
class started laughing and saying, 'Go back to China'."

Stephanie Roberts, 22, who was in Cho's year at Westfield, said she
would occasionally greet him in school, but he did not respond. "There
were just some people who were really mean to him and they would push
him down and laugh at him," she said.

Questions behind the senseless carnage

By Toby Harnden in Blacksburg
Last Updated: 10:53pm BST 20/04/2007

In life, Cho Seung-hui insisted to his English class that he be known
as "question mark". Four days after his death, the riddle of what
drove him to wreak such carnage remains.

As red-eyed Virginia Tech students sat yesterday beside 32 pieces of
stone placed in a horseshoe shape commemorating each of those killed
by him on Monday, they consoled each other but could offer no

If anything, the video footage, photos and typed diatribe posted by
Cho, 23, on the day of the shootings, have added to questions about
his horrific actions.

Were victims targeted because of their wealth?

He bore a twisted grudge against those he saw as the rich and
privileged. "Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," he ranted in his
video testament. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs.
Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough.
All your debaucheries weren't enough."

Cho had no connection with Norris Hall, the teaching building where he
killed four lecturers and 26 students. But engineering - the main
subject taught there - is among the most prestigious subjects at the
university, and therefore something Cho might have wanted to lash out
at what he saw as a symbol of privilege.

Was he a sex abuse victim?

His plays, which contain graphic violence and details of paedophilia,
indicate he may have been a victim of sexual abuse. The two reported
incidents of stalking in late 2005, his imaginary girlfriend "Jelly"
indicate sexual obsessiveness. In his murder-suicide manifesto, he
talked of being "raped" by society.

Did he see himself as Jesus?

Cho's ranting video statements and references in his plays to
paedophile priests show his anger towards Christianity, the faith his
immigrant parents devoutly follow.

"Jesus loves crucifying me," he intoned on video, as if mesmerised.
"You loved introducing cancer in my head and terrorising my heart,
raping my soul all this time."

At the same time, he appears to see himself as a Christ-like figure.
"Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon a
cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement?"

His manifesto contained a drawing of two figure eights and the caption
"Number of the Anti-Terrorist". Eighty-eight was also used as the
house number in the apparently-false return address on the package.
Was he obsessed by his first victim?

Detectives are trying to establish whether there was a link between
Cho and Emily Hilscher, 19, the blue-eyed horse enthusiast who became
the South Korean's first victim. He shot her in Room 4040, her
third-floor room in Ambler Johnston Hall.

Cho lived in nearby Harper Hall and studied a different subject from
Miss Hilscher. On the morning she had just been dropped off at the
dorm by her boyfriend Karl Thornhill - the initial suspect during that
fateful two hours - after spending the night at his home.

Investigators believe Cho was fixated with her but doubt she even knew
who the silent loner was. Their assumption is that he targeted her,
leaving her room trailing bloody footprints along the corridor. But it
is possible she was a random victim whom he simply followed her into
the building after spotting her and perhaps resented her being with a
boyfriend. He had previously denounced the "promiscuity" he saw in the
eyes of a female student.

Why did he call himself Ishmael?

Cho's use of the name "A.Ishmael" on the package he posted and the "Ax
Ishmael" scrawled in red ink on his arm could have been an obscure
literary reference or an on-line moniker.

Ishmael is a leading character in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. He
was the son of the prophet Abraham and Genesis 16:12 says: "He will be
a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone and
everyone's hand will be against him."

As an English student, Cho could have plucked the name from the 1851
novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Ishmael was also the name of a
wise guerrilla in the popular inspirational book My Ishmael.

Ishmael also appeared in a love poem by the 1960's writer John Hadley.
The poem says "traces of Ishmael's ax" appear on the trees.
Why were the warnings ignored?

For parents of the dead, perhaps the biggest question mark is how a
student who had twice been reported for stalking and had been
committed briefly to a mental institution could have been allowed to
remain on campus unmonitored.

Separately, Cho had so alarmed his English tutors with his writings,
bizarre mannerisms and monosyllabic responses that one threatened to
resign if he did not leave her class.

Another devised a codeword for her assistant to recognise in case she
needed to call the police.

But their deep concerns were ignored by the university authorities,
whose main concerns appear to have been the danger of Cho committing
suicide and the need to observe privacy laws.

"We won't discriminate against the mentally ill and we don't want to,"
said Dr Christopher Flynn, head of the university counselling service.
"We want to educate everybody."

Ed Spencer, the head of student affairs, warned against the "seductive
temptation to blame". He said Cho's roommates during this academic
year had not reported any suspicions he was a threat.

"None of them expressed any concerns to us of any violence, danger
whatever. I think that gives you a view of the inner world of mental

The clash between Cho's inner world and the real world represented by
the happy, high-achieving students and the accomplished tutors he
killed is likely to never be explained fully. And to remain an enigma
was probably his dying wish.
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