UPDATE – The recent Virginia Tech killings make us all ask the question once again: Would getting rid of guns prevent these murders? It’s interesting to see the British point of view about this troublesome question. Also, did violent movies and video games influence Cho? Keep reading for a sociologist’s opinion on this.

UPDATE: US sociologist Joseph Gasper says, “For Seung-Hui, the shooting was a desperate final attempt to escape (by ending in suicide) from his social problems. But the shooting provided him with more than just an escape?it afforded him an opportunity to regain his manhood through lethal violence. Movies in which violence is rewarded with hero status provide the template for action for a young man with a history of rejection by women who wishes to show others that he is a man. Indeed, when viewing his ‘media manifesto,’ one cannot help but think that they are watching scenes from an action movie. His manifesto is purposeful in the sense that in order for the shooting to successfully recapture his masculinity, he must let the world know that he did it and that he is not a weak individual. The idea that such a killing spree and the methodical planning that goes into it will resolve one’s problems and change others’ perceptions does not enter a young man’s head randomly; these linkages are available to us everyday in society in the form of movies, television, and video games, and they may explain why mass murders tend almost always to be men.”

In the Independent, Rupert Cornwell writes that “?The ease of obtaining firearms in America [is] an unending source of amazement to most of the rest of the world. Roughly 29,000 people are killed by firearms every year–10 times as many as died on September 11, 2001. Of the victims, some 11,000 are murdered, 17,000 use a gun to commit suicide, and almost 1,000 die in accidents?Every day three children under 19 die from a gun wound. Across the country, roughly 1,000 crimes involving firearms are committed every 24 hours. The rampage of Cho Seung-Hui, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, will merely add one suicide and 33 murders (at the latest count) to these grim totals.”

However, in another Independent article, Richard Wolffe says that gun control alone would not stop the killing because “There are simply too many guns in circulation. For 30 years, Washington DC has imposed a ban on handguns, in the nation’s toughest gun laws. Yet gun violence is a fact of life in the three-quarters of the city that is blighted by drugs, poverty and racial separation.

“Gun crime can decline in the US, with better policing, tougher sentencing of repeat offenders, and less poverty. But you can’t take the guns out of American life, and you can never really stop another Virginia Tech. After the tears dry in Blacksburg there will still be gun violence in America.”

An American academic weighs in: public affairs professor Dr. Harry Wilson, of Roanoke College in Virginia says, “Could the shooter legally purchase a firearm? He was described in the press conference this morning as a ‘resident alien.’ If that is correct, and if he could establish that he had been a Virginia resident for 90 days, then he could purchase, assuming he met all the other criteria verified during the state police check” (In fact, Cho purchased a Glock 9mm pistol, which was used in the shootings). “Would a waiting period have prevented the tragedy? No. If he purchased the gun in March, that is longer than a five-day period. Given his apparent determination, there is no easy or reasonable way to prevent it from happening.”

UPDATE: Does the prevailing atmosphere at a school prevent students from in order to solve their conflicts? A new study shows that every school has its own “persona,” and that the atmosphere in the institution has a big effect on how students will settle their problems?either violently or peacefully.

In LiveScience.com, Jeanna Bryner reports that researchers “found 3 key features of a school’s culture linked with reduced aggressive behaviors: teaching that emphasized understanding over memorization of concepts; whether students participated in making school rules; and education about cultural diversity.” She quotes researcher Janet Reis as saying, “?Teachers and administrators might explore how to include participation from their students.” Reis feels that violence can be reduced “if schools keep remembering that they really do have an impact on the children who come in every day, that it matters how the adults configure the school day.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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