It’s our nature, when tragedy strikes, to look back and try to figure out what could have prevented the tragedy, or lessened its impact. That’s a good thing. It’s been the impetus for inventions that have subsequently saved lives (simple example: seatbelts).
I do hope that through hindsight, looking back on the tragedy at Virginia Tech, we will be able to make significant changes that will save lives in the future. But something about all of the “should have’s” is bothering me. I’ve heard it suggested that fire alarms should have been pulled in every campus building. I’ve heard it suggested that a lockdown should have been enforced immediately. People “should have known,” “should have predicted,” etc.
How easy it is for us to see now what “should have” happened. I am sure there are countless ways that the number of victims could have been reduced, and it’s not that hard to come up with ideas when we have the timeline right in front of our faces. But it is also impossible to know how those actions that seem so obvious to us now would have actually affected the outcome. If fire alarms had been pulled, kids would have poured out of classrooms onto the lawn. Easy targets. In fact, that’s precisely what happened in the Jonesboro massacre in 1998: the killers themselves pulled the fire alarms so they could easily shoot into the crowd once they were gathered outside. If they had gone into immediate lockdown and nothing had happened, wouldn’t we be criticizing the president of the university for creating unnecessary fear and panic?
There’s a reason they call it “senseless violence.” It makes no sense. It’s impossible to predict, or to understand even in retrospect. Mistakes were made because people were involved and people make mistakes. One person, only one, caused the deaths of 32 innocent victims. The blame must lie at the feet of the gunman alone.
UPDATE: There are reports this morning that Cho had been declared an “imminent danger” in 2005, and the judge that was given that report chose to recommend outpatient care rather than admitting him to a mental facility. Had he admitted him to a mental facility, it would have shown up on the background check run by the gun store and he would not have been able to buy the gun legally. This is the first item I have seen that I believe is worth looking at, to determine if that judge was negligent, as it certainly appears he was. Still–if a person is willing (determined, really) to murder 32 people, I don’t see him hesitating to buy a gun illegally. There are questions here that can never be answered.