Families of Virginia Tech Victims Urge Congress to 'Finish the Job'
By Randy Hall
October 18, 2007
Fifteen family members and survivors of the Virginia Tech shootings came to Washington, D.C., Tuesday to urge the Senate to pass legislation intended to improve instant background checks and prevent anyone from repeating what they called "our personal 9/11."
However, gun rights advocates responded on Wednesday that such measures have only succeeded in creating "gun-free zones" in which everyone but the shooter is disarmed and defenseless.
"America has a record-keeping problem that allowed the shooter to get a gun, and my daughter lost her life," said Joe Samaha in a news release distributed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Samaha's daughter, Reema, died in the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
"We're here to be constructive, but insistent too on getting the bill passed to improve Brady background checks," said Diane Strollo of Pittsburgh, Pa. Strollo's daughter, Hilary Clare, was another victim of the shooting, which claimed the lives of 32 students and teachers.
The legislation in question, H.R. 2640, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Act of 2007, would require federal agencies to submit records of all persons prohibited by law from owning guns to the NICS.
In addition, the legislation, which was passed by the House on June 13 but has since languished in the Senate, would provide financial incentives for states to automate and transmit their records to the NICS - states would be penalized for noncompliance.
"We are grateful to the House of Representatives for passing this bill, but there are no excuses to wait even one more day to finish the job in the Senate," Samaha said. "It should pass this legislation now, and the president should sign it immediately."
Along with meeting Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the main sponsor of the measure in the Senate, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a letter that reads: "We write to you as victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. Six months ago today, our lives changed forever" as a result of "our personal 9/11."
"After these heinous shootings, we learned that in December 2005, a Virginia court found the killer to be both mentally ill and dangerous, an order that should have prohibited him from buying firearms," the letter states.
"However, Virginia authorities had not entered the order into the [NICS], and a seriously disturbed and violent young man purchased guns unimpeded, with deadly consequences," it adds.
"In memory of our loved ones murdered six months ago, and in tribute to the courage of the survivors," says the letter, "we petition the Congress to complete the lifesaving work" of strengthening the system.
On Wednesday, Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America, told Cybercast News Service that "it appears the Brady Campaign is very selective when it comes to celebrating anniversaries."
"It was 10 years ago this month that a high school administrator used a Colt .45 to halt a school tragedy in Pearl, Miss.," Pratt said. "That was Assistant Principal Joel Myrick, who pointed his gun at the young killer, Luke Woodham, and stopped him from continuing his shooting spree."
"One decent man with a gun prevented the town of Pearl from becoming like Virginia Tech," said Pratt.
John Lott, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland and author of "Freedomnomics," told Cybercast News Service that statistics support Pratt's argument regarding gun use for self-defense.
"The number of defensive gun uses range from 1.5 million to 3.4 million per year, with the best estimate of around 2 million times," he said. "By contrast, the number of gun crimes from similar surveys is about 450,000 times per year."
Lott added that even if Congress had approved H.R. 2640 before the Virginia Tech incident, the law would not have prevented Cho Sueng-Hui from obtaining a firearm, because the judge in the case did not make it mandatory for the student to post the order in the system.
"There have been numerous studies on gun control laws, and from all of those efforts, there is no conclusive evidence that any of those laws prevented a crime," Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told Cybercast News Service.
As a result, "there is ample evidence that the 'gun-free zone' concept has been a dismal failure, particularly as it applies to public schools and college campuses," he said.
"If Congress is truly sincere about preventing these kinds of tragedies, then it should make abolition of 'gun-free zones' a priority," he added. "Remove the term from the American lexicon because in translation, all these areas really have become victim disarmament zones and risk-free environments for criminals and lunatics."
At first I was a bit outraged that these parents would use the expression "our personal 9/11", but then I realized that it's fitting. Two tragedies that would have been completely preventable if the good citizens of this country would have been allowed to carry their firearms.