Thursday, April 19, 2007

Prayers for the Hokies

I have been in shock over what happened Monday morning at Virginia Tech. Being a professor on a college campus makes this tragedy even more frightening for me and my colleagues. This could have happened anywhere. In fact, we've had some scares over the last few years (one episode with me personally), always dealt with well by our campus and administration here at Campbell University. Nevertheless, we have all been just a little bit "jumpy" this week.

As I have processed this though, there are four thoughts that I have:

(1) How in the world was this troubled young man able to purchase two handguns and the ammunition for them? I know, he didn't violate any laws. That's precisely my point. Why can the N.R.A. at least not support some kind of national registry and at least a 15 day waiting period with requisite background checks before allowing someone to purchase a firearm? We all know that we live in a world with some people who do not need to own guns. And that has to be balanced with the law-abiding citizen who wants to purchase a firearm for hunting or even for protection. Could there not be some type of balance here? It would seem to me that this would be reasonable.

Related to that, unless I am mistaken, the shooter at Virginia Tech was not a U.S. citizen. He was a permanent resident alien. Should there not be again a federal law that would require all people who want to purchase a firearm to prove U.S. citizenship? Would that not be prudent, especially in a post-911 world?

(2) Why was the shooter still a student at Virginia Tech given all that has come out recently about his psychological condition? There was a 2005 court ruling which determined that he was a potential threat. And, there were faculty members and students who several times sounded the alarm and raised red flags about him. Was there not some procedure in place for removing him from the student body before it ever came to this? Did someone "drop the ball" here?

(3) Why did NBC feel that it needed to broadcast the "Cho Manifesto" to the nation yesterday? Oh, I know. They had a "scoop." They had something none of the other news agencies had and they knew they'd have a ratings winner. So, they promoted it all afternoon yesterday and finally broadcast those disturbing photographs and video yesterday evening. But, I fail to see how any of that really added to the story. I fail to see how any of that was journalism. No reporter went out there and "got" the story. It was a package that came to them that no other news agency had. All that was accomplished was to allow a troubled mass murderer to wreak havoc once again on grieving family members and the entire Virginia Tech community. NBC got it right with Imus (although I suspect that the decision to fire Imus was motivated more by financial issues rather than ethics) but made a serious mistake yesterday.

(4) Finally, I have a student here at Campbell University whose sister is a student at Virginia Tech. She was supposed to have been in that infamous building for class on Monday morning, but as it turned out, she overslept and missed class that morning. However, her two suitemates were both killed. Please keep this young woman in your prayers.

Also, I receive an email from a man named Brent Cloyd each week. He is a used theological books salesman. On Monday afternoon I received an email from him (which went to his entire list) requesting prayer for his niece, Austin Cloyd. She was a student at Virginia Tech. He said that his brother had not been able to raise her on the phone or via email and she was not admitted to any of the hospitals. They were fearing the worst. Finally, I got a follow-up email from him on Tuesday that they had confirmation that she was one of the victims that had been killed. Please pray for the family of Austin Cloyd.

At 11:00 this morning the tower bells on our campus tolled 32 times as we all observed a moment of silence for the victims and their families. I was struck by how long it took for the bell to ring 32 times. It was truly an unimaginable loss for the family members.

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