Using Virginia Tech Massacre to Bring Up Gun Control

The mass murder at Virginia Tech leads to talk of gun control.

The mass murder by a student on the campus of Virginia Tech dominated Tuesday's Times, as someof the paper's coverage teased the gun control angle.

Reporter Robin Toner led the Times' Tuesday political column with "Renewed Scrutiny For Gun Controls" and found a familiar whipping boy: The National Rifle Association.

"Leaders in both parties voiced their sympathies, their outrage and their prayers in the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech. Advocates of gun control legislation said they are hoping for something more - a reopening of the legislative debate over regulating guns."


"Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, 'The politicians are afraid to address this issue.' In September 2004, gun control advocates lost ground when a federal ban on the sale of 19 kinds of semiautomatic weapons was allowed to expire, after intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association.

"'I think after today, what we're doing and what we want the American people to do is start asking our elected officials: "What are we going to do about this?" Mr. Helmke said.

The rifle association said its 'thoughts and prayers are with the families,' but declined further comment."

Tuesday's lead editorial, "Eight Years After Columbine," ended with a call to disarm.

"Yesterday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech - the worst in American history - is another horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain.

"Not much is known about the gunman, who killed himself, or about his motives or how he got his weapons, so it is premature to draw too many lessons from this tragedy."

But the paper concluded with one anyway. "Our hearts and the hearts of all Americans go out to the victims and their families. Sympathy was not enough at the time of Columbine, and eight years later it is not enough. What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss."

The Times editorialfailed to mention that guns are banned on the Virginia Tech campus- how much stronger can controls get?

There was also the front-page banner headline "32 Shot Dead in Virginia; Worst U.S. Gun Rampage," which called attention to the nature of the massacre rather that the evil intent of the shooter himself, as if a depersonalized firearm wasresponsible for the killing. The Los Angeles Times also used the "gun rampage" in its banner headline, while The Washington Post used the more neutral term "shooting."