By McManus, John F.
The New American , Vol. 23, No. 10
Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui went on a rampage, killing two individuals in a dormitory before casually walking to another campus building and killing 30 more, then himself. His murderous act ranks as the worst shooting spree in our country in modern times. The burning question on many minds is simple: could this tragedy have been prevented--or at least minimized? And the answer is that attempts were made to deal with this obviously unbalanced individual, but reasonable warnings were ignored, and some who knew him were not surprised when his identity as the killer was discovered.
Nearly every day, we are given grim details about more suicide bombers in Iraq. What these reports tell us is that there are people who are willing to die in order to kill others. In Iraq, they do so for a different reason than did Cho Seung-Hui. But that there are such people can hardly be denied. Charles Whitman killed people indiscriminately at the University of Texas in 1966. James Huberty did likewise in 1984 at a fast-food restaurant in San Ysidro, California. George Hennard went on his killing spree in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. And who can forget the 13 dead and 24 wounded who were victims of teenagers Klebold and Harris at Columbine High School in 1999?
How does one protect oneself from someone whose goal is to take the lives of others even at the cost of his own? Sadly, the answer is that it is virtually impossible to stop such a person. Identifying and treating those who will kill for whatever reason is difficult in the extreme. What can be hoped is that some action--taken boldly and competently after a rampage has begun--will lessen the toll of dead and wounded.
The university has been badgered for not alerting the 25,000 students and their faculty that a killer was on the loose. Everyone needs to get off the university's back. After Cho had murdered two, schools officials immediately sought the wrong suspect. They had every reason to believe that, as bad as two deaths were, there would be no more. That they were wrong is obvious. When the killing resumed on the other side of the campus two hours later, an alert was sent to the student body. It was too late.
Cho was known to some as a seriously unstable individual. The head of the English Department knew of his fascination with evil and went to school authorities asking for help, even to the campus police. In late 2005, Lucinda Roy, that department head, actually removed him from class and taught him one-on-one for a time, to no avail. …