The Virginia Tech shootings, guns, and politics

The recent student massacres at the University of Virginia Tech is a huge story here in the US; understandably so.

My cousin happens to attend that university, and I'm happy to hear she's safe.

While on my lunch break today, I thought I'd catch some talk radio in my car about the school shootings. As is my custom, I listened to both Minnesota's AM 950 Air America, a left-wing liberal radio station, and Minnesota's AM 1280 The Patriot, a right-wing conservative radio station.

The left-wing liberal station was filled with talk of gun control. "If only we had gun control, this wouldn't have happened." "Bush loves stealing our civil liberties, yet he's too afraid to take away the guns."

The right-wing conservative station was filled with talk of gun problems as well. "We ought to train these teachers to use guns in self-defense."

In short, the left says the problem is too many guns. The right says the problem is not enough guns, or not enough training to use guns.

Somehow, I think they've both got it wrong. Seems to me that's treating the symptom, rather than the illness.

If guns aren't the problem, what is?

It seems to me the problem is society. It is evident modern American society is putting forth an unusually large number of people bent on killing other people, especially in public schools.

Why is that?

If I were to guess, it's partially due to society's exclusive focus on the successful, all the while deriding the less fortunate. That's where it starts: inequalities, perceived or real, creates anger and unrest. Ethics and religion also play a role: a modern society bent on secularizing us worsens the situation by causing the downtrodden to abandon hope altogether.

Perhaps society is generally too focused on success -- financial, societal, educational -- when we ought to be more focused on happiness. More happy people = fewer pointless murders.


  1. I would like to add to your list. There is a general acceptance of and perhaps even support for "taking matters into one own hands" in this country. This is a result of a lack of faith in our leaders (who are not worthy of faith). What alternative do the oppressed have? As you point out, if you are not Donald Trump or Bill Gates then you are no one. And to whom can you bring your grievances if you feel put out? The police, the local city counsel, your friends?
    By ignoring God and worshipping money we have created a society that produces more wealth than any other, but at what cost?

    Pat O

  2. Elegantly put, Patrick. The focus on money and success is a bane of capitalist societies.

    Another problem is the media circus that occurs around events like this, which gives audience and world attention to acts of violence and murder. Makes the downtrodden and ignored be temporarily famous.

  3. The public school system is partially to blame, at least in the way that it fosters competition and herd mentality. You're either "in" or typically waaaay out and to some people they can't cope. My public school experience was almost a complete joke in that regard but I never thought of escalating my frustration into anything other than a scream. Sadly, it appears others feel like their only recourse are acts such as these, acts with permanent damage attached to them.

    To be honest, I don't know of much that can be done. I think most of the problem can be traced back to parents, who seem to think that all of life is competition and therefor "adhere to values" that tend to push kids beyond what makes life fun to it being mere existence. Until the feirce high level of competition comes down, I think the problem will get worse before it gets better. If you were to lump job shootings into the same category (as I do) then one can't help but have a bleak outlook.

    If there was one thing I could teach my hypothetical children it would be that your academic career can either influence your professional career 100% or 0%, with you being in control of that dial. Education is important, but to say that is all that matters is not entirely true. I know a lot of successful people without college degrees such as myself so to get that stressed over something that matters so little is definitely not healthy. It took me actually experiencing failure to realize that.

  4. Jeremy, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I agree that the public school system, as well as parents, may be partly to blame.

    Let's not also forget that the person carrying this out is to blame. He's responsible more than any. Yes, there are outside influences on his life, but ultimately, he apparently took the same failures we all encounter and converted those into something permanent and evil.

    Failures are perhaps only as bad as you make them. You can use the experience as a maturing processes that makes you stronger, or you can let it bring down your life and the lives of others around you, as this VT shooter did.

  5. I'm surprised the main factor given wasn't video games. It usually is.

    Still, one thing I don't understand is how he could shoot a few people, take a break, and then come back for more? Couldn't something more have been done at the beginning, other than send a email round advising people to be careful? Couldn't they have had people actully going around telling people face to face?

  6. Don't worry Ash, video games always get credited for violence in one way or another. Heads up for Jack Thompson somehow finding a way to blame RockStar Games for this one and suing them for it.