Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"All laws must be followed" examined.

At a church meeting I attended last night, someone told me she had read that the President's reaction to yesterday's Virginia Tech shootings was to talk about how we still shouldn't have gun control.

A bunch of us thought that was odd. I speculated that he might have said it before the second shooting.

Anyway, after hearing about it from a few more people, I decided to look it up.

It turns out that Bush himself didn't say anything about gun rights and the shooting.

His press secretary did say:

" "As far as policy, the president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly, bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting numbers -- I don't want to say numbers, because I know that they're still trying to figure out how many people were wounded and possibly killed. But obviously, that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for. " "

But that was in response to a direct question from a reporter about whether the shootings would change the president's mind about gun control. I'd say that having been asked the question, the quote forms an unsurprising answer that is not particularly offensive in context.

A reporter tried to follow up: "Columbine, [the] Amish school shooting, now this, and a whole host of other gun issues brought into schools. That's not including guns on the streets in many urban areas and rural areas. Does there need to be some more restrictions? Does there need to be gun control in this country now?"

The press secretary's response: "The president -- as I said, if there are changes to the president's policy, then we will let you know."

Anyway, that's the story behind that quote. Perhaps it would be ideal if one large shooting changed the president's mind, but it would be unrealistic to expect that. (Particularly since the guns weren't legal anyway, so he could always make the argument that tighter gun laws won't make much difference to people who aren't even following the existing laws.)

Personally, I would be very wary of any publication where I heard that quote taken out of context. The writers at such a publication likely assume no one will look up the context and may well be misleading on other issues.


Clarification: The guns were purchased legally. The fact that this guy destroyed the serial numbers MADE them illegal. Anyway, if that distinction matters to you, there, I've made it.


Joel Monka said...

Thank you for this. A number of blogs are already castigating the President for what he didn't say, including at least one UU blog that says, "...George W. Bush immediately used the tragedy at Blacksburg to reiterate that great American "right to bear arms"."

Logically, I could argue that this is not a gun control issue, nor a campus security issue, in that the shooter had planned this in advance, down to buying chains and locks to chain the doors shut before beginning... ask our soldiers returning from Iraq how difficult it is to stop a planned suicide killer.

But those are second thoughts. My first thoughts flashed back six and a half years, to my shock at seeing the first UU reactions posted at church to 9/11 being political diatribes about our foreign policy. My God, are we UUs really as corpse-cold as accused, that we are incapable of expressing human grief and sympathy except through a political template? I have accused us of being nothing more than the chaplain's arm of the Democratic Party, but I realise now that this is unfair to the Democratic Party- as I write these words, I am watching officials come together without thought of party in convocation to comfort the grieving, a more religious and spiritual reaction than some of the "religious" reactions I'm reading today.

Bill Baar said...

...that we are incapable of expressing human grief and sympathy except through a political template?

I guess some of us are.

I have deliberately avoided this story and that's no easy task for a guy addicted to the internet.

Chalicechick said...

(( My first thoughts flashed back six and a half years, to my shock at seeing the first UU reactions posted at church to 9/11 being political diatribes about our foreign policy)))

How were they posted at church?

The UUA Website had one comment from a few ministers talking about how our foreign policy was to blame, one comment saying that we would probably have to respond with violence and a whole lot of comments that just focussed on the awfulness of the tragedy.

who practically memorized that website when the AUA used the ONE comment about how American foreign policy was to serve as an example of their complaints about all of UUism.

With such a poor understanding of polity, it's no surprise they couldn't hack it as UUs.

Joel Monka said...

I was speaking of things posted on the bulletin board (paper and pushpins, not a BBS) at my congregation, All Souls Indianapolis. They were written by fellow congregates. We may be old-fashioned, but we still tack things to a cork-board wall at All Souls.

PG said...

While removing the serial numbers from guns is illegal, I'm not clear on how that's relevant to the crime. It's not as though there was much difficulty in figuring out which guns used in the crime, given that they were found next to the killer's dead body.

Politicization goes both ways. Some people are using this tragedy to criticize Virginia Tech for banning guns from the campus. When the Appalachian School of Law had a shooter several years ago, he was subdued by two students who each ran to their vehicles in the school parking lot and grabbed guns. Of course, he was of a more self-preserving bent than the Tech shooter; when faced with others' weapons, he eventually surrendered and he pled guilty rather than face the death penalty. Last spring a Virginia Tech student was disciplined for bringing a handgun to class, despite having a concealed handgun permit.

My own feeling is that if the killer locked people in with him, even having guns on campus wouldn't have helped unless people were carrying those guns and ammo with them everywhere they went, rather than just keeping them secured in their residences, offices or vehicles (which in my experience is the normal thing to do). From a gun policy perspective, banning automatic weapons would be about the best we could do to prevent such a massacre -- if the shooter had had to reload each time he fired, it probably would have been possible for someone to tackle him. And even this might not suffice for situations like Columbine with two killers who could have worked back-to-back.

Joel Monka said...

Even banning semi-automatics would not have helped. If you have two guns, as he did, you can always pick up the loaded gun before anyone could rush you- and they make quick-loaders for revolvers that are nearly as fast as loading a magazine into an automatic anyway.

You are absolutely correct about gun permits not helping, either, unless they actually carried the gun into class, which I cannot imagine any college allowing.

Any "lessons learned" here will be useless in future attacks- unless they turn the campus into a prison, anyone smart enough to be there in the first place will figure ways around the security. This is a human problem, not a security problem.

Chalicechick said...

Honestly, PG, at the time I wrote that I assumed the filed-off numbers meant the guns were more illegal than they turned out to be.


Comrade Kevin said...

Rather than being hyper-political, let's try our hand at being human.

And let's try to examine what in society leads to tragedies rather than jumping to conclusions about gun control or pinning false statements on the President. We seem to have a habit of kicking someone when she/he's down which speaks badly of us.