In the wake of the deadliest school shooting in US (and one would assume world) history comes the news that the killer in the bloodiest U.S. gun massacre has been identified as a 23-year-old undergraduate English major at Virginia Tech whose creative writing was so troubling that the university referred him to counselling.
"He was reported to be getting increasingly violent and erratic in the days before the deadly rampage."
Television news is reporting he'd also set fire in a dormitory recently.
This is a clear example of a situation where a troubled person showed evidence of disturbing behaviour over a period of time and, other than the teacher who referred him for counseling, the standard response was the one we've mastered: Do nothing. Just ignore it. Someone's having problems but they'll go away. Nothing will come of it, what are the odds?
Although my post last night was really just an extended comment in response to Kevin Wignall's excellent post at Contemporary Nomad, I stand by it, and Kevin's musings. Although we now know the shooter to be an adult the speculation about how we're dealing with the youth of today is critical. You don't wake up one day and say, "Couldn't get the new stereo installed in the car today so I guess I'll go kill some people." The evidence of gun purchasing going back to March and the behaviour of the shooter over a prolonged period of time were all warning signs.
Signs people ignored.
I think the reason so many people focus on gun control is because it's an impersonal thing that doesn't require them to actually give a damn about anyone else or pay attention to people hurting around them. It lets them off the hook and allows them to continue doing what they do best - nothing.
Don't get me wrong. I don't own a gun. Yes, I know how to fire one. Yes, I grew up in a house filled with them. Kevin's military trained. But we have also lost a close relative to a bullet and I'm well aware of what a gun can do.
I'm also well aware that tougher gun laws wouldn't have made a difference in that case. It isn't until we understand the root that we can start finding answers, and it would be trite and short-sighted to suggest the roots are universal and absolute in all cases, but in the majority of these cases it goes well beyond whether you have access to guns or not.
And in this case the real question isn't how this man got guns. It's how so many people failed to recognize his increasingly unstable behaviour and intervene.