Virginia Tech massacre

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Virginia Tech massacre

Students gather to mourn after the shooting.
Location Blacksburg, Virginia, United States
Coordinates 37°13′46″N 80°25′23″W / 37.22944°N 80.42306°W / 37.22944; -80.42306Coordinates: 37°13′46″N 80°25′23″W / 37.22944°N 80.42306°W / 37.22944; -80.42306
Date Monday, April 16, 2007
ca. 7:15 a.m. and ca. 9:40 a.m.–9:51 a.m.[1] (EDT)
Attack type School shooting, mass murder, murder-suicide, massacre
Weapon(s) Glock 19, Walther P22
Deaths 33 (including the perpetrator)[1]
Injured 23[1]
Perpetrator Seung-Hui Cho

The Virginia Tech massacre was a school shooting consisting of two separate attacks approximately two hours apart on April 16, 2007, that took place on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. The perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many others[1] before committing suicide. The massacre is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history, on or off a school campus.[2]

Cho, a senior English major at Virginia Tech, had been diagnosed with and was treated for a severe anxiety disorder in middle school and continued receiving therapy and special education support until his junior year of high school. While in college in 2005, Cho had been accused of stalking two female students and was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice.[3] At least one professor had asked him to seek counseling.

The attacks received international media coverage and drew criticism of U.S. laws and culture from commentators around the world.[4] It sparked intense debate about gun violence, gun laws, gaps in the U.S. system for treating mental health issues, the perpetrator's state of mind, the responsibility of college administrations,[5] privacy laws, journalism ethics, and other issues. Television news organizations that aired portions of the killer's multimedia manifesto were criticized by victims' families, Virginia law enforcement officials, and the American Psychiatric Association.[6][7]

The massacre prompted rapid changes in Virginia law that had allowed Cho, an individual adjudicated as mentally unsound, to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also led to passage of the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years, a law that strengthened the NICS, which was signed by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2008.[8]

The Virginia Tech Review Panel, a state-appointed body assigned to review the incident, criticized Virginia Tech administrators for failing to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties.[1] The panel's report also reviewed gun laws and pointed out gaps in mental health care as well as misinterpretations of privacy laws and inherent flaws in the laws themselves that left Cho's deteriorating condition in college untreated.[1]


[edit] Attacks

Aerial photo showing location of Norris and West Ambler Johnston Halls

Cho used two firearms during the attacks: a .22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 19 handgun.[9] The shootings occurred in separate incidents, with the first at West Ambler Johnston Hall and the second at Norris Hall.

[edit] West Ambler Johnston shootings

Cho was seen near the entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed residence hall that houses 894 students, at about 6:45 a.m. EDT.[1][9] The hall was normally only accessible to its residents via magnetic key card before 10 a.m. However, Cho's student mailbox was in the lobby of the building, so he had pass card access after 7:30 a.m. It is unclear how Cho gained early entrance to the building.[1]

Cho shot his first victims around 7:15 a.m. in West Ambler Johnston Hall. A freshman, Emily J. Hilscher, aged 19, of Woodville, Rappahannock County, Virginia, and a male resident assistant, Ryan C. Clark, a senior, aged 22, of Martinez, Columbia County, Georgia, were shot and killed in the room Hilscher shared with another student.[10] Cho left the scene and went back to his dormitory room. While police and emergency medical services units were responding to the shootings in the dorm next door, Cho changed out of his bloodstained clothes, logged on to his computer to delete his e-mail, and then removed the hard drive. About an hour after the attack, Cho was believed to be seen near the campus duck pond. Authorities suspected Cho threw his hard drive and cell phone into the water, but it was searched and the devices were never found.[11][12]

Almost two hours after the first killings, Cho appeared at a nearby post office and mailed a package of writings and video recordings to NBC News; the package was postmarked 9:01 a.m.[13] He then walked to the site of the second set of murders. In a backpack, he carried several chains, locks, a hammer, a knife, two guns, nineteen 10- and 15-round magazines, and almost 400 rounds of ammunition.[1]

[edit] Norris Hall shootings

Deaths: West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall
1. Ryan Clark, age 22, a senior in Psych/Biology/English from Martinez, Georgia
2. Emily Hilscher, age 19, a freshman in Animal Sciences from Woodville, Virginia
Deaths: Norris Hall
Room 204 (Solid Mechanics)
3. Liviu Librescu , age 76, a professor of Engineering and Holocaust survivor from Ploieşti, Romania
4. Minal Panchal, age 26, a masters student in Architecture from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Room 206 (Advanced Hydrology)
5. G. V. Loganathan, age 53, a professor of Engineering from Erode, Tamil Nadu, India
6. Jarrett Lane, age 22, a senior in Civil Engineering from Narrows, Virginia
7. Brian Bluhm, age 25, a masters student in Civil Engineering from Louisville, Kentucky
8. Matthew Gwaltney, age 24, a masters student in Environmental Engineering from Chesterfield, Virginia
9. Jeremy Herbstritt, age 27, a masters student in Civil Engineering from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
10. Partahi Lumbantoruan, age 34, a PhD student in Civil Engineering from Medan, Indonesia (Indonesian article)
11. Daniel O'Neil, age 22, a masters student in Environmental Engineering from Lincoln, Rhode Island
12. Juan Ortiz, age 26, a masters student in Civil Engineering from Bayamón, Puerto Rico[14]
13. Julia Pryde, age 23, a masters student in Biological Systems Engineering from Middletown, New Jersey
14. Waleed Shaalan, age 32, a PhD student in Civil Engineering from Zagazig, Egypt
Room 207 (Elementary German)
15. Christopher James "Jamie" Bishop, age 35, an instructor of German from Pine Mountain, Georgia
16. Lauren McCain, age 20, a freshman in International Studies from Hampton, Virginia
17. Michael Pohle Jr., age 23, a senior in Biological Sciences from Flemington, New Jersey
18. Maxine Turner, age 22, a senior in Chemical Engineering from Vienna, Virginia
19. Nicole White, age 20, a junior in International Studies from Smithfield, Virginia
Room 211 (Intermediate French)
20. Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, age 49, a professor of French from Nova Scotia, Canada
21. Ross Alameddine, age 20, a sophomore in English/Business from Saugus, Massachusetts
22. Austin Cloyd, age 18, a freshman in Int'l Studies/French from Champaign, Illinois
23. Daniel Perez Cueva, age 21, a junior in International Studies from Woodbridge, Virginia/Peru
24. Caitlin Hammaren, age 19, a sophomore in Int'l Studies/French from Westtown, New York
25. Rachael Hill, age 18, a freshman in Biological Sciences from Richmond, Virginia
26. Matthew La Porte, age 20, a sophomore in Political Science from Dumont, New Jersey
27. Henry Lee age 20, a freshman in Computer Engineering from Roanoke, Virginia/Vietnam
28. Erin Peterson, age 18, a freshman in International Studies from Centreville, Virginia
29. Mary Karen Read, age 19, a freshman in Interdisciplinary Studies from Annandale, Virginia
30. Reema Samaha, age 18, a freshman in Urban Planning from Centreville, Virginia
31. Leslie Sherman, age 20, a junior in History/Int'l Studies from Springfield, Virginia
32. Kevin Granata, age 45, a professor of Engineering from Toledo, Ohio
33. Seung-Hui Cho (23) a senior in English from Centreville, Virginia/Seoul, South Korea (died in Room 211)
Elementary French class students take cover in Holden Hall room 212.

About two hours after the initial shootings, Cho entered Norris Hall, which houses the Engineering Science and Mechanics program among others, and chained the three main entrance doors shut. He placed a note on at least one of the chained doors, claiming that attempts to open the door would cause a bomb to explode. Shortly before the shooting began, a faculty member found the note and took it to the building's third floor to notify the school's administration. At the same time, however, Cho had gone to the second floor and began shooting students and faculty; the bomb threat was never called in.[1][15]

Before Cho began shooting, several student eyewitnesses said he poked his head into a few classrooms. Erin Sheehan, an eyewitness and survivor who had been in room 207, told reporters that the shooter "peeked in twice" earlier in the lesson and that "it was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class".[16] Cho's first attack after entering Norris occurred in an advanced hydrology engineering class taught by Professor G. V. Loganathan in room 206. Cho first shot and killed the professor, then continued shooting, killing nine of the 13 students in the room and injuring two others; only two survived unharmed.[1] Next, Cho went across the hall to room 207, in which instructor Christopher James Bishop was teaching German. Cho killed Bishop and then commenced shooting students, killing four and wounding six others.[1] Cho then moved on to Norris 211 and 204, reloading and shooting students and professors in classrooms and in the hallway, returning to most classrooms more than once. By the end of this second attack, which continued for nine minutes after the first 9-1-1 call was received and about 10 to 12 minutes in total, Cho had fired at least 174 rounds,[17] killing 30 people and wounding 17 more.[1][18] Sydney J. Vail, the director of the trauma center at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, said that Cho's choice of 9 mm hollow point ammunition had worsened the injuries.[19]

Police took nearly five minutes to gain entry to the barricaded building. When they could not break the chains, an officer shot out a deadbolt lock leading into a laboratory; they then moved to a nearby stairwell.[9] As police reached the second floor, they heard Cho fire his final shot.[9][20] Police found Cho dead in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's classroom, room 211, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.[18] During the investigation, State Police Superintendent William Flaherty told a state panel that police found 203 live rounds in Norris Hall. "He was well prepared to continue on," Flaherty testified.[21]

Virginia Tech student Jamal Albarghouti used his mobile phone to capture video footage of a part of the attack from the exterior of Norris Hall. This was later broadcast on many news outlets.

Student Nikolas Macko described to BBC News his experience at the center of the shootings.[22] He had been attending a computer science class in room 205, taught by graduate student Haiyan Cheng, who substituted for the professor that day.[23] They heard gunshots in the hallway. At least three people in the classroom, including Zach Petkewicz, barricaded the door using a table. At one point, Macko said, the shooter attempted to open the classroom door and then shot twice into the room; one shot hit a podium and the other went out the window. The shooter reloaded and fired into the door, but the bullet did not penetrate into the room. Macko stated there were "many, many shots" fired.[15]

In the aftermath, high winds related to the April 2007 Nor'easter prevented emergency medical services from using helicopters for evacuation of the injured.[24] Victims injured in the shooting were treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, TN and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem.[25]

Several people tried to help others during the attack, including:

  • Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, held the door of his classroom, room 204, shut while Cho attempted to enter it. Librescu was able to prevent the shooter from entering the classroom until most of his students escaped through the windows, but he died after being shot multiple times through the door. One student in his classroom was killed.[26]
  • Jocelyne Couture-Nowak tried to save the students in her French classroom, room 211, after looking Cho in the eye in the hallway.[27] Colin Goddard, one of seven survivors in the French class,[28] told his family that Couture-Nowak ordered her students to the back of the class for their safety and made a fatal attempt to barricade the door.[29]
  • Student Henry Lee was also killed while trying to help Professor Couture-Nowak barricade the door.[30]
  • In room 206, the movements of a wounded Waleed Shaalan distracted Cho from a nearby student after the shooter had returned to the room, according to a student eyewitness. Shaalan was shot a second time and died.[31]
  • Also in room 206, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan may have protected fellow student Guillermo Colman by diving on top of him.[32] Colman's various accounts make it unclear whether this act was intentional or the involuntary result of being shot. Multiple gunshots killed Lumbantoruan, but Colman was protected by Lumbantoruan's body.[33][34][35][36]
  • Student Zach Petkewicz barricaded the door of room 205 with a large table after substitute professor Haiyan Cheng and an unidentified female student in the same class saw Cho heading toward them. Cho shot several times through the door but failed to force his way in. No one in that classroom was wounded or killed.[20][37]
  • Katelyn Carney, Derek O'Dell, Trey Perkins, and Erin Sheehan barricaded the door of room 207, the German class, after the first attack and tended to the wounded. Cho returned minutes later but O'Dell, Perkins, and Carney prevented him from re-entering the room. O'Dell and Carney were injured.[38][39][40]
  • Hearing the commotion on the floor below, Professor Kevin Granata brought 20 students from a nearby classroom into an office, where the door could be locked, on the third floor of Norris Hall. He then went downstairs to investigate and was shot by Cho. Granata died from his injuries. None of the students locked in Granata's office were injured.[41]

[edit] Victims

During the two attacks, Cho killed 5 faculty members and 27 students before committing suicide.[20] The Virginia Tech review panel reported that Cho's gunshots wounded 17 other people; 6 more were injured when they jumped from second-story windows to escape.[1]

[edit] Perpetrator

The shooter was identified as 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean citizen with U.S. permanent resident status. An undergraduate at Virginia Tech, Cho lived in Harper Hall, a dormitory west of West Ambler Johnston Hall.

The Virginia Tech review panel's August 2007 report devoted more than 30 pages to Cho's troubled history.[1] At three years of age, Cho was described as shy, frail, and wary of physical contact.[42] While early media reports carried speculation by South Korean relatives that Cho had autism,[43] the review panel report dismissed this diagnosis.[44] In eighth grade, Cho was diagnosed with severe depression as well as selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder that inhibited him from speaking.[1][45][46] Cho's family sought therapy for him, and he received help periodically throughout middle school and high school.[1] Early reports also indicated Cho was bullied for speech difficulties in middle school, but the Virginia Tech review panel was unable to confirm this.[47] High school officials worked with his parents and mental health counselors to support Cho throughout his sophomore and junior years. Cho eventually chose to discontinue therapy. When he applied and was admitted to Virginia Tech, school officials did not report his speech and anxiety-related problems or special education status because of federal privacy laws that prohibit such disclosure unless a student requests special accommodation.[46]

One of the photographs of Seung-Hui Cho that he sent to NBC News on the day of the massacre

The Virginia Tech review panel detailed numerous incidents of aberrant behavior beginning in Cho's junior year of college that should have served as warning signals of his deteriorating mental condition. Several former professors of Cho reported that his writing as well as his classroom behavior was disturbing, and he was encouraged to seek counseling.[48][49] He was also investigated by the university for stalking and harassing two female students.[50] In 2005, Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and ordered to seek outpatient treatment.[51]

The Virginia Tech review panel report faulted university officials for failing to share information that would have shed light on the seriousness of Cho's problems, citing misinterpretations of federal privacy laws.[52][53] The report also pointed to failures by Virginia Tech's counseling center, flaws in Virginia's mental health laws, and inadequate state mental health services, but concluded that "Cho himself was the biggest impediment to stabilizing his mental health" in college.[1]

Cho's underlying psychological diagnosis at the time of the shootings remains a matter of speculation.[54] Media outlets routinely compared Cho's motives and mental state to those of the Columbine killers; however, it remains unclear whether Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's motives and mental states were similar to Cho's.

Early reports suggested that the killings resulted from a romantic dispute between Cho and Emily Hilscher, one of his first two victims. However, Hilscher's friends said she had no prior relationship with Cho and there is no evidence that he ever met or talked with her before the murders.[55] In the ensuing investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room that included comments about "rich kids", "debauchery", and "deceitful charlatans". On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho time-stamped between the first and second shooting episodes. It contained an 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 27 digitally recorded videos, in which Cho likened himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.[13] He stated, among other things, "You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option...You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terror in my heart and ripping my soul all this time".[56] The Virginia Tech review panel concluded that because of Cho's inability to handle stress and the "frightening prospect" of being "turned out into the world of work, finances, responsibilities, and a family," Cho chose to engage in a fantasy where "he would be remembered as the savior of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, and the rejected."[1] The panel went further, stating that, "His thought processes were so distorted that he began arguing to himself that his evil plan was actually doing good. His destructive fantasy was now becoming an obsession."[1]

[edit] Responses to the incidents

[edit] University response

Before their 2007 football opener, the Hokies release 32 balloons as a part of a ceremony commemorating the victims.

The university first informed students via e-mail at 9:26 a.m., more than two hours after the first shooting, which was thought at the time to be isolated and domestic in nature.[57] The state review panel, which issued its final report in August 2007, validated public criticisms that university officials erred in "prematurely concluding that their initial lead in the double homicide was a good one," and in delaying a campus-wide notification for almost two hours.[1] The report analyzed the feasibility of a campus lockdown and essentially agreed with police testimony that such an action was not feasible. The report concluded that the toll could have been reduced if the university had made an immediate decision to cancel classes and a stronger, clearer initial alert of the presence of a gunman.[1]

Virginia Tech canceled classes for the rest of the week, closed Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester, and held an assembly and candlelight vigil on April 17.[58] The university offered counseling for students and faculty,[59] and the American Red Cross dispatched several dozen crisis counselors to Blacksburg to help students.[60] University officials also allowed students, if they chose, to abbreviate their semester coursework and still receive a grade.[61]

Within a day after the shootings, Virginia Tech formed the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF) to help remember and honor the victims. The fund is used to cover expenses including, but not limited to: assistance to victims and their families, grief counseling, memorials, communications expenses, and comfort expenses.[62] In early June 2007, the Virginia Tech Foundation announced that US$3.2 million was moved from the HSMF into 32 separate named endowment funds, each created in honor of a victim lost in the shooting. This transfer brought each fund to the level of full endowment, allowing them to operate in perpetuity. The naming and determination of how each fund will be directed is being developed with the victims' families. By early June, donations to the HSMF had reached approximately $7 million.[63] In July 2007, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, was named to administer the fund's distributions.[64] In October 2007, the families and surviving victims received payments ranging from $11,500 to $208,000 from the fund.[65]

In early June 2007, the university announced it would begin reoccupying Norris Hall within a matter of weeks. The building is to be used for offices and laboratories for the Engineering Science and Mechanics and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, its primary occupants before the shootings. The building is to be completely renovated over time, and it will no longer contain classrooms.[66]

After the release of the Virginia Tech review panel report, some parents of those slain called for Virginia's governor to relieve the university president and campus police chief of their positions. However, Governor Tim Kaine rejected the notion, saying that the school officials had "suffered enough".[67]

EQUITAS, a Canada-based “Strategic Rule of Law Think Tank” governed by international law, published a report pertaining to the Virginia Tech massacre which includes a review of measures for counter-terrorism and campus security adopted between 1993 through April 16, 2007.[68] The report criticized Virginia Tech's institutional decision-making process and summarized the lethal effects of failing to “implement and administer valid procedural and substantive safeguards aimed at securing the broad Va Tech and Blacksburg community against Level II type incidents involving acts of terrorism and mass casualties".[68] The report did not comment on gun control or mental health issues.

Virginia Tech students mourn the victims at a candlelight vigil.

[edit] Campus response

After becoming aware of the incident, students communicated with their families and peers about their conditions, using telephones and social networking services.[69] Some bodies were found with cell phones and PDAs still ringing.[70]

Tech students of South Korean descent initially feared they would be targeted for retribution.[71] However, no cases of discrimination against Asian Virginia Tech students were reported in the weeks following the shootings.[72]

Permanent memorial on Virginia Tech's drillfield

Despite the timing of the shootings, as prospective students were replying to offers of admission from colleges and universities, Virginia Tech exceeded its recruiting goal of 5,000 students for the class of 2011.[73]

In the hours and days following the shooting, makeshift memorials to those killed or injured began appearing in several locations on the campus. Many people placed flowers and items of remembrance at the base of the Drillfield observation podium in front of Burruss Hall. Later, members of Hokies United placed 32 pieces of Hokie Stone, each labeled with the name of a victim, in a semicircle in front of the Drillfield viewing stand.[74]

Following the shootings, members of the Virginia Tech community wondered whether Norris Hall, the site of the shooting, would be reopened, transformed into a memorial, or torn down.[75] Administrators decided to keep the building open.[76]

[edit] Government response

President Bush and his wife Laura attended the convocation at Virginia Tech the day after the shootings.[77] The Internal Revenue Service and Virginia Department of Taxation granted six-month extensions to individuals affected by the shootings.[78] Virginia Governor Tim Kaine returned early from a trade mission to Tokyo, Japan,[57] and declared a "state of emergency" in Virginia, enabling him to immediately deploy state personnel, equipment, and other resources in the aftermath of the shootings.[79]

President George W. Bush with Virginia Tech Student Government Association President James Tyger after Bush's speech at the school's convocation

Governor Kaine later created an eight-member panel, including former U.S. homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, to review all aspects of the Virginia Tech massacre, from Cho's medical history to the school's widely criticized delay in warning students of danger and locking down the campus after the bodies of Cho's first two victims were discovered.[80] In August 2007, the panel concluded, among more than 20 major findings, that the Virginia Tech Police Department "did not take sufficient action to deal with what might happen if the initial lead proved false".[1] The panel made more than 70 preventative recommendations, directed to colleges, universities, mental health providers, law enforcement officials, emergency service providers, law makers and other public officials in Virginia and elsewhere. While the panel did find errors in judgment and procedure, the ultimate conclusion was that Cho himself was responsible for his own actions, and to imply that anyone else was accountable "would be wrong."

The incident also caused Virginia Commonwealth elected officials to re-examine gaps between federal and state gun purchase laws. Within two weeks, Governor Kaine had issued an executive order designed to close those gaps (see Gun politics debate, below).

Prompted by the incident, the federal government passed the most significant gun control law in over a decade.[81] The bill, H.R. 2640, mandates improvements in state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to halt gun purchases by criminals, those declared mentally ill, and other people prohibited from possessing firearms and authorizes up to $1.3 billion in federal grants for such improvements.[82] Both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association supported the legislation.[83] The measure passed the United States House of Representatives on a voice vote on June 13, 2007. The Senate passed the measure on December 19, 2007. President Bush signed the measure on January 5, 2008.[82] On March 24, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes in the regulations governing education records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Certain of the changes address issues raised by the Virginia Tech incident and are intended to clarify for schools the appropriate balance to strike between concerns of individual privacy and public safety.[84]

[edit] South Korean response

When the citizenship of the shooter became known, South Koreans expressed shock and a sense of public shame,[85] while the Government of South Korea convened an emergency meeting to consider possible ramifications. A candlelight vigil was held outside the Embassy of the United States in Seoul. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed his deepest condolences.[86] South Korea's ambassador to the U.S. and several Korean American religious leaders called on Korean Americans to participate in a 32-day fast, one day for each victim, for repentance.[87][88] The foreign minister, Song Min-soon, announced that safety measures had been established for Koreans living in the U.S., in apparent reference to fears of possible reprisal attacks.[89] A ministry official expressed hope that the shooting would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation".[90] Some Korean Americans criticized the fasting proposal, saying that it directed undue and irrelevant attention on Cho's ethnicity and not other, more salient, reasons behind the shooting. News reports noted that South Koreans seemed relieved that American news coverage of Cho focused on his psychological problems.[85] The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) pulled its "Sparkling Korea" television advertisements off CNN after the shootings. A KTO official said it would be inappropriate to air the advertisements featuring images of Korea's culture and natural beauty in between the news reports of the rampage.[91]

[edit] Other responses

Penn State students pay tribute to the fallen Hokies at the Nittany Lions spring football game.

Hundreds of other colleges and universities throughout North America responded to the incident with official condolences and by conducting their own vigils, memorial services, and gestures of support.[92] Some schools went beyond this and offered or provided cash donations and other forms of expertise and support, such as housing for officers and additional counseling support for Virginia Tech. [93] Both inside the U.S. and abroad, the incident caused many universities to re-examine their own campus safety and security procedures as well as their mental health support services.[94][95]

Some of Cho's family members expressed sympathy for the victims' families and described his history of mental and behavioral problems. Cho's maternal grandfather was quoted in The Daily Mirror referring to Cho as a person who deserved to die with the victims.[44] On Friday, April 20, Cho's family issued a statement of grief and apology, written by his sister, Sun-Kyung Cho.[96]

Many heads of state and international figures offered condolences and sympathy,[97] including Pope Benedict XVI,[98] Queen Elizabeth II, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Sporting teams and leagues at both the college and professional levels, as well as sports figures from football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and NASCAR racing, paid their respects and joined fundraising efforts to honor the victims.[99]

On July 30, 2007, after it came to light that Seung-Hui Cho had purchased on eBay two 10-round magazines for one of the guns used in the shootings, the online auctioneer prohibited the sale of firearms magazines, firearms parts, and ammunition components on its site.[100][101]

[edit] Gun politics debate

The massacre reignited the gun politics debate in the United States, with proponents of gun control legislation arguing that guns are too accessible, citing that Cho, a mentally unsound individual, was able to purchase two semi-automatic pistols.[102] Proponents of gun rights argued that Virginia Tech's gun-free "safe zone" policy ensured that none of the other students or faculty would be armed and that as a result they were unable to stop Cho's rampage.[103]

[edit] Background

Law enforcement officials found a purchase receipt for one of the guns used in the assault among Cho's belongings.[104] The shooter waited one month after buying a Walther P22 pistol before he bought a second pistol, a Glock 19.[1] Cho used a 15-round magazine in the Glock and a 10-round magazine in the Walther.[105] The serial numbers on the weapons were filed off, but the ATF National Laboratory was able to reveal them and performed a firearms trace.[105]

The sale of firearms to permanent residents in Virginia is legal as long as the buyer shows proof of residency.[106] Virginia law also limits purchases of handguns to one every 30 days.[107] Federal law requires a criminal background check for handgun purchases from licensed firearms dealers, and Virginia checks other databases in addition to the federally mandated NICS. A 1968 federal law passed in response to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.,[83] also prohibits those "adjudicated as a mental defective" from buying guns. This exclusion applied to Cho after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment.[1][3] Because of gaps between federal and Virginia state laws, the state did not report Cho's legal status to the NICS.[3] Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine addressed this problem on April 30, 2007, by issuing an executive order intended to close those reporting gaps.[108] In August 2007, the Virginia Tech review panel report called for a permanent change in the Code of Virginia to clarify and strengthen the state's background check requirements.[1] The federal government later passed a law to improve state reporting to the NICS nationwide.[82]

The shootings also renewed debate surrounding Virginia Tech's firearms ban. The university has a general ban on possession or storage of firearms on campus by employees, students, and volunteers, or any visitor or other third parties, even if they are state-licensed concealed weapons permit holders.[109] In April 2005, a student licensed by the state to carry concealed weapons was discovered possessing a concealed firearm in class. While no criminal charges were filed, a university spokesman said the University had "the right to adhere to and enforce that policy as a common-sense protection of students, staff and faculty as well as guests and visitors".[110]

In January 2006, prior to the shootings, legislator Todd Gilbert had introduced a related bill into the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill, HB 1572, was intended to forbid public universities in Virginia from preventing students from lawfully carrying a concealed handgun on campus.[111] The university opposed the bill, which quickly died in subcommittee. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker praised the defeat of the bill, stating, "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."[112]

[edit] Aftermath

In August 2007, the Virginia Tech review panel report recommended that the state's General Assembly adopt legislation "establishing the right of every institution of higher education to regulate the possession of firearms on campus if it so desires" and went on to recommend campus gun bans, "unless mandated by law." The report also recommended gun control measures unrelated to the circumstances of the massacre, such as requiring background checks for firearms sales at gun shows.[1] Governor Kaine made it a priority to enact a gun show background check law in the 2008 Virginia General Assembly, but the bill was defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.[113]

The incident and its aftermath energized student activist efforts seeking to overturn bans that prevent gun permit holders from carrying their weapons on college campuses. Thirty-eight states throughout the U.S. ban weapons at schools; sixteen of those specifically ban guns on college campuses.[114] A new group, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, formed after the massacre; as of March 2008, it claimed to have 16,000 members at 500 campuses nationwide.[115][116] Several states are weighing legislation to allow gun permit holders to carry concealed firearms on university campuses.[117] Another attempt by Delegate Gilbert to pass a law to allow concealed weapons on college campuses in Virginia was defeated in March 2008.[118]

[edit] Political response

The response to how gun laws affected the massacre was divided. According to a White House statement, "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed".[119] The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said that it was easy for an individual to get powerful weapons and called for increased gun control measures.[120] Gun rights activist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, commenting on CNN, called for an end to gun-free zones and contrasted the Virginia Tech massacre with other incidents in which mass shootings have been ended by law-abiding gun owners.[121]

Some government officials in other countries joined in the criticism of U.S. gun laws and policies.[4] For example, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that stringent legislation introduced after a 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania had prevented a problematic gun culture in Australia.[122]

Responding to the Virginia Tech incident, Texas Governor Rick Perry proposed that licensed gun owners be allowed to carry their weapons anywhere in Texas.[123] Governor Kaine of Virginia condemned the gun politics debate following the massacre, saying, "To those who want to make this into some sort of crusade, I say take this elsewhere."[124]

[edit] Settlement

On June 17, 2008, Virginia Circuit Court Judge Theodore J. Markow approved an $11 million settlement with 24 of the 32 victims' families. Of the other eight victims, two families chose not to file claims, while two remain unresolved. The settlement also covered 18 people who were injured; they will have health care needs covered for life.[65][125]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel". Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved on 2008-09-16.  Cho shot and wounded a further 17 people and caused injury to 6 others as they tried to flee.
  2. ^ "Fact File: Deadliest shootings in the U.S.". MSNBC. Retrieved on 2008-09-16.  Note: there have been several deadlier shootings in U.S. history, but not by a single gunman, and not on a school campus.
  3. ^ a b c Luo, Michael (2007-04-21). "U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun". New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  4. ^ a b Perry, Michael (2007-04-17). "Massacre sparks foreign criticism of U.S. gun culture". Reuters. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  5. ^ Fran Spielman (2008-05-04). "Colleges may get power to lock students out of private dorms". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  6. ^ Maddox, Bronwen (2007-04-20). "Why NBC was right to show those demented ramblings". The Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  7. ^ "APA Urges Media to Stop Airing Graphic Cho Materials" (PDF). American Psychiatric Association. 2007-04-20. Archived from the original on 2007-06-05. 
  8. ^ Cochran, John (2008-01-12). "New Gun Control Law Is Killer's Legacy". ABC News. Retrieved on 2008-01-14. 
  9. ^ a b c d Williams, Reed; Morrison, Shawna (2007-04-26). "Police: No motive found". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  10. ^ Johnson, Annie; Thornburgh, Nathan (2007-04-20). "Witness: The Dormitory Murders". Time Magazine.,8599,1613010,00.html. 
  11. ^ Mallory, Anna L. (2007-06-30). "Investigators leave Tech Duck Pond empty-handed". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  12. ^ Bowman, Rex (2007-08-11). "Cho may have practiced attack". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  13. ^ a b Johnson, Alex (2007-04-19). "Gunman sent package to NBC News". MSNBC. Retrieved on 2008-09-16. 
  14. ^ "Virginia Tech Day of Remembrance - April 16, 2008". 2008-04-16. Retrieved on 2008-10-27. 
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  17. ^ Bowman, Robert (2007-05-21). "Panel receives details, roadblock". Collegiate Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  18. ^ a b Gelineau, Kristen (2007-04-25). "Police: Va. Tech Bloodbath Lasted 9 Min.". Washington Post (Associated Press). Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
  19. ^ Somashekhar, Sandhya; Miroff, Nick (2007-04-22). "Injuries Heal, but Mental Scars May Last Much Longer". Washington Post. Retrieved on 2008-09-24. 
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