The inevitable Blacksburg blog

The horror perpetrated at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA on Monday morning is beyond the comprehension of someone like me. Thirty two people were killed at the hands of Cho Seung-Hui, yet another of America’s outcast underbelly.

I’m not going to traipse over the details as I’m sure, unless you’ve been avoiding the story, you’re all aware of them.

The one quote that I found most interesting was that of John Markell, the owner of the shop, Roanoke Firearms, that sold Cho the weapon.

“It was a very unremarkable sale,” he said. “He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won’t sell a gun if we have any idea that a purchase is suspicious.”

A very unremarkable sale.

In my world – one where there is no right to bear arms – the sale of a gun to someone who has absolutely no need for it would be a very remarkable sale.

A nice, clean-cut college kid.

How often do the neighbours of serial killers comment in post-arrest interviews that he was “a nice man, quiet, kept himself to himself”?

They won’t sell a gun if we have any idea that a purchase is suspicious.

Well if instincts and suspicions were 100% right all the time then there would be no doubt and no murders. There was a short-story and subsequent movie about this – it was called “Minority Report” and it was science fiction.

The right to bear arms
My knowledge of the US Constitution (enacted 1789) and the Bill of Rights is minimal but it was the Second Amendment to the US Constitution that protected the people’s pre-existing “right to keep and bear arms”. It is this Second Amendment right that the National Rifle Association (NRA) vigorously aims to protect through its aggressive lobbying in the United States.

While the English Bill of Rights (1689) included a provision that granted persons to use arms for defence “as allowed by law”, it was effectively a privilege rather than a right. The right to own and use guns has not existed for centuries. To own a gun in England you need to demonstrate a need and show that you are sufficiently responsible.

Similarly, in Ireland, you will not be granted a licence for any weapon for the purposes of personal protection, protection of others or the protection of property. Ireland has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

Am I concerned that I’m going to get shot by a burglar or mugged on the street by a handgun-wielding drug addict? No, I’m not. Even though the weapons black market exists and it is probably not too hard to get a gun, we don’t have this passion for guns that exists in the United States.

The American obsession with guns is not even morbidly fascinating. It’s, at best, puzzling; at worst, disturbing.

There have been attempts to tighten gun laws but when some of these merely restrict fixated patrons to one gun a month or ensure that you’re not a convicted felon before selling you a fully-automatic weapon it doesn’t amount to much. Basically it’s akin to shutting the gate after the gun-shaped horse had bolted.

Statistics demonstrate that States with strict gun laws often have higher homicide and robbery rates than ones with liberal laws. Washington DC’s murder rate has risen 134% since restrictive gun control laws were implemented in 1976. New Jersey’s murder rate went up 46% two years after their strict gun laws came in to force in 1966.

Guns are so pervasive in American society and culture at this point, it will take a nationwide amnesty and ban to get control.

The Gun Owners of America, another US gun lobby group, issued a predictable and nauseating statement saying the shooting showed that gun bans were the problem and Americans should have the right to carry arms to defend themselves.

“It is irresponsibly dangerous to tell citizens that they may not have guns at schools,” said director Larry Pratt. “The Virginia Tech shooting shows that killers have no concern about a gun ban when murder is in their hearts.”

It is irresponsibly dangerous not to have a gun. If that’s not a society gone wrong I don’t know what is. Mr Pratt (hmm) is effectively recalling the “my Dad is bigger than your Dad” psychology of the Cold War: let’s all get weapons and point them at each other and no one is going to be stupid enough to push the button first.

This right-wing ideology does not allow for a deranged loner on a suicide mission no more than a top-heavy nuke arsenal could dissuade terrorists from flying planes in to buildings. In the landscape that Mr Pratt talks about a gunman could still manage to pull the trigger a number of times before he is taken down by someone else with a handgun.

In Ireland a deranged loner does not have access to firearms in order to commit such a heinous crime. Instead they take their own life, usually by hanging themselves in their bedroom taking their hate and resentment to the grave with them – but thankfully not 32 innocent people as well.


When art influences real-life actions

The police described it as “extremely unusual” and they are not far wrong. Jason Moore, a 37-year old horror movie fan from England, was jailed for life for attacking his friend using a home-made Freddie Krueger-style glove (left). His defence lawyer accepted that Moore was “a dangerous man” who is “a very damaged individual”. Judge Michael Pert said: “”You are obsessed in particular with the Freddy Krueger figure in Nightmare on Elm Street.”

It seems absolutely crazy that someone would be so obsessed with a film as to do something like that. Where does it end?

A man obsessed with “The Fly” horror movie has been jailed for life for turning his friend in to a half-insect. Alan Bee, who built a machine consisting of two pods he claimed were able to transport matter, was “a bit mental” according to defending counsel Danny Longlegs.

Mr Bee told his friend Colin “Cock” Roach that the large pod device was a toilet that he could use before locking Mr Roach inside. In a scene that coincidentally followed the storyline of the movie, Mr Bee attempted to transport Mr Roach from one pod to another using the device control panel. Unfortunately for Mr Roach his DNA was mixed with the DNA of a fly who was trapped in the second pod.

Speaking from the witness box the hideous looking, wing-and-hair-laden Mr Roach said: “My life has been turned upside down – sometimes literally when I’m on the ceiling. I have also developed an irrational fear of rolled-up newspapers and spend far too much time in the garden.”

A man who is convinced he is a spirit and therefore should be allowed to enter ladies toilets and changing rooms, has been jailed for 30 days. 69-year old Frank Lee Speaking of Omahoa, Nebraska, denied charges of indeceny claiming that he died in the American Civil War in 1865 and has been roaming the earth for over 140 years.

His solicitor, somehow managing to keep a straight face, said that Mr Speaking claimed that the only person who could communicate with him was a 10 year old boy with no friends, reminiscent of the Bruce Willis movie “The Sixth Sense” where Haley Joel Osment’s character claims that he “sees dead people”.

Despite his seeming non-existence Mr Speaking is a member of his local DVD store where he has rented “The Sixth Sense” 25 times since October 2006.

“I am jailing you for 30 days,” declared Judge Ouchthat Hurt. “But given your status as a spirit I expect that you will just walk through the bars after 30 seconds.”

A 45-year old movie fan from London has been sent to a psychiatric unit after claiming he had travelled from the future to save mankind.

The man, who had his name legally changed to T800 twelve months ago, admitted that he might “need some help” in court today.

Some of his strange antics involved walking in to a bar naked and requesting a biker give his clothes to him, telling a 12 year old trumpet player from Croydon that he was the future leader of the resistance and hijacking a helicopter at a local airfield before admitting to the bemused pilot that he “didn’t know how to start it without the keys”.

“You have clearly lost sight of reality,” said Judge Peace N Quiet. “It is in your best interests that you spend some time under psychiatric evaluation.” When asked if he had anything to say, the prosecuted replied: “I’ll be back.”