Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the location of a mass killing that took place at Appalachian School of Law.
What can one say about the Virginia Tech murders? My reaction is the same as just about everyone's: profound sadness and sympathy for those who have suffered loss.
Let me add three thoughts. No. 1, school and campus shootings are extremely rare events. They don't say anything statistically significant about our society. We hear cries that America is a violent country, and you can cite crime statistics to show that more crimes are committed per capita in the United States than in some other countries, although the fact is that crime has been rising in Europe, in some cases to levels above that of the United States. The streets of New York are now safer than the streets of London. But mass murders are highly unusual. They're not a sociological phenomenon. They are the work of evil men. Evil.
No. 2, Virginia Tech is a gun-free campus. That is, the university administration and the government of Virginia declared it a gun-free campus, exempt from the Virginia law that allows law-abiding citizens who meet certain qualifications to carry concealed weapons. In fact it was no such thing. Advocates of more stringent gun control are already arguing that this tragedy shows we need more restrictions on guns. Actually it shows the uselessness of such restrictions. Evil men will always be able to get guns in our society, because guns as a practical matter cannot be banned and because, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year, there is an individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. What we need to banbut, alas, cannotare evil men. But, as an attempted mass killing at Appalachian School of Law showed, evil men can be stopped by law-abiding citizens with guns. If protection of law-abiding citizens is the goal, and of course it is, it helps to allow law-abiding citizens to carry guns.
No. 3, save a place in your thoughts for Prof. Liviu Lebrescu, a native of Romania and a Holocaust survivor who threw himself in front of the murderer and saved his students while giving his own life. May he and the others murdered yesterday rest in peace.