APRIL 17th 2007

Virginia massacre gunman is named

Police have named a student who shot dead at least 30 people at a US university on Monday as Cho Seung-hui, a 23-year-old from South Korea.

The repetitive shooting of children in schools can be explained on the same basis as the robbing of banks. Banks used to be robbed because that was where the money was. These days banks are quite well defended and the money is more easily stolen electronically or in transit or by fraud or identity theft.

Immature and disturbed young men who wish to massacre their peers will do it in a classroom as that is where their peers are, helpless, unarmed and unable to escape. If several students had guns, this killer would not have attempted it as he would have been taken out before he had felled more than one or two.

In a country where guns can be purchased at any pawn shop and are bound to be used by any disturbed psycho as the weapon of choice, deterrence is the only defence. All schools in such a country must have one or several approved resident sharp-shooters who can be summoned and arrive in seconds to take out anyone who runs amok. They would probably never be called on, but in any event we should not have the massacres we are getting accustomed to as things are. [see developments July 5th 2007 and Nov 7th and 21st 2007 and August 16th 2008 below].

APRIL 19th
It was quite right of the TV companies to show the video left by the killer.  It is not sensational and it is educational.

APRIL 21st 2007
The objection that showing the video has given the perpetrator publicity that could encourage emulation is particularly invalid in this instance. He comes over as a sad, angry man with serious mental damage whose action achieved nothing for himself other than to expose his inability to empathise, an inability he then assumed in, transferred to and blamed on others. His relatives deserve sympathy and support at this tiem.

JULY 5th 2007
In Texas, I hear according to a BBC Radio 4 programme this morning (see below), they have passed a CONCEALED CARRY law to allow, as I suggested above, people to carry guns as a deterrent to those disturbed individuals inclined to open up on a whim or to violent criminals. Several other states are doing the same and will extend the law to cover classrooms and even churches. "The genie is out of the bottle" is the phrase used to counter the protests of those who say there are too many, not too few guns. Strange though it may seem, that is the truth. The law demands that those who carry pass tests and many hours of training.

American gun crime

The Virginia Tech massacre in April once again sparked debate in America about guns.

But rather than arguing for tighter gun control, some states are now debating the rights of individuals to carry weapons in more and more places.

The Governor of Texas - one of the states with the most liberal gun laws - recently suggested that people who had the appropriate licences should be able to carry firearms anywhere in the state - including churches and university campuses.

In Crossing Continents, Kati Whitaker examines the American obsession with the gun.

She talks to some surprising supporters of Governor Perry's stance - people who have been the victims of gun crime themselves.

And, if guns are an inevitable part of life in the US, she examines an extraordinary initiative in the ganglands of Chicago that is attempting to deal with the epidemic of violence by changing the culture surrounding guns.

Using former gang members as an "antidote", the Ceasefire Initiative has undertaken the dangerous work of intervening between gangs to try to reduce gun crime.

And it appears to be having dramatic success in encouraging the young and vulnerable of the city's deprived areas to lay down their weapons.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents will broadcast on Thursday, 5 July 2007 at 1102 BST.

It will be repeated on Monday, 9 July 2007 at 2030 BST.

Presenter: Kati Whitaker
Producer: Jennie Walmsley
Editor: Maria Balinska

NOVEMBER 7th 2007

Here we go again. It is very important to understand what is going on here. The perpetrator of the latest school massacre has gone to great lengths to tell us that neither films he has seen, nor the books he has read, has influenced him. He is his own man, In one way he is right, but in another very wrong. What he found in the worst of what he read, saw and heard was what resonated in him. He is  not a creature of the depths of Nietzche or of the violence in the music he preferred or the video games he played. But they may well have given him a way to identify his own inner rage and trouble and exasperation.

Young people growing up in today's world need a lot of guidance. The genetic inheritance and the environment that surrounds their arrival in a world where expectations are astronomical can lead to great potential but also great dangers. We live in an age where we have developed immense powers. Now we have to handle them. How could it be otherwise? We have used technology to bring incredible freedom to millions. Some will abuse it terribly through either lack of education or a serious lack of empathy and relation to their fellows. The obvious irony in the case if this young man is that he feels he is doing society a favour by exterminating his colleagues. He is probably right in his view that most of them have no idea of what will be required of us as individuals if we are to survive as a species, and as an agent of nature he is probably as necessary as both Osama bin Laden and George Bush. But most of us are not in favour of his methods. We should seek for positive and imaginative solutions.

Nine die in Finland after YouTube post

By Sami Torma 

Seven children and a head teacher were killed when a pupil opened fire at a school in southern Finland on Wednesday, hours after he posted a video on YouTube foreshadowing a massacre there.

The 18-year-old, who walked through the corridors of Jokela High School firing into classroom after classroom with a .22-caliber handgun, died later in hospital after shooting himself in the head, his doctor said.

"Five boys, two girls and one adult woman were killed," police chief Matti Tohkanen told a news conference.

He later identified the woman as the principal of the school in Tuusula municipality, a town of 35,000 some 60 km (40 miles) from Helsinki.

The YouTube video, set to a hard-driving song called "Stray Bullet" by the industrial rock band KMFDM, shows a still photo of a low building that appears to be Jokela High School.

The photo breaks apart to reveal a red-tinted picture of a man pointing a handgun at the camera.

"He (the gunman) was moving systematically through the school hallways, knocking on the doors and shooting through the doors," said Kim Kiuru, who was teaching a grade 8 class when the shooting began.

"It felt unreal, a pupil I have taught myself was running towards me, screaming, a pistol in his hand."

He said the gunman had been keenly interested in war history and extremist movements. Police did not identify the student, except to say he came from "a normal family" and had a father, mother and one brother.

The weapon used in the massacre was held legally and the gunman had obtained a permit for it just three weeks ago through a gun club, police said.


The YouTube video, entitled "Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007," was posted on Tuesday by a user called Sturmgeist89.

"I am prepared to fight and die for my cause," read a posting by a user of the same name.

"I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection."

"Sturmgeist" means storm spirit in German. Hours after the massacre, the user's account was suspended.

Lyrics to various KMFDM songs, including "Stray Bullet," were also posted on a web site maintained by Eric Harris, one of the gunmen in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

KMFDM's record company, Metropolis Records, said they were "extremely saddened" by news of the shooting.

Jokela High School serves some 500 middle and high school students. "When police arrived there was complete chaos, pupils were jumping out of the building through the windows," said inspector Timo Leppala.

Outside a church community building near the school, a mother waited as a Red Cross bus pulled up outside and children from the school began to get off. She burst into tears when, through a window, she spotted her child, unharmed.

"This is a peaceful place, nothing like this has happened and nothing like this is to be expected either," Tuusula mayor Hannu Joensivu said.

Despite Finland having the world's third-highest per capita gun ownership, violent incidents are rare at Finnish schools. According to Finnish media, there have been four stabbings at schools since 1999. None of these were fatal.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told reporters the shooting was an "extremely sad event."

"This will leave a crack in the society we have been used to and have learned to be secure," he said.

The last major attack in the country occurred in 2002 when a young man killed including himself and six others in a bomb blast at a shopping mall in Helsinki.

(Additional reporting by Sakari Suoninen, Terhi Kinnunen and Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Robert Woodward)

NOVEMBER 21st 2007

Student group wants more guns on campus

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer

Mike Guzman and thousands of other students say the best way to prevent campus bloodshed is more guns.

Guzman, an economics major at Texas State University-San Marcos, is among 8,000 students nationwide who have joined the nonpartisan Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, arguing that students and faculty already licensed to carry concealed weapons should be allowed to pack heat along with their textbooks.

"It's the basic right of self defense," said Guzman, a 23-year-old former Marine. "Here on campus, we don't have that right, that right of self defense."

Every state but Illinois and Wisconsin allows residents some form of concealed handgun carrying rights, with 36 states issuing permits to most everyone who meets licensing criteria. The precise standards vary from state to state, but most require an applicant to be at least 21 and to complete formal instruction on use of force.

Many states forbid license-holders from carrying weapons on school campuses, while in states where the decision is left to the universities, schools almost always prohibit it. Utah is the only state that expressly allows students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

College campuses are different from other public places where concealed weapons are allowed. Thousands of young adults are living in close quarters, facing heavy academic and social pressure — including experimenting with drugs and alcohol — in their first years away from home.

W. Gerald Massengill, the chairman of the independent panel that investigated the Virginia Tech shootings, said those concerns outweigh the argument that gun-carrying students could have reduced the number of fatalities inflicted by someone like Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho.

"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment," said Massengill, a former head of the Virginia state police. "But our society has changed, and there are some environments where common sense tells us that it's just not a good idea to have guns available."

His view is echoed by Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who says campus safety concerns cannot be addressed by adding more guns to campuses.

"If there's more we need to do, we certainly need to do that, but introducing random access to firearms is not the solution," said Hamm. "You have more victims, not fewer victims."

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus gathered momentum after the April killings at Virginia Tech, where the gunman shot 32 people dead before killing himself.

With the help of the social networking Web site Facebook, the group mushroomed and organized its first nationwide protest in October. The group says it is not affiliated with the National Rifle Association, a political party or any other organization.

Like the students at TSU-San Marcos who were pushing Monday for a student government resolution on the issue, students at more than 110 colleges and universities went to class wearing empty holsters, said Scott Lewis, the national group's spokesman.

"We're not proposing to arm every student. We're not proposing that every freshmen get a handbook and a Glock," he said.

But he said students who are licensed to carry concealed firearms to movie theaters, public parks and other places should be allowed to take them on campus as well.

Candace Soya, a 20-year-old student at TSU-San Marcos, said she fears chaotic shootouts. If someone decided to open fire on the tree-lined quad in the middle of her campus, armed students would likely make matters worse, she said.

"It's not a situation where you can fight fire with fire," Soya said.

But advocates pushing for the campus concealed carry right say it's not just incidents like the one at Virginia Tech that create concern.

Campuses in higher-crime urban neighborhoods also pose risks for students, said Michael Flitcraft, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student at the University of Cincinnati.

He argues, like most gun rights advocates, that weapons-free regulations only deter law-abiding students, not thugs or mentally ill shooters.

"Laws only affect the people who voluntarily abide by them," Flitcraft said.

AUGUST 16th 2008 - see April 17th 2007

Texas school district to let teachers carry guns

Fri Aug 15, 3:32 PM ET

A Texas school district will let teachers bring guns to class this fall, the district's superintendent said on Friday, in what experts said appeared to be a first in the United States.

The board of the small rural Harrold Independent School District unanimously approved the plan and parents have not objected, said the district's superintendent, David Thweatt.

School experts backed Thweatt's claim that Harrold, a system of about 110 students 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth, may be the first to let teachers bring guns to the classroom.

Thweatt said it is a matter of safety.

"We have a lock-down situation, we have cameras, but the question we had to answer is, 'What if somebody gets in? What are we going to do?" he said. "It's just common sense."

Teachers who wish to bring guns will have to be certified to carry a concealed handgun in Texas and get crisis training and permission from school officials, he said.

Recent school shootings in the United States have prompted some calls for school officials to allow students and teachers to carry legally concealed weapons into classrooms.

The U.S. Congress once barred guns at schools nationwide, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck the law down, although state and local communities could adopt their own laws. Texas bars guns at schools without the school's permission.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; writing by Bruce Nichols in Houston, editing by Vicki Allen)

SEPTEMBER 23rd 2008
Today we have news of a school massacre in Finland. The shooter advertised the fact that he was going to shoot people on his web site. The police interviewed him and 'released him as they had no reason to arrest him'. One wonders what goes on in the heads of police and school authorities. If a man says on his web site he is going to shoot people, even in jest, you remove his weapons and keep him under 23/7 surveillance until satisified that he is fit to be treated as normal and fit to have a gun license. Personally I would have though the web ste performance would be enough to remove his gun license for life. There was no need to arrest him, I agree on that point, he could have been tagged if they have that technology.

SEPTEMBER 16th 2009
I hope that as time goes on readers of this website will understand what I am doing. This page has been waiting for the following entry which I was expecting.

Contrary to the point of view headlined below, this prosecution was absolutely correct. The temporary imprisonments of the young men concerned was absolutely correct, the verdict is absolutely correct and they will, I hope, continue their lives with every success - a success which would otherwise certainly have eluded them. They have been taught a lesson they both needed very badly. They are now very much the wiser in a great many ways. Both prosecution and defence are to be congratulated.

The only sad thing appears to be the incomprehension of some public, reporters and even some of the jury. The 'purgatory' the two boys went through will have done them immeasurable good. The Attorney General and the judge are also to be commended. Any other young people behaving as these did should expect the law to take its course in the same way. This was money REALLY well spent.

Bomb plot case 'a waste of money'

Authorities have been criticised for pursuing a case against two teenagers who were cleared of planning a bombing at their school in Greater Manchester.

A jury took 45 minutes to acquit Ross McKnight, 16, and Matthew Swift, 18, of planning to murder teachers and pupils at Audenshaw High School.

The pair had always maintained the plot, said to be inspired by the US Columbine massacre, was a "fantasy".

Roderick Carus QC, for Ross McKnight, said the case was a waste of money.

Both teenagers, from Denton, Greater Manchester, had denied conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.

Journal entries

They were alleged to have been obsessed with the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves in Colorado on 20 April 1999.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) based much of the Manchester Crown Court case against the teenagers on journals and diaries they kept.

These contained details of a plan termed "Project Rainbow", along with maps and plans of the school.

Both Harris and Klebold had kept similar documents before their attack.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) flew two detectives to Colorado ahead of the trial to talk to Columbine lead investigator Kate Battan, who was listed as a witness in the Manchester case but never called.

As the jury's verdict demonstrates, this was a waste of public money, hundreds of thousands of pounds
Roderick Carus QC

No explosives or firearms were discovered following the arrest of the teenagers in March, which came after Ross McKnight made a drunken phone call to a female friend boasting about carrying out Project Rainbow.

But defence counsel said the journals were the scribblings of teenagers with "over-active imaginations" and the defendants themselves dismissed their writings as "fantasy".

Speaking after his son's acquittal, Ray McKnight - a serving GMP officer - said he never doubted his son was innocent.

He said: "It's been purgatory, absolute agony. Neither have been in trouble with the police before and have been in jail for the last six months."

Decision 'respected'

After the verdicts, Mr Carus was scathing about the prosecution case and said the teenagers should have just been given "a slap on the wrists".

"I think this was an unnecessary, heavy-handed prosecution against two young lads who could have been dealt with in a more sensitive way.

"As the jury's verdict demonstrates, this was a waste of public money, hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"Bearing in mind their ages it's farcical to think that this was ever a serious design."

But John Lord, reviewing lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, defended the decision to prosecute the teenagers.

"The case brought against Matthew Swift and Ross McKnight was, we believe, one that was as equally strong as serious," he said.

The BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said it was the Attorney General, Lady Scotland QC, who gave final approval for the case to proceed.

Asst Ch Con Terry Sweeney, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said senior officers and the CPS felt it was in the public interest to take the case to court.

"In this case the jury took the decision not to convict and we respect their decision," she said.

The head teacher of Audenshaw school, Stephen Turner, said he could not speculate on the decision taken by the CPS.

"Clearly the police investigated thoroughly and presented information to the CPS and that decision was taken by them and we respect that decision," said Mr Turner.

"Our experience of both of them was that they were perfectly normal, ordinary boys, clearly both of them achieved well at their exams."