A Futile Search for Answers at Virginia Tech Begins

By Adrian Duyzer
Published April 17, 2007

On September 13, 2006, a troubled young man named Kimveer Gill opened fire students in Montreal's Dawson College, killing a young woman named Anastasia De Sousa.

After police officers engaged him, he shot himself in the head. Another school shooting rampage had ended, and the search for answers - and the quest to assign blame - began.

Today we are back at the same tragic place. The terrible killings at Virginia Tech ended just hours ago, and already at least one "expert" is pointing to violent video games as the culprit, even though nothing is known about the shooter (or shooters) right now.

Violence on television, in film, and even on newscasts is also sure to be criticized once again, as the Ottawa Sun's Michael Harris did in the aftermath of Dawson, writing that "Hollywood is an island floating on a pool of blood" and that the pertinent question for video game players considering committing violent acts is not "why", but "why not?"

The gun industry will also come under increased scrutiny, although it has weathered these incidents many times before.

Some people are even arguing that if Virginia Tech was not a gun-free zone, that if students were allowed to carry weapons on campus, they would have been able to defend themselves and lives would have been saved.

And then there will be the endless examination of the perpetrator's psyche, his past, his motivations, his upbringing or lack thereof, and all of the other countless factors that go into creating a human being.

In the end there will only be more questions. The friends and family of the victims will have those too, and they will also have a terrible measure of pain and loss.

Soon we will think as little of this event as we do about Anastasia now. And then it will happen all over again, because nothing will have changed much in the meantime.

Even if definite answers are found, established interests will prevent action from being taken. It's a truism that every school shooting involves guns, but guns are a constitutionally-protected sacred cow in America, and Harper's Conservatives are dismantling the long gun registry in Canada.

Measures to limit violent entertainment will be equally controversial. In fact, I can't think of a single frequently-cited "reason" for these rampages that is likely to be implemented, or guaranteed to have success if it were.

Humans are imperfect and complex creatures. Human societies are even more imperfect and complex. People kill each other for a million different reasons, it seems.

If we were serious about fixing this problem, there's really only one way to do it: take all of the best, most-cited, most reasonable and most likely to work ideas and implement them all at once.

Meanwhile, we should tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them, and renew our determination to do whatever it takes to make the world a bit of a better place.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By jason (registered) | Posted April 17, 2007 at 09:16:25

one of the reasons I got rid of cable TV (along with the fact that there is absolutely nothing good on anymore) is the nonstop parade of violence. i don't want my kids growing up thinking it's normal for people to run around with guns killing everyone in sight or raping every girl that comes along. that's just one aspect that affects the developing minds of kids and teenagers, and based on how many hours the average teen spends in front of the tube or video game/computer, it would seem to be a big one. remember when we were kids - video games consisted of PacMan and Frogger. PacMan never had the option of pulling over to pick up a hooker and 'do it' in the back of a car. Or kill a cop. The absence of proper families and parenting leads kids to find their own way these days. As we all know, kids have a tough time separating fiction from reality. It's one of the gripes against the corporate advertising industry which constantly bombards kids to buy their product no matter how horrible or unhealthy that product might be. Money is the new god and the toll in human health or lives doesn't really matter. Sadly, shootings like this will continue to increase and become more common, not less.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 17, 2007 at 11:49:04

The thing is, Jason, that rates of violence have been falling steadily for a long time.

Regardless of what effects violent TV or video games might have on an individual viewer (and I'm not sure what those effects are, although I also prefer to limit my children's exposure to violent images), the general trend is toward more respect for basic norms of civility.

As Steven Pinker wrote in a recent essay:

Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.

Events like school shootings are newsworthy precisely because they are so rare. Consider that on the same day that 33 people were killed at Virtinia Tech, over three times as many people in the US were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The same number will be killed today; and again tomorrow, and again the day after that. These are not reported (except possibly in local news) because they are a regular occurrence and hence not newsworthy.

None of this is meant to make light of the event. It's a terrible tragedy, and over the next several months a combination of investigation, analysis, speculation, and punditry will move us slowly and painstakingly toward an understanding of just what happened.

What won't help to get us there is hasty, dogmatic appeals to "TV", "video games" and other scapegoats.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 17, 2007 at 12:54:31

The National interviewed an Anthropology Prof last night who said that he warned his students 2 years ago that they would see a rise in violent crime, and more specifically "rampage killings" as he calls them, as the Iraq war approaches its inevitable denoument. He sited a study showing rises in these types of crimes near the end of periods of war. Sorry can't remember the name of the Prof or the study he sited. Anyway, according to this guy, it ain't the fake wars on video games, it's the REAL war. Who'da thunk?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 17, 2007 at 14:09:46

Tangent: the Hell's Angels, named after a WWII aerial squadron, started in 1948 by restless veterans who felt bored and useless in civilian life and were looking for a thrill to replace the rush of combat.

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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2007 at 18:14:15

Something like this almost happened before but was stopped because some other students had guns and shot the killer.

Does that mean everyone should have a gun? NO!

But Registries are ineffective. First, criminals ignore gun laws anyways and won't register. Second, a registry will not stop this from happening.

The money would be better spent, screening gun buyers better.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2007 at 08:38:28

In a tragic irony, given the media coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, it may be that the biggest influence and inspiration for school shooters is ... media coverage of other school shootings (note the date the first link was published):

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