Appalachian School of Law Shootings
       

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Sat, 19 Jan 2002

Pistol peril What’s the solution?

Gzedit
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

APPALACHIAN School of Law - a small, new Virginia institution designed to train lawyers to relieve a shortage in mountain communities - contained several West Virginia students. It also contained a Nigerian immigrant who couldn’t pass the stringent courses.

After he flunked out a second time, the bitter man returned to the school with a .380 pistol. He killed the dean and a professor in their offices, then opened fire on students in a common area. A female student was killed, and three others were seriously wounded.

Horrors like this happen time after time in pistol-polluted America, where any angry or unbalanced person can obtain a gun. The U.S. rate of firearm murders is vastly higher than in other advanced nations, where weapons are tightly controlled.

Under today’s conditions, Americans have virtually no defense. An armed weirdo can come to your front door, or your church, or your office, or your child’s school, or a movie theater, or a concert hall - nearly anywhere - and start shooting.

Gun lovers, such as chest-thumping Charlton Heston, say the cure is for thousands of Americans to go armed, so they can shoot back. But that’s grotesque. Do you want to work every day in an office full of armed people? Do you want armed teachers at your child’s school? The risk of accidental killing would be greater than the risk of murder.

Even if the deans, professors and students at the law school had been carrying pistols of their own, they probably couldn’t have seized them in time to prevent tragedy. Usually, there’s no warning before gunfire erupts.

Gun-control laws have glaring loopholes. A new national study found that 9,976 convicted felons, including 270 in West Virginia, bought guns, even though it’s illegal for them to do so. Defective records failed to reveal their past convictions.

Even if the national background screening system worked well, criminals easily can obtain pistols by having others make purchases for them. A study last fall found that 40 percent of prison inmates serving time for gun crimes had obtained the weapons from relatives or friends.

The only real cure for America’s horrendous gun toll would be a drastic reduction in the availability of pistols. But that’s unlikely to happen because U.S. politicians are terrified of the gun lobby. The whole Bush administration - especially Attorney General John Ashcroft - is committed to allowing Americans to carry concealed guns.

West Virginia politicians likewise support the right of people to have pistols hidden in their pockets. Absurdly, right-to-bear-arms legislators are spending $ 900,000 of taxpayer money for metal detectors at the state Capitol. The lawmakers say everyone has a right to go armed - but they fear that an armed person might come into their chambers.

As long as America takes no real action to decrease the saturation of guns in society, people will have no defense against horrors such as the law school tragedy.

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