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Will tragedy lead to a more secure future?

Authories struggle to piece together motives of Virginia Tech shooter

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Clint Van Zandt

With the U.S. president and the Virginia governor sitting beside them, students, faculty, staff, friends and parents mourned the loss of 33 students and faculty members of Virginia Tech on Tuesday.  In that moment we were all “Hokies.” 

The message of hope was strong and clear at the convocation.  Hope was seen in our eyes and felt in our hearts only 28 hours after the largest mass murder by firearm took place on the scenic western Virginia college of 26,000 students.  The student body is composed of residents of 49 states and 36 foreign countries. Virginia Tech is truly an international center of study that represents the highest standard of both academics and athletics.  Beside their success in football and engineering, Virginia Tech will now be remembered in the same vein as Columbine High School, where classrooms became killing fields.  While on campus on Tuesday, I saw three female students run to each other and fall to the ground holding one another grateful just to be alive.  All of us who witnessed this moment cried with them.

Most now know that Seung-Hui Cho -- a 23-year-old Korean national and a senior majoring in English -- is now believed to be the lone gunmen responsible for this monstrous mass murder. This incident unfortunately dwarfs the October 1991 murder of 23 in a Killeen, Texas restaurant; the July 1984 murder of 21 in a San Ysidro, California McDonalds; the December 1987 murder of 16 in Russellville, Arkansas; and the August 1966 murder of 16 on the University of Texas campus.  The important question is why did Cho do this, and might his actions spawn similar actions on the part of other psychologically challenged individuals, so-called “copy cat” attacks?

Most of us know that life imitates “art” including violent movies, violent video games, and music that glorifies violence, but why would someone commit such a heinous act? 

Profile of a killer
In the case of Seung-Hui Cho, we are hearing about the suggested motives and background usually associated with such terrible acts:  the shooter was a loner; he wrote about or otherwise fantasized about violence with sexual overtones; he had poor social skills; his conflict resolution and anger management skills were lacking or simply non existent; he was depressed, he took medication that failed to control his emotional challenges; he cared little about others - antisocial-like in his behavior; he was haunted by psychological challenges and perhaps the accompanying mental demons, and he held others responsible for his problems, blaming their behavior and their attitudes for his terrible actions, “You made me do this.”

What would make someone kill in such a systematic fashion devoid of all apparent emotion?  His first two victims were in a college dorm room and his next 30 were across campus, where he entered an academic building walking between four classrooms shooting the students in each room and a stairwell before taking his own life.  The responding police crash through the doors that Cho had chained only minutes before going on this rampage.   This shows the level of pre-planning and the deep hatred of his victims.  In his twisted, sick mind the 32 innocent victims may have represented everything that he ranted and raged about in the incoherent note he left. 

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