04/18/07 — Nation stunned: Senselessness of act, macabre behavior of shooter strike cord

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Nation stunned: Senselessness of act, macabre behavior of shooter strike cord

Thinking about Monday’s tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg can be surreal at times — like nothing really happened that day.

It must be how we are dealing with the sympathy we feel for the 30-some families who lost their loved ones.

It seems hard to believe that a nation that had to deal with the pain of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., not that many years ago would have to endure the heartache of another massacre.

But unfortunately for all of us — we are going to have to ask the questions and mourn the losses again.

As more and more information comes out about the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, and the apparently outrageous behavior he exhibited around campus, many are wondering if this tragedy could have been prevented.

The signs were there — just as they were when the two teens decided to shoot up their high school in Colorado. In the Virginia Tech case, this young man was so scary that multiple people made reports that he should be watched — and that he might be a danger to himself or to someone else.

But because he had made no direct threat against anyone, there was little police or school officials could do other than to recommend counseling.

So, all they could do was wait and hope that nothing would make Cho snap.

And Cho could take more than $500 and go buy a gun.

No one will ever really be able to say what could have been done to stop the shootings at Virginia Tech. Second-guessing is a pastime most people use to feel better when there is a tragedy of this magnitude. It makes us feel safe, like maybe now we have found the fatal flaw that we can correct to make sure we never have to feel this way again.

But perhaps one area in which we could consider a change is adding a way to put a warning out when someone is identified who might be a danger in a community.

If the police had had a way of red-flagging Cho, he might not have been able to buy a gun — or law enforcement officers could have been notified if he did.

That way, he could have been monitored, just in case.

The idea isn’t foolproof, and it would need some careful monitoring so that civil rights of the innocent are protected, but it is a start — a way to do something.

There will be many more tears shed and many more questions to come about Monday’s tragic deaths.

And we will keep searching for the magic solution to preventing yet another tragic day — and keep holding our own families closer.

Published in Editorials on April 18, 2007 11:35 AM