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Richard Rider

Rider 2007 column on Virginia Tech massacre

On the website I came across a column I wrote in 2007 — published in several papers. Nothing has changed since I wrote it, so it seems it bears repeating.

The Virginia Tech Massacre
By Richard Rider,
April 18, 2007

Some observations on the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech.

True to form, the national TV and radio networks started in on the “inadequate gun control laws” before the bodies had cooled. By the afternoon, a spokesperson for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence was pontificating all over the networks. The gun grabber lobby is geared up for just such events – indeed, they seem far better prepared than the cops.

The media thinks it is ironic that people were slaughtered in gun free zones – as if the prohibition of guns in these areas should have protected the victims. They are right about the irony, but for the wrong reason. These pundits have yet to understand that such shooters GO to gun free zones precisely BECAUSE they are gun free. When it comes to deranged shootings, there is no more dangerous place to be than a gun free zone. Ever hear of a mass shooting at a gun range?

Speaking of irony, here’s a tragic factoid that has been all over the Internet, but surely not reported on NBC, ABC, CBS or CNN TV, or in the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE the next day. Last year the Virginia legislature rejected a bill to allow responsible adults to carry firearms on college campuses.

You want ironic? When the Virginia campus firearm bill was turned down last year, the spokesperson for Virginia Tech said, “I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.” And sadly, he was probably right – then. I wonder what those appreciative students and parents would say today.

Speaking of the cops, their performance was terribly disappointing, as is usually the case in such instances. On a campus that JUST had a major shooting in a dorm, there was no timely response to a guy emptying clip after clip of ammo into unarmed students in a major classroom building. Just where were the police – both campus security and the city police? How could there NOT be police in close proximity once the shooting started?

There were LOTS of pictures of police cowering behind trees and cars. Truth be told, while doubtless they meant well, the police did NOTHING effective that inhibited the shooter in his actions before he committed suicide. NOTHING! Apparently the only thing that stopped the shooter was that he ran out of loaded clips and/or targets.

Police have been trained for hostage situations – not confrontations with insane murderers. They have GOT to learn that, when the shooting starts, it’s time to kill the bastard, without concern for their own wellbeing or any sort of negotiation.

We’ve seen this abysmal police response before. The infamous McDonalds massacre in San Diego in the 1970’s went on for about an hour while cops sat outside the store listening to the HUNDREDS of shots, and observing dead and wounded people lying outside the door. They waited for SWAT to set up a sniper so they could shoot the guy without risking their lives or risk shooting someone accidentally. It’s perhaps the greatest blunder in law enforcement history, yet remains essentially unreported (though I’ve had my op-ed on the topic published in a couple small papers).

The police response was similar to but not as bad as Columbine. At least the cops in Virginia Tech went in relatively quickly and tried to save the people already shot. Several people at Columbine “bled out” while cautious cops crept into the building, taking hours to complete their timid sweep.

Perhaps the most important lesson a cop learns is “for God’s sake, don’t kill a bystander.” That is a career-ending event. But in these (fortunately rare) mad dog situations, one has to take such risks, and be forgiven if a bystander is shot while taking down the bad guy quickly to prevent more executions. Sadly, the cops at Virginia Tech never got close enough in time to shoot anyone – bad guy OR bystander.

Police like to tell us that “they put their lives on the line every day.” And they do – sorta. But they put their lives on the line while carrying Glocks, shotguns, M-16’s and wearing body armor. What equipment did the students have to defend themselves?

Police, like firemen, have a RELATIVELY dangerous job – compared to most jobs (such as mine) where the danger is minimal. But the chance of police and fire fighters getting killed on the job is about half the chance of dying while working as a construction laborer or truck driver.

At a similar “mad dog” deadly shooting at another Virginia college, the results were different. Professor John Lott, noted gun control critic, points out that “In January 2002, a shooting left three dead at the Appalachian Law School in Virginia. The event made international headlines and produced more calls for gun control. Yet one critical fact was missing from virtually all the news coverage: The attack was stopped by two students who had guns in their cars.” The death total might have been even lower if responsible adults had had the right to carry concealed firearms on campus.

Finally, a personal note: For over 30 years, I’ve worked out of my office in the home. Aside from the financial and familial benefits, there is one advantage seldom discussed. I have a loaded firearm or three handy in case some nutball decides to invade my business. Obviously, my home/business is NOT a gun free zone.

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