Pharyngula

Should this student have been suspended?

This is a troubling story if you just read the right-wing perspective: a student at Hamline University (an excellent liberal arts college in the Twin Cities) was suspended for writing a letter to the university administration. That shouldn’t happen, I’d say — we want to encourage free speech. Even if the student seems to be a bit of a far-right nut, and if the letter was supporting that lunatic idea that school massacres wouldn’t happen if everyone were carrying a concealed weapon, people should have the privilege of expressing their opinions.

So I read John Leo’s opinion piece on the issue and was actually agreeing with him, which was a curious sensation in itself. He didn’t actually quote any pieces of the letter in question, though, which was a little odd. So I looked up the letter from Troy Scheffler on the web. Uh-oh.

I was wondering why a swastika painted by some frustrated ladies in their bathroom turned somehow into red flags of a hate crime but you dont consider an asian guy admittedly killing people because he hated them not hate motivated… Anyhow, in response to your most recent email concerning a vigil for people most likely nobody in the school knows; I would like to comment on your claims of upped “security”. I attend a MPLS cohort so I dont see any security in the area ever. Infact it seems the dirty bums on the street are the only ones patrolling anything. I would suggest if you are truley concerned about student security, you lift a ridiculous conceal carry campus ban and let the students worry about their own “security”. VA Tech just recently passed their conceal carry permit ban; we can all see how well that worked for criminal minds. Ironically, many students from VA Tech are in online forums which I can direct you to complaining that 32 people wouldnt have died in the students rights were not infringed by

banning their legal right to carry their arms on their person. They take the argument that they would have shot the guy before he was able to massacre that many people; I on the other hand would argue that the guy wouldnt have even attempted this atrocity not only if we didnt pay for everybody and their mother to come here for free to soak up tuition funds but also that by knowing law abiding citizens carried weapons to defend themselves that criminals wouldnt be so bold to commit crimes against them…

As usual, Im sure this plea of common sense will fall on deaf ears as I recently responded to a general email notifying students of the conceal carry ban…

On a lighter note… For a “Christian” university, I am very disappointed in Hamline. With the motif of the curriculum, the atheist professors, jewish and other non-Christian staff, I would charge the school with wanton misrepresentation.

Yes, I obviously feel that Hamline has been a serious let down, so far I am almost finished with half of my MAPA degree and havent even cracked a book. All the books that came in plastic wrap are still in plastic wrap despite the ridiculous amounts students are charged. I have yet to hear a student in my cohort that is happy with the curriculum or quality of professors. Why does this school charge so much for such a substandard education?

Furthermore, why are you diversity initiatives anti-Euro American (ie white folks)? All over the university grounds I see loads of leftist propaganda, why not warn a student before they enroll at Hamline? It took me complaining to a few different people before even the hamline website finally included white people in the random pictures on the main page. If I remember corrextly it was like 1 white in a picture out of like 12… Now it is obviously better but just goes to show how biased this university is and the painstaking efforts of diversity pandering it does at the expense of people that are actually planning on contributing back to the TAXPAYERS that are footing the bill for your iversity initiatives. In fact, 3 out of 3 students just in my class that are “minorities” are planning on returning to Africa and all 3 are getting a free education ON MY DOLLAR. I bet the staff here is wondering how a swastika ended up in a bathroom… More people than you can imagine are tired of this all. It’s just sad that they resort to petty vandalism rather than speak their mind like I am.

Please stop alienating the students that are working hard every day to pay for their tuition. Maybe you can instruct your staff on sensitivity training towards us “privilaged white folk”. If your staff is going to continually berate the evil white male for this privilage and his racist tendencies, at least have them explain where to find the privilages and point out the evil people that are ruining the world. Strange for how horribly racist Europeans and other white people are that everyone seems to want to exploit our generosity. Maybe someday the favor will be returned but I doubt it seeing what I have so far…

Thanks for your time…

Respectfully,

Troy Scheffler

Uh, that is a mildly disturbing letter. I’d be worried about the student who wrote that myself — it’s disjointed and rambling, and while it certainly doesn’t have any direct threats in it, I’d want this kid to get psychiatric help right away.

The request for the right to carry concealed weapons is something I consider wrong, but I can see how someone would argue for it, and should have the right to argue for it. But then, “on a lighter note,” he spends the rest of the letter complaining about the presence of atheists, Jews, and non-Christians at the university, and expressing his resentment at the minorities allowed into the school. And there’s also the narcissism of thinking that he’s paying for other students to attend, and he’s so smart that he doesn’t even need to open a book.

So no direct threats, but instead a letter that says, “Please let me carry a gun, and by the way, anyone who is not a white Christian is inferior and shouldn’t be here.”

Now I think Hamline did exactly the right thing: they suspended Scheffler and told him to get a psychiatric evaluation and clean bill of health before they’d let him stalk the corridors again.

There was another alternative, though, one that Scheffler might have found worthwhile. They could have given a couple of dozen other students guns and told them to keep an eye on him, and shoot him if he made any suspicious moves. That wouldn’t have ended well (why, what if the armed students were minorities?), so Hamline made a wise decision.

(via Canadian Cynic)

Comments

  1. #1 DLC
    October 30, 2007

    The most dangerous part of any firearm is the nut holding the trigger.

  2. #2 BC
    October 30, 2007

    Actually, reading the letter, I think the university made a mistake admitting this student in the first place since he is barely literate. I’m glad I have you interpreting the letter, as I have a hard time reading it and understanding what he is saying. Sounds like the garden variety illiterate racist talk – no coherence at all.

  3. #3 becca
    October 30, 2007

    I certainly don’t agree with what he says in this letter, but I think you are wrong about what you interpreted it as. He isn’t saying that athiests (etc.) are inferior (although I am sure he thinks so), he is just saying that the school should not promote its image as “Christian” if most of its teachers, staff, or whatever clearly aren’t.

  4. #4 CalGeorge
    October 30, 2007

    Transfer him to Liberty U. He’ll fit right in.

  5. #5 becca
    October 30, 2007

    also, I don’t think he is saying that he’s so smart that he doesn’t need to read the books, just that they are required and the professors don’t use them. I’m an undergrad and this happens to me all the time–I bought my genetics text for $100+ (used) and after one week the professor said that we wouldn’t even be using it. This is something I complain about, too.

  6. #6 BlueIndependent
    October 30, 2007

    “Hi my name is Troy and I’m a generous white guy that exhibits all the traits of megalomaniacal loset KKK grand master.”

    Any chance this guy got pulled over for a traffic violation, and yelled “I pay your salary!!!” at the cop? We should all only be so lucky that a generous white guy like this has the temerity to speak his mind. This kid embodies caucasian fear (or is it sheer, unmitigated, catatonic terror?) of anyone darker than they are.

    I’m not sure suspending him is the answer, or was warranted, but he’s not helping his case in the slightest.

  7. #7 BlueIndependent
    October 30, 2007

    I would however, as a few others have said, agree with Mr. Scheffler’s complaint about school textbooks. They are far too expensive in many cases, and if I’m only using one chapter of the book for the course, then just get permission to print that chapter, and gicve it to me in softcover abbreviated form. This is a universal and yet still unfulfilled request by poor students nationwide.

  8. #8 raindogzilla
    October 30, 2007

    For those that see concealed carry as some panacea vis a vis Virginia Tech-like shootings, the more likely result is even more dead and lots of holes in the walls and ceilings. Unless one is trained in urban guerrilla warfare(and, no, as a former instructor of a concealed carry class, passing that absolutely doesn’t qualify) and/or has some combat experience(weekend paintball and/or target shooting doesn’t qualify), he or she is far more likely to end up just as dead, having taken others with them. But not the shooter. All these would-be John McClains in the NRA(or College Republicans) have no earthly idea what combat is like. I’m ex-military- between Gulf Wars, no combat myself, and highly trained with a weapon and, still, I have no idea how I would react coming under fire unexpectedly. I’d expect to see more pissed pants than heroic resolutions, should these bans be lifted.

  9. #9 Carlie
    October 30, 2007

    The textbook thing is easy to solve, with just a little effort on each side. Professors make it optional if there really aren’t assignments from the book all the time, and put an older copy of it on reserve in the library. Students don’t go rushing out and buy everything brand-new before classes even start, wait to see what each professor says about the requirements first. Problem ameliorated.

  10. #10 tceisele
    October 30, 2007

    His comment about the unnecessary textbooks just goes to show that nobody is so ignorant/evil/insane that that they can’t be right about *something*. Pity that he buried his one good point under such a massive pile of hogwash.

    Sometimes I think that I’m lucky that my field is a sufficiently uncommon specialty that decent textbooks don’t really exist, so I have no incentive to stick the students with buying an expensive textbook.

  11. #11 Bob O'H
    October 30, 2007

    Yes, I obviously feel that Hamline has been a serious let down, so far I am almost finished with half of my MAPA degree and havent even cracked a book. All the books that came in plastic wrap are still in plastic wrap despite the ridiculous amounts students are charged.

    Not the best thing to boast about to your university’s administration, really.

    Bob

  12. #12 Dustin
    October 30, 2007

    In a recent course I used a textbook that is available for free on the web (it’s widely agreed to be a fine book by top professors in the field, but nonetheless out of print). At the end of the course one of the students wrote on his/her evaluation: “This whole free online textbook thing is a really bad idea”.

    Sometimes you just can’t win.

  13. #13 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    What is a MAPA degree ? Some kind of masters I presume.

  14. #14 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    I strongly disagree with you PZ, if that letter was sent to any Australian university administration (I am from Australia), there is no way that the student would be suspended, and he’d have a legal case against the university if he was.

    While I strongly disagree with his opinion, people should have a right to express their views no matter what they are. Maybe the university should be recommending he see a psychiatrist but they certainly shouldn’t have the right to suspend him based on a non-threatening letter expressing his own opinions.

    I find it incredible that you could think this was the right decision.

  15. #15 me
    October 30, 2007

    I bet he’ll come back….and with a clean bill of mental health.

    Possessing a moronic paranoid personality, unfortunately, is not considered a disease.

  16. #16 Deepsix
    October 30, 2007

    I once made the suggestion on this forum that one should consider both sides of a story before drawing conclusions. I took a virtual lynching for it. After all, don’t we advocate considering all available information before drawing conclusions?

    As far as the guy who wrote the letter above, he is definitely a raving ranting racists, but even he should have the freedom to express his views- as long as he isn’t making threats of violence.

  17. #17 Martin
    October 30, 2007

    My view is that if he can be halfway through a course without having to open his text books it means that the lecturers and the course materials are so good that he can survive without the books.

    I’d say that’s a compliment to that university. When I did my degree I could tell the good lecturers from the bad ones by the amount of time I had to spend in text books; it was inversely proportional.

  18. #18 Carlie
    October 30, 2007

    But then on the other hand, schools get blasted if they have any evidence of a student being mentally unsound and don’t do anything about it, when later the student commits suicide or kills other students. College administrations made a long move away from being in loco parentis over the last 20 years or so and have been getting admonished for it more and more, so now they’re starting to swing the other way.

  19. #19 Jack
    October 30, 2007

    Textbooks should be used sparingly, if at all. Of course, when you make students by a $100 textbook it’s hard not to use it.

    I’m sure after a few years most teachers could create cheap reference book and supplement it with journal articles, trade books and the like.

  20. #20 AndySocial
    October 30, 2007

    This letter says an awful lot about our public school systems, or it would if I didn’t suspect this chucklehead was home-schooled by zealots. Don’t they have admissions standards? Misusing prepositions, spelling that borders on capricious, logical lapses large enough to drive a truck through…sad.

  21. #21 josh
    October 30, 2007

    Master of Arts in Public Administration (M.A.P.A.).

    Public administration….. that’s reassuring

  22. #22 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Jeremey,

    I am sure you would agree that the tone of that letter suggests the writer has serious issues with non white, non christian students and staff at the university. That in itself , whilst being dispicable, is not the sole reason he was suspended it seems to me. The first part of the letter talks of how he wants to carry a gun, suggesting some level of fascination with firearms. I rather suspect it is the combination of his views towards non white, non christians and his view on guns that led to his being suspended, especially at a time time when sensitivity to campus violence in the US is heightened.

    It is probably very unlikely that this student is an immediate threat to anyone but I am not sure the college can take that risk. I would also point out that when a university awards a degree it puts its reputation behind that degree. In this case I rather think the university has a case for flunking the student on the grounds he is nothing like as literate as a graduate should be. A degree says something about your grasp of your subject but also something about your ability to argue cogently and put your thoughts down in some kind of articulate manner.

  23. #23 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Thanks Josh. I pity whatever non white, non christians get saddled with him!

  24. #24 TheBlackCat
    October 30, 2007

    I am not sure this is how it is done at other universities, but one of my professors told us the first day of class not to buy the book and if we had to return it. He said the book was useless, he would not be referencing it in class, but because it was the only book in existence on the subject we were learning the administration made him assign it. This may be an anomaly, I’m just trying to say it is not necessarily the professor’s fault that a useless book is assigned.

  25. #25 Jsn
    October 30, 2007

    Deepsix:
    /as long as he isn’t making threats of violence./

    “The dirty bums on the street are the only ones patrolling anything. I would suggest if you are truley concerned about student security, you lift a ridiculous conceal carry campus ban and let the students worry about their own “security”.

    “I on the other hand would argue that the guy wouldnt have even attempted this atrocity not only if we didnt pay for everybody and their mother to come here for free to soak up tuition funds but also that by knowing law abiding citizens carried weapons to defend themselves that criminals wouldnt be so bold to commit crimes against them…”

    “In fact, 3 out of 3 students just in my class that are “minorities” are planning on returning to Africa and all 3 are getting a free education ON MY DOLLAR.”

    “I bet the staff here is wondering how a swastika ended up in a bathroom…” (very strange sentence, a taunt perhaps?)

    What part of in-between the lines don’t you get?

  26. #26 craig
    October 30, 2007

    No, I don’t think he should have been suspended.
    The guy’s an asshole and an idiot, but if people who hold those opinions are unsafe to be around, then at least 30 percent of the population need to be told to stay home.

    That letter expresses the opinion of at least half of all white suburbanites.

  27. #27 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    Being a racist and liking guns is not a crime. Holding those views should not disqualify you from receiving education. In fact I would argue that it shows a gross ignorance of the world. I grew up in a rural town in an isolated part of Tasmania, and I am absolutely convinced that racism usually stems from ignorance. The people I knew who held strong racist opinions weren’t bad people, they just didn’t know anybody who was non white. Denying a person who lacks education education isn’t going to make their problems go away, it just means you won’t have to deal with it.

    Yes Universities should do something when people demonstrate signs of being mentally unsound; but suspending them doesn’t help that problem at all; suspending them alienates and antagonises them.

    What can this action possibly achieve? It denies him education, it makes him distrust and resent the University even more, and he doesn’t have any of his issues addressed. That’s not a decision that is in his best interests and it’s not a decision that is in the best interests of society.

    If he comes back and shoots up the school tomorrow, will people look back on this incident and say that the University made the right decision, or will they say they inflamed the situation.

    If the University suspended him because of a fear that he may pose a risk to students, shouldn’t they actually make an effort to deal with that problem? Doesn’t he pose just as much risk to people now?

    He should have every right to express his opinions, and if the University has concerns about those opinions or his mental state, they should make every effort to ensure those concerns are addressed without infringing on his right to express his opinions within the law.

    Punishing people for giving you feedback on your actions is never a good move.

  28. #28 Brendan S
    October 30, 2007

    I think this is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    On the one hand, he didn’t make any actual threats that I see. The whole tone of the letter is disturbing, but he didn’t say ‘I’ma shoot alla brown people’. I think this falls within his rights of free speech.

    On the other hand, if he then goes on in 6 months and shoots a bunch of people, and the media digs up this letter, then it’s going to go bad for the administrator, who should have seen the warning signs, and gotten this kid help.

    I think I would have let the kid stay contingent on him seeing a campus doctor x times a week, rather then suspend then let him back in.

  29. #29 James Stein
    October 30, 2007

    The student’s “combination of views towards non white, non christians and his view on guns” are almost universal among half of America’s population. That’s disturbing, yes, but it’s also a worthwhile point of context.

    Furthermore, despite the fact that I find the student’s writings despicable both on literary and idealogical grounds, I must say that suspending him for his beliefs in the lack of any real threat is an outright violation of the freedom of speech – a violation that I thought PZ, of all people, would be at the forefront to attack. I’m rather disappointed.

  30. #30 Rick
    October 30, 2007

    I think he’s a bigot but as others have pointed out he just thinks the University misrepresents itself as Christian while admitting and hiring non-Christians.

    And he’s not saying how smart he is with the textbooks, just that they are not used in the courses the require them (which would tick anyone off).

    As far as the concealed weapons permit, he has a right to argue that the second amendment applies to campuses.

    All in all, I think he’s unintelligent but not worthy of suspension.

  31. #31 qetzal
    October 30, 2007

    I agree this person has some significant issues. He sounds quite bigoted and racist.

    However, I absolutely disagree that that email alone is adequate grounds for suspension.

    As it turns out, it was more than just that one email. There was also an earlier email that I think comes closer to being threatening. There, Mr. Scheffler wrote:

    Considering that accoriding to the university president that there were recently serious “hate crimes” that were committed in the womens bathrooms; there may be people on the edge ready to snap. I cant say I blame them, I myself am tired of having to pay my own extremely overpriced tuition to make up for minorities not paying theirs. On top of that, I am sick of seeing them held to a different standard than the white students (Of course its a lower and more lenient standard).

    More importantly, in a letter to FIRE, Hamline President Linda Hanson wrote:

    The decision to place Mr. Scheffler on interim suspension, pending a psychological examination, was determined not only by the two emails he sent on April 17 and 19 and his subsequent silence in the face of our invitation to meet, but with additional critical input from various members of the Hamline community who had interaction with him. This included individuals who came forward on their own prior to the April emails, expressing their concerns about Mr. Scheffler.

    IMO, that makes his suspension much more justifiable (depending of course on what the unnamed individuals really heard or saw).

    FIRE objects that less than one day elapsed between the university’s offer to meet with Scheffler and their subsequent letter suspending him. Thus, his “silence in the face of [their] offer to meet” is a bogus concern. I have to agree with FIRE on that.

    FIRE also objects that the suspension letter given to Scheffler makes no mention of the concerns raised by “various members of the Hamline community.” On that point, I disagree with FIRE. If these individuals gave the university good cause to believe Scheffler was a potential threat, I think the university was correct not to mention them in the suspension letter, lest it put them at risk of retaliation.

    Bottom line, I think the emails by themselves do not justify suspending Mr. Scheffler. They do compel the university to investigate further, which they did. IMO, the validity of the university’s suspension depends entirely on what those unnamed individuals had to say, and how credible their statements were.

  32. #32 caynazzo
    October 30, 2007

    While VA Tech is still on the public mind, universities cannot afford to ignore letters like Scheffler’s . If they didn’t respond and he committed a hate crime, any hate crime, the letter would be used successfully against them. Suspending–not expelling–under the condition he seek medical attention is a prudent ass-covering decision.

  33. #33 Epistaxis
    October 30, 2007

    I’m glad they didn’t just expel him altogether. He sounds like he needs a university education more than anyone.

  34. #34 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Craig,

    I think you miss the point. The university DOES seem to have considered him a potential threat. Whilst not all people who express an interest in guns and a dislike bordering on hatred toward people who are not white and christian the fact remains that many people who do commit racist crimes exhibit both characteristics. People who think the university acted unreasonably seem to be ignoring the fact that it was not just racist sentiments that he expressed.

  35. #35 NoAstronomer
    October 30, 2007

    Why does this school charge so much for such a substandard education?

    Judging by the grammar and spelling in the letter, I think Troy’s got Hamline over a barrel there.

  36. #36 Chris Bell
    October 30, 2007

    If he comes back and shoots up the school tomorrow, will people look back on this incident and say that the University made the right decision, or will they say they inflamed the situation.

    On the other hand, if the University lets Troy stay and he goes Virginia Tech . . . .

    Oh, the lawsuit that would result.

  37. #37 Deepsix
    October 30, 2007

    Jsn, apparently I’m not ready the same thing “between the lines” as you are.

    In the first example, he isn’t implying shooting the “dirty bums” as you seem to suggest. The quote is out of context, and he is complaining about security.

    In your second example, he is arguing for carrying concealed weapons on campus for defense. Lots of people make this argument- not the same as making threats of violence.

    Your third example- he is a racists and complaining about paying for others education. And?

    I have no idea what you’re trying to show with your final quote.

    Again, I’m not defending this guy’s views. He may well hate everyone who isn’t white and christian, but he hasn’t made any threats of violence as you seem to believe.

  38. #38 sdh
    October 30, 2007

    The best response is #31 above.

    It is clear that the fellow is bigoted and has some internal antipathy against jews, minorities, non-christians, and those of non-European descent. His email is not well reasoned or well presented.

    However, he does write well. Taken individually his sentences are well constructed. What he fails at is contextualizing his argument, of using relevancy to support his arguments. What he does instead is pull one by one at the million and one things that annoy him and use them to self-justify his opinion that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

    Egotistical, yes. An asshole, most likely. Stupid, no. He’s intelligent. He’s definitely not someone I would want to encounter in a debate… since it would be undoubtedly fruitless, except in the pathologic sense.

  39. #39 gg
    October 30, 2007

    I tend to think that the university made the right move here. This letter is clearly right on the fuzzy boundary of what people would consider ‘acceptable free speech’ and ‘racist lunatic ravings’, as evidenced by the split in opinions in the comments here. I would want a school to err on the side of caution with someone like this.

    One of the things I find most troubling about the letter is the complete lack of concern towards the feelings of others: “Anyhow, in response to your most recent email concerning a vigil for people most likely nobody in the school knows…” This complete inability to have sympathy for strangers who have experienced a horrible tragedy is disturbing and reads somewhat sociopathic to me. Similar comments could be made about the rest of his letter, which is all about how the university policies have inconvenienced HIM. There’s never any consideration expressed towards minorities and non-Christians, and whether school policies might have a benefit outside of helping his needs.

    As pointed out above, there seem to be more incidents in the school outside of his rambling emails. I would expect a student like this is probably extremely disruptive in classes and hurts the learning environment at the school. That in itself is grounds for a suspension.

  40. #40 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    Thanks for the extra information Qetzal, I concede that given the further information, it appears that the University decision is the correct one. However I’d also like to add that PZ and some of the people making comments were claiming that the right decision was made based on that email; and I completely disagree with that assertion, and I’m glad to see that the University administration also disagrees with that assertion, and would not have suspended him based on that email.

  41. #41 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    even if his complaint about textbooks is valid, judging by his letter i’d say he would have been well served by cracking open his freshman English text. and a dictionary. and possibly a style guide as well.

  42. #42 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    DeepSix,

    You are correct in that he has not make an overt threat of violence. However anyone who in the same letter talks of arming himself and of his hatred of non whites and non christians at the very least leaves themselves open to being interrupted as making veiled threats. It maybe that he had no intention of coming across as doing that, but should the college take the chance ?

    The mistake you seem to be making is not treating the letter as a whole but instead breaking it down and only dealing with each specific comment.

    People who commit racist crimes will often have a history of making racist comments, and when they use firearms, of exhibiting a an interest in guns, and of owning and carrying one. They often will have written or spoken about their views in a rambling and shambolic manner. Now of course many people can do all those and not commit crimes but at the very least they should be a serious cause for concern and warrent further investigation. The college seems to have done that and found others who had contact with him had concerns.

    Can I ask what you would have done instead were you in the position of the college ?

  43. #43 HP
    October 30, 2007

    It’s been ages since I was in college, and I never knew anyone who was suspended. (High school, yes.)

    Can someone explain what a suspension means at the university level? How serious is it? Obviously, suspension < expulsion. Does it go on your transcript? I assume you’re banned from the classroom. Do you take an incomplete for the classes you miss? Do you have to vacate student housing as well?

    It’s difficult for me to make a judgement about this without knowing what the stakes are.

  44. #44 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    Matt Penfold; if you read comment 31 you’ll see that he was not suspended for writing the email, nor would the university have suspended him for writing that email.

    You may feel that he should have been suspended because of it but he wasn’t, and investigating his situation further and trying to help the situation, as the University did, was surely the right decision.

    The facts of PZ’s original post are wrong, and luckily rationality won out of over this ridiculous claim that he should have been suspended for expressing his opinions.

  45. #45 negentropyeater
    October 30, 2007

    Just two questions from someone who feals a bit safer on the other side of the Atlantic :

    in HIS case, suspension = prevention or provocation ?

    How many more masacres before you change your constitution ?

  46. #46 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Sdh,

    I must take issue with your contention he writes well. The email is not at all well structured as you seem to agree. That he can construct a grammatically correct sentence is not evidence he can write well, or is even that intelligent. Computers can be programmed to write such sentences but getting a computer to compose a passage that is cogent is a far harder task.

  47. #47 Elf Eye
    October 30, 2007

    We bring out the term ‘free speech’ too quickly, I think. The Constitution restrains attempts by federal, state, and local agencies to restrict speech, but the same rules do not necessarily apply to a private entity. Indeed, attempts by a government agency to make ‘free speech’ rules apply could end in restricting the private entity’s free speech rights–any incorporated entity is, after all, a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law and has rights.

    On another note, I suspect that this is not the first time that this gentleman has come to the attention of the administration, and that this is not truly a matter of free speech but rather a safety or disruption issue. I teach at a public university (quite near to VA Tech, actually), and my department as just finished dealing with such a situation. Any one incident in isolation was trivial, but there was a pattern of repeated disruptions within and without class that culminated in the student getting ‘in the face’ of an instructor. There is the saying that your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. Well, a student’s right to say anything s/he pleases ends when s/he disrupt my class or campus and interfere with the ability of the other students to address their studies.

  48. #48 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    PZ, I usually back you 100% but I can’t on this topic. I am a concealed carry license holder in the state of Kentucky, and I’m proud to be. Gun control laws, specifically bans are a silly notion, because it requires that law abiding citizens not own or carry a firearm in a world in which criminals could care less about breaking the law. Wake up! If someone is going to massacre a campus or rob a bank, do you think they care if they break a concealed carry ban, or a gun ban in general?

    Look at the statistics for violent crime, rape, murder, and aggravated assault. Specifically, look at these statistics in Washington D.C. where a full firearm ban has been in effect for the past 6 years. It’s number 1 in most of these categories, top 5 in all crimes.

    Gun Control doesn’t work, it just lets criminals know they won’t be shot back at.

  49. #49 Deepsix
    October 30, 2007

    Matt, my breaking down of the letter was actually in response to Jsn (#25). I do believe the guy needs to be evaluated.
    However, I am stating that nowhere in his rambling letter does he make any actual threats. Yes, he wants students to carry weapons on campus and clearly has issues with non-whites and non-christians. Hell, nearly every fundamentalist christian I know shares those views. However, none of them actually want to commit violence against others. Making arguments to carry weapons for selfdefence, which I do believe is the argument he is making, isn’t the same as making threats of violence, which is similar to the legal term “terroristic threats”.
    Personally, I think more investigation would be needed to determine if the guy is an actual threat and perhaps mentally unstable.

  50. #50 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    I’d like to add that I don’t agree with 90% of what this kid wrote, I was merely weighing in on the gun control issues brought up in the text and comments.

  51. #51 DS
    October 30, 2007

    1) Student goes crazy and starts waving a gun around on campus with a conceal carry law in effect.

    2) Other students take out there guns in order to protect themselves from the student waving his gun around.

    3) There are now lots of students waving their guns around.

    4) The police arrive and try to identify the student who waved his gun around first among the many students waving their guns around as a result of hearing about the student waving his gun around.

    5) The NRA blames the resulting chaos on the Democrats.

  52. #52 DS
    October 30, 2007

    Speaking of illiteracy, I dropped a “there/their” bomb. Where’s my gun…

  53. #53 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Jeremy,

    Then we will just have to disagree. I suspect one of us is taking what was written at face value only, and I not think it I who is doing that. Understanding what someone has written goes way beyond just reading the words on the page, but requires an attempt to look for motivation as well. For whatever reason you either did not do not that, or did so and found nothing wrong in either the content and what seems to have motivated the writer.

  54. #54 Deepsix
    October 30, 2007

    Clarification: When I stated, “I do believe the guy needs to be evaluated.” I was referring to the person who wrote the letter, not Jsn.

  55. #55 CalGeorge
    October 30, 2007

    He’s 31. He’s a grad student.Old enough to know better.

    If he fears for his life at the downtown campus, he can get an escort. If they don’t provide escort services to where he is going, they should.

  56. #56 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Deepsix,

    I have already said I agree that no overt threat was made. However my reading of the letter is that it is possible a threat is contained within the subtext. Clearly you do not agree with that reading.

  57. #57 negentropyeater
    October 30, 2007

    Zero,
    of course a full firearm ban in one state and not in the adjacent ones is pathetic. Just makes Washington DC even riskier.
    But if you want to compare statistics, why not compare Europe and the US ?

  58. #58 gg
    October 30, 2007

    #48 wrote: “Look at the statistics for violent crime, rape, murder, and aggravated assault. Specifically, look at these statistics in Washington D.C. where a full firearm ban has been in effect for the past 6 years. It’s number 1 in most of these categories, top 5 in all crimes.”

    It’s quite disingenuous to use a single city in the U.S. as an indicator of larger trends in gun violence and gun bans. How do other cities compare? Are they comparable in violence, or much lower? How do socioeconomic factors come into play?

    If you compare the U.S. to pretty much any country in Western Europe (which don’t have a lot of guns), you find that Europe has significantly lower murders and assaults than the U.S. – with the exception of the United Kingdom. I suspect ‘concealed carry’ laws, which are certainly fine for some areas, are not the huge factor in crime prevention you suggest.

  59. #59 Dan
    October 30, 2007

    Let’s see… An illiterate racist is asking for permission to carry a gun on a ethnically diverse college campus? Yeah. That’s not going to go well. I think the school did the right thing in requesting a psych-evaluation for the lunatic. He’s chock full of religious arrogance and ethnocentric silliness. I can only imagine what would happen one night if this bonehead found himself walking across the quad to find a group of black students walking toward him.

  60. #60 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    Why would I compare a country of poor, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians with a country that has a far higher secular population? Religion poisons everything 😉

  61. #61 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    Gosh, typing fast at work while quickly alt-tabbing out to hide my non-productivity sucks. I meant to offer up the UK in specific for my above post #57. Sorry, England not a country nor is Europe >,< *shhhhh* boss is coming!!!

  62. #62 Brownian, OM
    October 30, 2007

    Raindogzilla hit the firing pin on the head.

    I’m not, unfortunately, surprised to read that people are still making the claim that concealed weapons will somehow ‘protect’ us all from gun-wielding maniacs.

    How many guns are there in the US? Per capita? How many school, shopping mall, petting zoo massacres are there? By the numbers, surely there was at least one or more armed private citizens in attendance at more than a few of these, yet how many were stopped by the lone NRA hero standing up to protect ‘liberty’?

    The little Nazi can wax lunatic all he wants, but I don’t think the evidence is there to support him.

  63. #63 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    Gosh, typing fast at work while quickly alt-tabbing out to hide my non-productivity sucks. I meant to offer up the UK in specific for my above post #57. Sorry, Europe >,< *shhhhh* boss is coming!!! *Edit: CRAP CRAP CRAP*

  64. #64 caynazzo
    October 30, 2007

    #48, I live in DC and, like most people in the city, know someone who has been robbed. The convenience store near where I live was robbed at gun point last week, and I suspect, if I live here long enough, I too will be hit up for my wallet. And still, I appreciate the ban on guns. The less guns on the street the better, and that goes for cops…I don’t care whose hand they’re in. I find that you could just as easily say that with the gun ban in effect look how many violent crimes were prevented.

  65. #65 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    If he fears for his life at the downtown campus, he can get an escort. If they don’t provide escort services to where he is going, they should.

    CalGeorge, do you mean to say there are colleges in the U.S. that provide armed escorts to students (wherever those students may wish to go) on demand? i would be flabbergasted to learn that.

    (if the escorts in question are not armed, the rejoinder is of course obvious. cf. hiking with friends in bear country, the inability to outrun a bear, and the potential ability to outrun one’s friend…)

  66. #66 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    Matt Penfold;

    I stated earlier that I completely disagree with what he wrote. I, and the University Administration, both felt that trying to help him, rather than suspend him, was the best course of action.

    The University did not suspend him on account of that letter. They suspended him because a number of people stated concerns about him before and after he sent the letter, and he refused to participate in any discussion about his mental and physical state with the University administration.

    It’s not a case of reading between the lines or taking things at face value, it’s a case of one of us having discovered what actually happened, and seeing that that was a much better approach, and the other one still being ignorant of the actual events.

  67. #67 Brendan S
    October 30, 2007

    Zero:

    What about Japan?

  68. #68 H. Humbert
    October 30, 2007

    And John Leo was defending this guy? Since when did “bigoted, racist, militant, arrogant, and egotistic” become synonymous with “right-wing views?” Oh wait, those must be the “conservative values” I keep hearing so much about.

  69. #69 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    GG,

    Even here in the UK the murder rate is far below that of the US. The UK averages some 700-800 murders a year of which the vast majority are one family member killing another much as it is everywhere. There is a problem with guns being used in the large inner cities in gang/drug related crime but the use of guns to mug people, or burgle houses in rare and makes headlines when it happens. In fact almost every gun related killing makes the national headlines which gives a suggestion of how uncommon it is.

    Of course the most notorious shooting of recent years was carried out by the police who shot a Brazilian man for the crime of looking a little bit muslim.

  70. #70 Brownian, OM
    October 30, 2007

    Gun Control doesn’t work, it just lets criminals know they won’t be shot back at.

    Zero, you’re making a number of errors here.

    The point in gun control is not to dissuade criminals from using weapons, it’s to make weapons more expensive and harder to come by.

    Like many, you’re making the assumption that criminals are all tactical masterminds. They’re not, for the most part. Most criminals, especially those who commit violent crimes, are individuals with poor impulse control and are generally poorer planners than the average citizens. That’s why they end up committing criminal acts rather that getting degrees in medical transcription from technical community colleges.

    The more hoops the average individual has to go through to purchase a firearm, the fewer guns are going to be available. The fewer guns that are available, the more expensive and difficult to purchase on the street they will be. The more expensive and difficult guns are to purchase on the street, the less likely Joe Meth is going to be able to get one on a Friday night so he can knock over the local K-Mart an hour later with no planning whatsoever and start shooting when things inevitably go wrong.

  71. #71 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Jeremy,

    I am not accusing you of agreeing with the sentiments of the letter. My comment about agreement was your not agreeing with me that the letter is suggestive of a man who has serious issues that may well present a real danger. My reading of the letter is that the writer is mentally unstable, yours would seem to be that whilst the content are abhorent they do not indicate a dangerous instability.

  72. #72 Fox1
    October 30, 2007

    This isn’t a free speech issue. Full stop.

    First, as noted several times above, the letter was not the only factor.

    Second, and more importantly, he was suspended, not expelled, from a private university until such time as he could provide requested documentation that, if nothing else, is necessary to limit the institutions liability.

    None of that is impacted by “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”

  73. #73 Celandine
    October 30, 2007

    I have to agree with caynazzo in #63. Permitting people to carry guns whenever and wherever they wish (and this goes double for concealed weapons) only encourages a rule of men, rather than a rule of laws — a society in which an individual feels justified in doing whatever he pleases. I find that most troubling, and in fact antithetical to the avowed principles of US freedom.

  74. #74 negentropyeater
    October 30, 2007

    Zero,

    Italy is of course a very non religious country isn’t it. But wait, it does have strict gun control laws (like most other European countries do BTW).

    So, according to you, the main cause of gun assaults in the US is it’s religious fundamentalists, of course it has nothing to do with it’s gun laws.

    So, let’s see

    US : 7.5 /1000
    Italy : 0.5/1000

    That’s 15 x more (on a per capita basis)

    I know, I know, we can find all kinds of explanations, the food, the religion, and god knows what, but the most obvious reason is of course non valid.

  75. #75 neo
    October 30, 2007

    *
    oh yes… that canadian cynic is so insightful, huh?

    and he sure knows how to charm the ladies.

    make sure you check out his greatest hits.

    *

  76. #76 PZ Myers
    October 30, 2007

    I, and the University Administration, both felt that trying to help him, rather than suspend him, was the best course of action.

    But that’s what they were doing! They didn’t kick him out of the university — they suspended him pending a psychiatric evaluation. They were basically forcing the kid to get some help or get reassurances that he wasn’t a danger to others or himself. There really wasn’t much of any other choice here.

  77. #77 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    negentropyeater ,

    In some ways Italy is very secular. Whilst the Catholic church holds some sway their is also a significant leftist element in Italy that rejects Catholic attempts to dominate the social agenda.

    However the most likely reason is that for a multitude of reasons US society is pretty violent compared to Western Europe. Of course that fact makes the ready availibilty of guns in the US even more ludicrous.

  78. #78 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    Matt Penfold;

    I have never suggested that his opinion was an ok opinion or that he didn’t have serious issues. All I have said is that based on the account PZ gave us, suspending him was the wrong decision, and they should have looked to address the concerns they had instead.

    I agree that they needed to look into the case further, and I am very glad to read that they did look into it and attempted to help him, rather than suspending him, as was initially reported. There response was the same as what I suggested they should have done when it appeared otherwise.

    The issue debated was not; “Should we be concerned about this person,” and as far as I can see, every single person who has commented has agreed with you, that we should be concerned. The title of the initial post was; “Should this student be suspended,” and based on the letter which was the thing PZ was arguing he should be suspended on, both the University Administration and myself agreed that he should not be, but that his mental state obviously needed to be further investigated.

  79. #79 Brendan S
    October 30, 2007

    So, PZ, Gun Control debate? XD

  80. #80 Jeremy O'Wheel
    October 30, 2007

    PZ Myers;

    There was a choice;

    “The decision to place Mr. Scheffler on interim suspension, pending a psychological examination, was determined not only by the two emails he sent on April 17 and 19 and his subsequent silence in the face of our invitation to meet, but with additional critical input from various members of the Hamline community who had interaction with him. This included individuals who came forward on their own prior to the April emails, expressing their concerns about Mr. Scheffler.” – Linda Hanson Hamline President

    That’s a completely different response to simply suspending him because of the email he wrote.

  81. #81 Jonathan
    October 30, 2007

    As a Canadian who went to graduate school in the US, I’d like to point something out; Far from ‘sponging’ a free education paid for by his tax dollars, international students generally pay far higher tuition fees than even “out-of-state” students.

  82. #82 shiftlessbum
    October 30, 2007

    neo barfed;
    oh yes… that canadian cynic is so insightful, huh?

    and he sure knows how to charm the ladies.

    make sure you check out his greatest hits.

    He may be foul mouthed but he is right. Those Canadian righttards deserved that.

  83. #83 Paul Crowley
    October 30, 2007

    A week ago, I heard the gunshots that killed a man a few meters from where I slept, and a few meters from where another man was shot dead only a few months ago. This is in London, UK.

    If I met a man with a gun in a dark alley on my way home, he would correctly assume I didn’t have a gun, a fact I would be very, very glad of; when I reach for my wallet, he’s that less likely to get jumpy and shoot me as a result.

  84. #84 Sarcastro
    October 30, 2007

    What part of in-between the lines don’t you get?

    The part where your inference might not be the same as the writer’s implication.

    Given the whole of the story the U’s actions aren’t as questionable (albeit still creepy to those of us who might not trust the so-called science of Psychology) but based on the email alone it would be quite a leap to suspend the student for what the admins think he might have maybe kind of meant.

  85. #85 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    if we absolutely must retread the neverending gun control flamewar (there’s no debate in it, any longer), then i feel a need to dispute Celandine of #72:

    Permitting people to carry guns whenever and wherever they wish (and this goes double for concealed weapons) only encourages a rule of men, rather than a rule of laws — a society in which an individual feels justified in doing whatever he pleases.

    in what society do the majority of people react and behave so? the folks who share mine, by and large, do not get more unpredictable, more violent, or less responsible when you hand them potentially deadly power. we’d be unable to have automobiles if they did. we’d likely be unable to have any kind of functioning society, if that was so.

    there’s exceptions to that rule of thumb, but they are why we have police. if those exceptions were in fact the rule, where would we recruit any police worth trusting with guns?

  86. #86 dumb guy
    October 30, 2007

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but when considering the administration’s reaction, remember that he sent one of these emails on the day of the VA Tech shootings, and the other two days later. That was a very nervous couple of days, and not just politically.

  87. #87 negentropyeater
    October 30, 2007

    This guy sending emails probably represents the tip of the iceberg. I’d start also getting worried about the immerged part.
    I wonder if that part will receive your temporary suspension pending psychological evaluation as a preventive measure or as a provocative one.

  88. #88 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    Jeremy,

    Then we will just have to agree to disagree. My reading of the email quoted by PZ is that it alone indicates that the writer is possibly a danger to himself, and more importantly, others and such would warrant suspension pending further investigation on its own.

  89. #89 PZ Myers
    October 30, 2007

    Another factor that colors our perception of the event: if that young man were on my campus, I’d be well aware that I would be one of his potential targets. It would not ease my concerns in the slightest to think that maybe he’d go after my Jewish and black colleagues first.

  90. #90 Sven DiMilo
    October 30, 2007

    The day I am supposed to hand back that first exam to a lecture hall full of freshmen packing handguns in their purses & backpacks is the day I go back to being a starving jazz trumpet player.

  91. #91 Pierce R. Butler
    October 30, 2007

    Gun permits should only be issued to those who can score at least 90% on a comprehensive test of spelling, punctuation, and syntax.

  92. #92 raven
    October 30, 2007

    The decision to place Mr. Scheffler on interim suspension, pending a psychological examination, was determined not only by the two emails he sent on April 17 and 19 and his subsequent silence in the face of our invitation to meet, but with additional critical input from various members of the Hamline community who had interaction with him. This included individuals who came forward on their own prior to the April emails, expressing their concerns about Mr. Scheffler.

    What I expected. This guy just didn’t write a rambling email. He has a history. In other words, a long string of other activities that would make anyone uneasy. Before Virginia Tech most admins would just kick the can down the road and hope he didn’t go postal. After VT they are now forced to err on the side of caution. No one wants to find out the hard way that he is the next Seung Cho.

    He does have the option of complying with requests for a mental health evaluation. Doubt if he will do it. And why is this guy getting an MAPA degree? It is not like he is going to be able to get a public service job and keep it.

  93. #93 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    “The part where your inference might not be the same as the writer’s implication.

    Given the whole of the story the U’s actions aren’t as questionable (albeit still creepy to those of us who might not trust the so-called science of Psychology) but based on the email alone it would be quite a leap to suspend the student for what the admins think he might have maybe kind of meant.”

    It is a pity for your argument that the writer of the letter left himself open to such misunderstanding then. The reading of that letter as containing veiled threats seems to be to be perfectly defendable, although quite possibly incorrect especially given the letter was sent immediatly after the events at Virginia Tech.

    There does seem to be a a disagreement here between those who think the timing of when something is said, and the manner in which in which it is said can say as much or more than the actual words themselves and those who think it is only the words that matter.

  94. #94 Julie Stahlhut
    October 30, 2007

    Whether or not the student should be suspended — well, that’s a toss-up. Either way, if he goes on to actively harm or harass people, someone will claim that the college administration should have done something differently. There are limits to the efficacy of prevention when a determined idiot is involved. (Also, as has been written already, there may be much more to the story than the letter alone.)

    That said: It should be COMPLETELY appropriate to require that this student be counseled or evaluated in some way. If the guy were a sheltered 18-year-old, he might be able to claim ignorance (and should still get counseling.) A 31-year-old graduate student who rails about “minorities” in a shamefully illiterate letter has much deeper problems. Nope, the faculty and administration can’t diagnose him with a mental illness. But that’s not what they’re trying to do. This isn’t a treatment or even a punishment — it’s an intervention, and a good argument can be made for its being essential to the safety of the community and the quality of the learning environment.

  95. #95 Tom
    October 30, 2007

    Has anyone stopped to think what an on-campus shooting would be like if everyone carried guns? In the UK we would know precisely where the gunman was because he’d be the only one firing a gun.

    If everyone were armed, you would have lots of people shooting each other, each thinking they have spotted the gunman. Plus, the gunman could easily slip away, or move from place to place in the inevitable confusion.

    And yes, in the UK some criminals have guns but they are very rarely used, and often not even loaded, because no one (especially not the unarmed cops) shoots at them.

    I feel A LOT safer in the UK, and that’s coming from someone who grew up in Belfast!

  96. #96 nm
    October 30, 2007

    If Hamline is a Christian school, then it’s private and not being paid for by this guy’s tax dollars, right? So what is he going on about?

  97. #97 mandrake
    October 30, 2007

    Legally speaking, I don’t see how the college could have done anything else. Make him leave and people pick up his cause, free speech fight. Let him stay and he loses it and kills someone, possible lawsuits from other students (and massive bad publicity). Therefore their thinking: This man is clearly unstable, even if not making overt threats. We will make him go away until a professional psychiatric evaluator tells us he’s not going to kill anyone.
    His email doesn’t make any *direct* threats, but it shows clear signs of trouble. This isn’t just expressing an opinion, but a demonstration of possible serious mental illness. That kind of paranoid thinking, careless disregard of other humans, and rambling, coupled with a stated wish to carry a concealed firearm – I’d say they had the ethical responsibility to their students to make sure he was not a danger to them.

  98. #98 Dustin
    October 30, 2007

    There isn’t anything new about students being frustrated with the jump through the college hoops, and I wouldn’t be very happy if the administration had suspended him on just those grounds. I think the more that students voice their discontent, the better.

    The part where your inference might not be the same as the writer’s implication.

    I think, in this situation, the tone makes it important that the administration considers the possibility that the letter was a veiled threat, and they have every obligation to ensure that it isn’t. They’re right to demand a little more than their own judgment as to what is and is not between the lines. That’s probably what’s happening here — they probably aren’t suspending the student on their own interpretation of the letter, it’s probably less that they think they know what he intended and more that his intent isn’t clear.

  99. #99 Ron Sullivan
    October 30, 2007

    Perhaps, as a Christian institution, Hamline merely acted on its concern that this guy’s attitudes and/or actions were unChristian.

  100. #100 Moggie
    October 30, 2007

    Sheesh, what is Pharyngula coming to? Discussions about race and IQ, operating system wars, and now gun control? Can’t we return to nice, uncontroversial subjects like religion, evolution and politics?

  101. #101 mandrake
    October 30, 2007

    Oops, sorry, I just said basically the same thing as Julie, but as we were doing it at the same time I didn’t see it.

  102. #102 dogmeatIB
    October 30, 2007

    I would have to argue that you can’t just look at the suspension, you have to look at it in concert with the requirement that he be evaluated. That suggests to me that the suspension is in no way punitive, but instead a precautionary move to protect their other students (and their own liability).

  103. #103 shiftlessbum
    October 30, 2007

    Ron Sullivan wrote;
    “Perhaps, as a Christian institution, Hamline merely acted on its concern that this guy’s attitudes and/or actions were unChristian.”

    You’re joking, right?

  104. #104 gg
    October 30, 2007

    #69 wrote: “Even here in the UK the murder rate is far below that of the US. The UK averages some 700-800 murders a year of which the vast majority are one family member killing another much as it is everywhere.”

    Fair enough. Let me just say that I wasn’t trying to slander the UK in any way (I love the place and the people)! I compared assaults in the US and UK, rather than murders, to try and get a broader picture of violence in the two countries. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the higher US murder rate, even with comparable assault rates, has to do with the fact that fewer of these assaults involve guns.

    I personally don’t have a strong opinion yet on concealed carry laws in general – I wanted to point out that using one city’s violence statistics as evidence of something isn’t terribly insightful.

    As far as concealed guns on campus goes, I really wouldn’t want it to happen and I’ve said before that I would probably quit if my school decided to let students have guns. We already have problems with students using bad teaching evaluations as threats upon the faculty: I’d hate to see what they might do with a tangible physical threat in their hands. That isn’t an environment which is terribly conducive to learning.

  105. #105 Mooser
    October 30, 2007

    Things are tough all over. Here in Bummertown we have been plagued by a spate of drive-by stabbings and beatings. The perps go to the victims house drop off a guy who stabs or beats the victim and then his friends come back and pick him up. It’s awful! Ya’ see, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and they get away with it if their friends remember to come and get them, or don’t stall, or get a ticket.

  106. #106 tristero
    October 30, 2007

    Perhaps he should see a psychiatrist. He definitely needs to see a specialist in English as a First Language. That was painful.

  107. #107 David Marjanovi?
    October 30, 2007

    I am a concealed carry license holder in the state of Kentucky, and I’m proud to be. Gun control laws, specifically bans are a silly notion, because it requires that law abiding citizens not own or carry a firearm in a world in which criminals could care less about breaking the law. Wake up!

    For the probably tenth time: you have not even considered the possibility that the bad guy might draw faster than you. In fact, if he has good reasons to suspect you have a gun, he will make damn sure of drawing and shooting before you can draw. If you’re afraid of being shot, buy a bulletproof vest.

    Not to mention comment 83.

    However the most likely reason is that for a multitude of reasons US society is pretty violent compared to Western Europe.

    It should be tested if one of the “multitude of reasons” is the easy availability of guns…

  108. #108 David Marjanovi?
    October 30, 2007

    I am a concealed carry license holder in the state of Kentucky, and I’m proud to be. Gun control laws, specifically bans are a silly notion, because it requires that law abiding citizens not own or carry a firearm in a world in which criminals could care less about breaking the law. Wake up!

    For the probably tenth time: you have not even considered the possibility that the bad guy might draw faster than you. In fact, if he has good reasons to suspect you have a gun, he will make damn sure of drawing and shooting before you can draw. If you’re afraid of being shot, buy a bulletproof vest.

    Not to mention comment 83.

    However the most likely reason is that for a multitude of reasons US society is pretty violent compared to Western Europe.

    It should be tested if one of the “multitude of reasons” is the easy availability of guns…

  109. #109 MikeM
    October 30, 2007

    Yeah, horrible writing.

    What I got out of the letter:

    “What’s wrong with swastikas?”
    “I want to carry a gun.”
    “Man, there are too many non-Christians at this school.”

    That’s a very short summary, of course, but if someone walked up to me on the street and made those three points in succession, I’d be looking to get away. Basically, the guy outed himself to administration with these three points (four, if you count the part about books being too expensive). While he may not be a nut, he truly is antisocial; he needs to have that looked at.

    He needs more caps in his letter. Without them, I’m convinced he needs to get to the bottom of his antisocial behavior. With caps, we’d all be wondering why he was allowed near that school.

  110. #110 Kseniya
    October 30, 2007

    Anyone who still believes the lie, “An armed society is a polite society,” please raise your hand.

    Anyone?

  111. #111 dogmeatIB
    October 30, 2007

    It should be tested if one of the “multitude of reasons” is the easy availability of guns…

    AND the mindset that problems can be solved using a gun, ownership of a gun as a positive thing; a duty.

    IMO it is a combination of those factors. It has been drilled into the heads of many young Americans, perhaps most, that gun ownership as “a right” is almost a duty, a requirement, to be a good American. Add in a tendency towards taking care of problems yourself, a notion of “toughness,” etc., and you have a mindset established that incorporates violent response to problems with a climate that almost requires gun ownership.

    It takes a lot more will and desire to kill someone with a knife, bat, or your bare hands. Gun, pull trigger, loud noise, spurt of blood, problem “solved.”

  112. #112 howard hershey
    October 30, 2007

    “And why is this guy getting an MAPA degree? It is not like he is going to be able to get a public service job and keep it.”

    Given his obvious interpersonal skills and level of empathy with others, I might think he would be a rather excellent (if somewhat biased) tax enforcement agent, building code enforcer, health inspector, or one of the people in charge of denying patients medical insurance for services.

    Moreover, given his narcissism and feelings about money, he would be open to monetary inducements from the “right” people. IOW, business as usual.

  113. #113 tomh
    October 30, 2007

    Here in the wilds of southern Oregon we have a high school teacher who has filed suit for the right to carry a concealed weapon on campus, something she has apparently been doing for quite a while.

    http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071012/NEWS/710120345/-1/COMM

  114. #114 Jsn
    October 30, 2007

    If I received this email from Scheffler, I wouldn’t immediately suspend him, but act as the Administration did and take immediate action into investigating him before judging. But I do see a POTENTIONALLY threatening tone in the letter, whether intended or not.

    I am not sure that Scheffler is actually paranoid or violent, but there are red flags that should be adressed.

    The non-sequitur, “I bet the staff here is wondering how a swastika ended up in a bathroom…”, could simply be interpretted as “students here are understandably driven to using nazi (white supremacy) imagery to voice their displeasure with the administration’s stance on race/religious issues”, or even possibly, “perhaps I know more about this incident than I’m telling and maybe complicit in its execution”. Either way, any interpretation of this sentence is not benign – not damning, but not benign.

    Ignoring or taking a wait-and-see attitude is no longer a option in this post-Colombine era. I recognise that a heavy handed approach could be deleterious to everyones’ civil rights; a very careful but active approach must be assumed.

    ***************************************************************************
    I have a permit to carry a handgun here in Texas, although I choose not to anymore. It’s much too easy for them to be brought out in roadrage incidents, poor judgement and plain ol’ macho stupidity.

    Thankfully there are only a few deaths here from gun toters with road rage, misperceived threats or gung-ho idiots “helping” out the cops by shooting at suspect’s cars in a police car chase. Only a few deaths…

    I have witnessed four accounts in which guns were drawn and pointed at others in idiotic displays of machismo. There are very few private citizens I trust to carry handguns.

    Knowing how most college kids DRIVE, I doubt many 18-22 year olds (non-police/military) have the impulse control to keep a handgun holstered when things get situationally stupid and not truly dangerous.

  115. #115 gg
    October 30, 2007

    #110: “AND the mindset that problems can be solved using a gun, ownership of a gun as a positive thing; a duty.

    IMO it is a combination of those factors. ”

    I practiced martial arts for a number of years. One of things I always tell people is that learning a martial art probably makes you less violent and less likely to commit violent acts, for two reasons: First, a good school will teach you how bad and dangerous it is to get in any fight, no matter how skilled you are – conflict avoidance is lesson number one. Second, learning to defend yourself without weapons means you feel less threatened during a confrontation and less likely to lash out first because of fear.

    I think you hit the nail on the head regarding US gun violence: for far too many gun owners (though certainly not all, or even a majority – it only takes a few), carrying a gun is the only ‘protection’ they know, and therefore is the only response they have when faced with a confrontation, even one that isn’t violent. (“Make fun of my pants, will you? – POW!”)

  116. #116 Rey Fox
    October 30, 2007

    In other words, anyone who wants to carry a gun should under no circumstances be allowed to.

  117. #117 Patrick Ross
    October 30, 2007

    It’s an interesting thesis, I’ll admit: “anyone who disagrees with me politically must be mentally ill”.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up in the mind of anyone who knows a lick about psychology.

    So much for this particular “Science blog”.

  118. #118 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    #70: Whoa, whoa. Make things more expensive and harder to come by = harder to get? You do know there’s a drug problem in America right? Drugs are illegal, hard to find, a tad on the expensive side… but they’re prevalent pretty much everywhere. I think you’re underestimating the ability of the public to find just about anything they want to find.

    #74: I’m sorry to mislead, I didn’t intend this to become the basis of my argument. I just don’t see the point in comparing the US to any country of Europe, as the mass majority of sheep in America don’t want to be like Europe. I was kind of trying to set up an apples vs. oranges kind of thing.

    #73: You’ve obviously never taken part in a concealed carry course or licensing procedure. Concealed Carry License holders are aware of the law more than ordinary citizens, and know that their weapon is a tool for defense of themselves. There are strict laws concerning the use of deadly force to assist a third party too, that in fact for the most part put a great deal of burden on the one carrying the weapon. Your irrational fear of guns stems from years of bad movies and politicians trying to convince you that anyone who even owns a gun wants to kill you. It’s just foolish. Those of us in American that carry concealed every day don’t fancy ourselves Sheriffs or the like, and we don’t in any circumstance think to ourselves “if I just pull out my gun, I can get this milk for free.” That’s just dumb to think that.

    All in all the point I was making is this: Guns are in America, and they’re pouring into the states from the outside too, just like illegal drugs. Criminals can get guns, as easy as they can get heroine, crank, crack, cocaine etc. Now imagine if the Government suddenly banned all weapons of any type. They came to every citizen’s door, searched the house and took them all away, melted them all down somewhere. The criminals that already had no problem breaking the law, could find a way to hide their guns and deceive the government. So what happens when the only people in America that have firearms are either a) criminals or b) the federal government? Wait, let me catch you before you say the feds could keep crime under control… remember it took 3 days to get bottled water to the Super Dome.

  119. #119 tristero
    October 30, 2007

    Zero

    “… remember it took 3 days to get bottled water to the Super Dome.”

    You’re soooooooooo right. Republican governments are entirely incompetent.

    love,

    tristero

  120. #120 PuckishOne
    October 30, 2007

    “POTENTIONALLY”?

  121. #121 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    #114 – GG

    YOU hit it right on the head my friend. Those that are properly trained ARE less likely to use deadly or violent force. In fact, I have felt for years that citizens that wished to carry should undergo at least a years worth of training in the use, carry, and defensive combat techniques of firearms. I would back that 100%.

  122. #122 Brownian, OM
    October 30, 2007

    #70: Whoa, whoa. Make things more expensive and harder to come by = harder to get? You do know there’s a drug problem in America right? Drugs are illegal, hard to find, a tad on the expensive side… but they’re prevalent pretty much everywhere. I think you’re underestimating the ability of the public to find just about anything they want to find.

    Zer0, How can something be both hard to find and prevalent everywhere? Anyways, I see your point, but I rebut with the following:

    Guns and drugs cannot be compared so simply since drugs are an end in themselves, whereas guns are a means to an end; for instance, a means to procure drugs. For the average jonesin’ criminal, a gun is one step removed from the true goal: buying drugs. Again, the ability to plan under such circumstances is a factor. If it’s easier to find a crack dealer than an arms dealer, then why would you even want a gun?

  123. #123 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    “If it’s easier to find a crack dealer than an arms dealer, then why would you even want a gun?” To get more money for crack?

    Let me make this super easy:

    I don’t know where to buy crack, but it’s available in my state. I know this because there are crack addicts in my state.

    I don’t know where to buy a machine gun, but it’s available in my state. I know this because there are people that own machine guns, on both sides of the law.

    I’d say buying a gun is an end as well, since the act of purchasing the gun through an unlicensed firearm dealer is a crime in most states.

  124. #124 Moses
    October 30, 2007

    Another massive over-reaction by a school because they chose to be fearful gits. In that, they’re just like the neocon-Republicans and the bed-wetters that vote for them.

    Pitiful. We used to be a nation whose leaders actually had some guts, standards and morality. Not as much as we kidded ourselves into believing, just ask any Indian or newly arrived minority population. But at least we had some…

    Now it’s all about pissing oneself faster than the other guy and over-reacting to relatively harmless crankish letters. I mean really, what’s that guy but another Larry Farfarman…

  125. #125 Kseniya
    October 30, 2007

    It’s an interesting thesis, I’ll admit: “anyone who disagrees with me politically must be mentally ill”.

    That’s more than just a thesis. It’s been the foundation of Republican attitudes towards liberals for decades. Didn’t you read the Gingrich memo?

  126. #126 laserboy
    October 30, 2007

    Although I don’t support the “right” to arms and the gun totin’ ideal that seems so prevalent in the US, I will agree with zero that the sudden removal of legal arms from the US is not the solution for the very reason that guns are simply to easy to obtain.

    Essentially, the ease with which a gun can be obtained legally should be marginally more difficult that acquiring a gun illegally. Then every effort need to be made to restrict the access to illegal guns. As that succeeds, the law can be revised to make it even more difficult to obtain a gun. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that it will be possible to stem the flow of illegal guns to any significant extent, meaning that you might as well all go out in a big field and shoot each other now.

    /me wonders how a civilised country could collectively agree that fire arms are a good thing while simultaneously having fire arms related deaths as one of the major causes of mortality in that country.

  127. #127 gg
    October 30, 2007

    Kseniya wrote: “It’s been the foundation of Republican attitudes towards liberals for decades. Didn’t you read the Gingrich memo?”

    It’s more than their attitude; it’s been their tool for decades: “Let’s construct a ridiculous straw man and burn it down. We so smart!”

    It’s nice to see that our troll at #116 is carrying on the proud tradition.

    That gives me an idea: I should watch The Wicker Man for Halloween…

  128. #128 Moses
    October 30, 2007

    Guns and drugs cannot be compared so simply since drugs are an end in themselves, whereas guns are a means to an end; for instance, a means to procure drugs. For the average jonesin’ criminal, a gun is one step removed from the true goal: buying drugs. Again, the ability to plan under such circumstances is a factor. If it’s easier to find a crack dealer than an arms dealer, then why would you even want a gun?

    Posted by: Brownian, OM | October 30, 2007 3:01 PM

    That’s just silly logic and totally wrecks your arguments with it’s overly-broad misrepresentation of a complex issue. And that comes from someone who firmly believes in the 1939 Supreme Court ruling that states the Second Amendment is a STATE RIGHT, not an individual right and the gun nuts just need to STFU and we need much stricter gun controls.

    1. Many people grow or manufacture drugs. Far in excess of their casual, recreational use. They do so for MONEY.

    2. Many criminals don’t use guns to get money for drugs. There are more crimes, Horatio, than you have apparently dreamed of in your philosophy.

    3. Most guns never see a criminal hand.

    4. Most dopers have JOBS. Sure, they’re usually suck jobs, but many are white collar, or even professionals.

    5. Many people are collectors. Some collect guns. I have friends that collect guns. My uncle collects guns. My step-father collects guns. For them, the gun is the end in and of itself.

    6. Many criminals don’t do drugs. And while the correlation is strong, I’ll attest to that, it’s also true that many criminals just don’t do drugs and the pre-arrest/conviction drug use percentage, according to the Federal Government, was about 66%. Meaning one-third of criminals didn’t use drugs.

  129. #129 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    Illegal guns don’t come from outside the coutry.

    People get guns illegally by getting them from someone who got them legally.

    Gunshops and their customers are the problem, as well as gun shows.

    Very few crimes are ever prevented by a citizen in legal possession of a gun.

  130. #130 Cyrus
    October 30, 2007

    It’s an interesting thesis, I’ll admit: “anyone who disagrees with me politically must be mentally ill”.
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up in the mind of anyone who knows a lick about psychology.
    So much for this particular “Science blog”.
    Posted by: Patrick Ross

    I guess I can’t blame you for not reading over 110 comments, fine. But are you illiterate, dishonest, or simply too lazy to even read the post you’re trying to respond to?

    It begins:

    This is a troubling story if you just read the right-wing perspective: a student at Hamline University (an excellent liberal arts college in the Twin Cities) was suspended for writing a letter to the university administration. That shouldn’t happen, I’d say — we want to encourage free speech. …
    So I read John Leo’s opinion piece on the issue and was actually agreeing with him, which was a curious sensation in itself.

    When all PZ had read was that the student had been suspended for his political reasons, he agreed the guy shouldn’t have been suspended. His view changes after reading the substance of the e-mail rather than a misleading summary of it.

    So no direct threats, but instead a letter that says, “Please let me carry a gun, and by the way, anyone who is not a white Christian is inferior and shouldn’t be here.”

    Now I think Hamline did exactly the right thing: they suspended Scheffler and told him to get a psychiatric evaluation and clean bill of health before they’d let him stalk the corridors again.

    They didn’t summarily kick Scheffler out, they suspended him pending psychiatric observation. And PZ didn’t mention this up front, but there were also complaints about the guy, and this happened in the days immediately following the Virginia Tech shootings.

    So do you disagree that the letter includes veiled threats, or at the very least could very reasonably be read as such, especially in those circumstances? Do you not understand the difference between “anyone who disagrees with me politically must be mentally ill” and problems including but not limited to veiled threats? Do you understand but choose to misrepresent PZ, and/or commenters here? Or do you now understand the difference, but you didn’t read carefully enough to notice it at first?

  131. #131 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    someone who firmly believes in the 1939 Supreme Court ruling that states the Second Amendment is a STATE RIGHT, not an individual right

    that’s a severely tortured reading of Miller v. U.S., but a far more tortured reading still of the bill of rights.

    if “the right of the people” means states’ rights in the 2nd am., surely it must mean exactly the same in all the other amendments that use the phrase “the people”. it’s a trivial exercise to see for yourself that this makes a mockery of the constitution; the people who wrote it may have been fallible and sometimes wrong, but they definitely weren’t that bloody stupid.

    it might be necessary for us to creatively reinterpret the language of the constitution to fit our times, because the process for amending the thing can’t effectively keep pace with social change. but let’s not take that as far as reading black into white in one amendment while reading white into black in the next. that makes a mockery of our sincerity, our intelligence, our actual needs for a constitution to fit our times, and the idea of a written constitution to begin with.

    (and yeah, this does mean i’m rather worried about the interstate commerce clause having already been expanded a bit too far by supreme court case law. if we really need to change the constitution, let’s amend it to fit that clause to the way it’s currently being used; the existing system is ridiculous. and let’s not extend the ridicule to another part of the bill of rights, either.)

    as for Miller, if you’re going to go making oblique references to supreme court cases, you ought to at least read them first. had you done so, you’d know that particular case was never decided — it was remanded to a lower court for reconsideration, which never happened because the plaintiff was by then already dead. trying to claim any kind of definitive victory in the gun control “debate” on such a flimsy basis just paints you as desperate for a straw to cling to.

  132. #132 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    The guy who shot everyone at VT got his gun LEGALLY too.

    He was pretty misanthropic too. Scheffler doesn’t like anyone who’s doesn’t think or look like him.

  133. #133 Anonomouse
    October 30, 2007

    I’d want this kid to get psychiatric help right away.

    Funny for a guy that gets all bent outta shape when an Engineer steps all over your Biologic Area of Expertise, you don’t have any problems spouting off about recommending Psychiatric treatment for a guy who’s (non-violently) just shouting out his own ignorance.

  134. #134 Hanna
    October 30, 2007

    You know…I’d really like to see more about the circumstances behind this event–I didn’t really see details in the story. Having watched a friend deal with a college’s mental health policies, I can imagine things going like this:

    Guy sends crackpot creepy email.

    School says, “This email makes us concerned for the welfare of students around you. Get a psychiatric evaluation.”

    Guy says, “No.”

    School says: “Fine. You’re suspended until you do.”

    …which seems to me like a fairly reasonable set of events, and somewhat less about rights to free speech.

  135. #135 zer0
    October 30, 2007

    To Stevie C:

    #128 – You are terribly mistaken with pretty much every point of this particular post. A survey of prisoners in jail for crimes involving a firearm showed that only .6% of those convicted used a weapon they purchased from a gun show. This survey was conducted by the NRA to combat over-reactionary straw man arguments like yours.

    #131 – Unfortunately, yes in this case the background checks failed to reject Seung-Hui Cho’s application to purchase a firearm. Again, I’m not arguing against tighter restrictions on purchase or training.

    I hate to say it because it’s so overused but “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True, the massacre at VT would’ve been much more difficult to pull off had he chosen to use a knife, a sword, or even a bludgeon… but he could’ve used them just the same. He was a very unbalanced individual and it’s a tragedy that he was able to purchase a firearm. The systems set up to control gun purchases are just as fallible as anything else in the world. Those that are hardcore “no one should own a gun” need to realize that it’s an unattainable pipe dream in America.

  136. #136 Matt Penfold
    October 30, 2007

    “Funny for a guy that gets all bent outta shape when an Engineer steps all over your Biologic Area of Expertise, you don’t have any problems spouting off about recommending Psychiatric treatment for a guy who’s (non-violently) just shouting out his own ignorance.”

    I suggest that before you criticise others for spouting off about things outside their area of expertise you learn the difference between assessment and treatment. The latter occurs when a diagnosis is made, the former is making the diagnosis. It is like confusing a biopsy with chemotherapy: Not a clever thing to be doing.

  137. #137 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    I didn’t say just form gun shows.

    People resell the guns illegally that they bought legally. People who pass background checks and sell the gun at a profit.

    There should be ALOT more limits on guns. Like a limit to how many and often you can buy them.

    And as Chris Rock suggests… bullets should be $5000 a piece.

  138. #138 Kseniya
    October 30, 2007

    Zero, your points are well-made, but this is just wrong:

    True, the massacre at VT would’ve been much more difficult to pull off had he chosen to use a knife, a sword, or even a bludgeon…

    Not wrong as in completely incorrect – yes, it would have been “more difficult” without a gun – wrong as in a gross understatement. It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Cho to kill anywhere near the number of people he killed with anything BUT a gun. Not even another ranged weapon would have given him anywhere near the killing power of even the most modest handgun, and the notion that he could have somehow “pulled off” [interesting choice of words, there] the massacre with a blade or a club is just absurd, and reeks of apologetics.

    Face it: guns are different. Yes, yes, yes – “Guns don’t kill people, people do” – but that facile phrase, though true enough, obscures another blatantly obvious truth which no gun advocate is anxious to acknowlege.

  139. #139 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    And as Chris Rock suggests… bullets should be $5000 a piece.

    because we clearly can’t have anybody become proficient in handling firearms. much better to have them ignorant and unpracticed, so much safer that way. also, it’s obviously clear that nobody poor might ever need to fire a gun, for any reason, so let’s just price it right out of their market.

    i’m sorry, but that particular joke of mr. Rock’s just isn’t funny. if you meant to retell it as a form of satire, you’ll need to mark your satire a good deal more clearly than that, i’m afraid.

  140. #140 Susan
    October 30, 2007

    All over the university grounds I see loads of leftist propaganda, why not warn a student before they enroll at Hamline?

    It is the student’s responsibility to find these things out. He could look at the school’s website, read their newspaper and other publications online, and he could have visited the campus before deciding to matriculate in order to get an idea of what the school was like.

    Also, Hamline is a private school, so where did this come from: . . . painstaking efforts of diversity pandering it does at the expense of people that are actually planning on contributing back to the TAXPAYERS that are footing the bill for your iversity initiatives. In fact, 3 out of 3 students just in my class that are “minorities” are planning on returning to Africa and all 3 are getting a free education ON MY DOLLAR. If he’s referring to federal financial aid programs, you generally have to be a US citizen to be eligible. (The FAFSA application says . . . “US citizen or eligible non-citizen” and you have to have an SSN, and many grants are restricted to US citizens.)

    If a private school wants to be generous with their private funds then that’s not exatly on the TAXPAYERS back.

  141. #141 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    I don’t need my neighbor to be profficient.
    I’d prefer him to be an incredibly bad shot.
    We don’t have to make guns rare. Just bullets.

    Considering the number of people who shoot their
    relatives and the number of people who are delusional
    godbots that don’t accept evolution…

    I think the more restrictions there are on guns and ammo the better.

    Anyone who has a serious love for guns has issues.

    When the government turns on its citizens with military force
    maybe I’ll change my mind.

  142. #142 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    I don’t need my neighbor to be profficient.
    I’d prefer him to be an incredibly bad shot.

    why do you seem to assume your neighbor would wish to shoot you dead? have you done something to so seriously threaten him as to make that likely?

    When the government turns on its citizens with military force maybe I’ll change my mind.

    if that should ever happen, let us just hope you have not first got your other wishes. and considering how eager the current U.S. government has been to turn military force on other countries’ citizens for no apparent reason, i should not so glibly discount the possibility, either…

  143. #143 Hank
    October 30, 2007

    Zero: Are you seriously suggesting that someone who isn’t as fit as an elite athlete would be able to kill over 30 people in hand to hand combat in a single day? Give me a break.

    More legal guns – more guns to obtain illegally, either by a sale and subsequent insurance claim or breaking and entering or whatever method of choice one might have.

  144. #144 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    Are you seriously suggesting that someone who isn’t as fit as an elite athlete would be able to kill over 30 people in hand to hand combat in a single day?

    Seung Cho chained the outside doors to the building shut, then went from one full classroom to another killing as he went. he engaged in no combat, neither single or any other kind; nobody fought back.

    the same could be done with a machete. the same could likely be done with a good bowie knife, which would still be concealable. so long as nobody fights back, the same could be done with a clawhammer.

    so long as nobody is willing and able to fight back, what’s to stop a determined killer? and when a bunch of kids, all unarmed and unprepared, face a determined killer at spitball range with no escape, who exactly will be willing and able to fight back?

    in historical incidents of mass violence, nobody has proven to be willing to do that. not since Charles Whitman was cornered in the bell tower by civilians shooting back with their deer rifles, providing the covering fire needed for police to reach him…

    Cho could have been taken down by most any two or three of his victims, provided they were willing to risk getting shot while tackling him; none of them were, so they got shot while cowering from him instead. why on earth should that change any, just because you change the word “shot” to “cut”? or to “bludgeoned”, for that matter?

    in the end, the advantage of concealed pistols might be simply this: those relatively few people willing to go through the trouble, expense and red tape to legally carry one, are likely to be people who’ve actually thought about these matters and decided that they would be willing to get hurt or killed while fighting back. why disarm them?

  145. #145 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    Wow.

    You don’t get it. People who own handguns have issues. Sure some may be fairly responsible. But most are not. If they claim they have them for self defense… they’re idiots.

    There’s a reason I don’t live in the south. Too many pick up trucks with gun racks and confederate flag stickers.

  146. #146 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    You don’t get it. People who own handguns have issues.

    if we’re going to start with the amateur diagnoses of psychiatric problems now, would you like to hear my opinion of yours?

    (FWIW, i live in Michigan, land of pistol registration and deer hunting. i don’t think i’ve seen a gun rack mounted in any automobile in my life. not that my location has the first damn to do with my points, but since you’re bringing up psychogeography…)

  147. #147 Stevie_C
    October 30, 2007

    Nomen. Just stop.

    The answer to any problem is most likely not, MORE GUNS in the hands of citizens.
    It’s absurd. The problem isn’t people unwilling to kill someone in self defense.
    It’s that we have to worry about people with guns in the first place.

    Canada doesn’t have the same problem, or germany, or italy or france or….

    The “there’s too many guns to control guns!” if a fucking pathetic argument.

    The gun lobby is a disgusting product of our freedoms. I wish it would go away.

  148. #148 Hank
    October 30, 2007

    Nomen: Have you really thought that argument through? Fighting is exhausting business, as is lugging around heavy objects like sledgehammers. Sadly, we cannot know what had happened had he not had a gun, and I don’t want to speculate about it further.

    Guns provide an extremely fast way to escalate a conflict, and to do it at a distance at that. The same isn’t true for non-firearm weapons or tools.

  149. #149 Julie Stahlhut
    October 30, 2007

    Does anyone still think that this whole issue is primarily about guns? If the guy had written a coherent essay in favor of gun ownership, included his own reasoned interpretation of the Second Amendment, and had it published as an opinion piece in the university newspaper, there would have been no grounds for suspension. Some members of the community would agree with him, many others wouldn’t, and the letters to the editor might get a bit heated, but that would have been the end of it.

    Conversely, if instead of mentioning guns, he’d written a similarly rambling screed about why everyone should carry brass knuckles because all those criminals, atheists, Jews, and Africans were out there waiting to punch your lights out, the administration would still have a good case for intervening on the grounds of implied threats of violence. And, it would be dishonest for anyone to claim that he was suspended for psychiatric assessment merely because he was a fan of boxing.

  150. #150 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    Nomen. Just stop.

    why? so far i haven’t seen anybody much engaging my points.

    full disclosure: i’m an immigrant to the U.S., from a northern European welfare state. the difference shouldn’t be that big, in theory; two high-tech, industrialized first world nations — they should be more similar than different when all’s said and done, right? well, i know from experience what culture shock feels like. different cultures, nations, and countries can be dramatically different, in ways folks who don’t travel much seldom think about.

    i say that as an explanation of why i tend to discount comparisons of crime rates (much less “gun crime” rates, as if you’re less dead when stabbed than when shot…) across borders. having lived in two countries, i can’t think of a good way to control for all the million and one significant differences, in order to make such a comparison valid. you can’t just equate societies with different cultures and social norms.

    and no, i do not think “the problem” is people with guns. i don’t even think that what we have to worry about is people with guns. the USA has deep social and cultural problems to do with handling fear, uncertainty, violence, and reliance on social safety nets, as well as trusting social safety nets. violent crime — committed with any form of weapon — is just a symptom of that, not the true disease. banning any weapon, tool, or other implement won’t work; the problems aren’t caused by the tools, but by the people who abuse the tools. in this, i largely agree with the major points Michael Moore has made in Bowling for Columbine and some of his later documentaries; i just wish i could think of good remedies.

  151. #151 Brownian, OM
    October 30, 2007

    Moses @#127

    I really didn’t mean to brush everything in such broad strokes, but I was trying to restrict my argument to the comparison between supply of guns and supply of drugs. The result was very muddled and certainly not compelling, even to me.

    All of your comments were bang on. Thanks for the clean-up.

  152. #152 Keith Douglas
    October 30, 2007

    By itself, I would have just put the guy under watch and if anything else unusual crops up, get him to see the student health service, etc.

  153. #153 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    Hank, i believe i have thought it through, yes. enough, at least, to conclude that counting hypothetical bodies and trying to compare the horrors of N dead as opposed to N+X dead has very little point to it, in the end. after all, it’s easy to think up scenarios in which (name a spree killer) could have easily murdered more people than actually died; should we be thanking fate that Cho used mere pistols, instead of a rifle or shotgun?

    i’ll confess i may not be clearly enough communicating what i think the important points are, though. the important factor to me is people, not their inanimate tools. trying to limit tool use without addressing the tool users is a fool’s errand, i think.

    the majority of people are not vicious criminals, in my world. most of them can in fact be trusted to own weaponry. treating that majority as if they can’t be trusted is patronizing and rude; worse, it gives them that much less reason to trust and assist you. this is one of the (too few) things i think the USA gets right, when compared to my native continent. adult citizens can and should be treated like responsible adults.

    i really don’t think the point has anything to do with how fast or how far a conflict can be escalated. i think it matters more whether or not it is escalated, by whom, and why. but talking about those questions will get us digging deep in American culture and American social norms, which are not simple issues to be addressed with pat, quick-fix legislation — such as gun bans, for instance. real social problems aren’t that simple. if they were, they’d’ve been solved already.

  154. #154 Geral
    October 30, 2007

    Bring guns to school… Thats the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. While we’re at it, why don’t we arm people working cash registers and doctors.

  155. #155 Crudely Wrott
    October 30, 2007

    Should this student have been suspended? No. He has a valid point.

    This is like the elementary student who drew a picture of a stick man hold in a gun. She was expelled. To accept an argument for her expulsion could be tantamount to continuing her expulsion, et iterem. Et iterem. Now then, is she comfortably removed from society? Is society safer? Who among us will sleep easier for this child’s apprehension?

    The very basis of freedom in this republic is being accountable for one’s own self. This is for the simple reason that if you are, you will not encumber others and thus we shall all walk this road together. If not line abreast (please, no!), then at least within shoutin’ distance.

    I see that realists as well as un-realists are equally guilty of the singular sin of being ridiculously thin-skinned.

    A student says that a good defense might have thwarted, or at least caused concern to, an good offense (irony just snuck in there), and some people begin to scream loudly that this is a return to the Old West (which exists only in the minds of those rich in cinema and poor in history).

    I am a proud American, son of same. I take my citizenship seriously enough to defend the chief qualities thereof, to wit: My Freedom AND Yours, commonly and collectively, Ours. Our individual freedoms are based on our individual proclivities and ostensibly guided by the good work of the founding fathers.

    Given that our individual proclivities cannot be guaranteed to by in perfect sync, and because each of us has invested a considerable amount of effort to be recognized as an individual (say, “adolescence”), and for a jillion other reasons, we must, I think, build much more resiliency into our “delicate constitutions” and realize that being offended at any given moment is as probable as anything else happening at that moment.

    The thing that offends me the most? People taking offense when something merely unpleasant is put forward. No wonder we don’t have debates among the candidates.

    In all, PZ, I think you might agree with me that ultimately, each of us is personally responsible for self, family, stuff and maybe some other things. Extending that principle includes personal and group safety. Since bad guys have guns . . .

  156. #156 j.t.delaney
    October 30, 2007

    The guy’s an asshole and an idiot, but if people who hold those opinions are unsafe to be around, then at least 30 percent of the population need to be told to stay home.

    30% would be a fine start…

  157. #157 Nomen Nescio
    October 30, 2007

    While we’re at it, why don’t we arm people working cash registers

    what’s so ridiculous about that?

  158. #158 Duff
    October 30, 2007

    I love it when these clowns suggest everyone should be armed. If you’ve ever seen an actual video of people in a shoot out, usually police officers on a traffic stop, even the trained police are flailing around with their guns blazing, lead flying everywhere. Can you imagine twenty students in a classroom, all armed and some bozo comes in with gun and starts shooting. The armed students would all shoot each other in a wild frenzy of blasting, booming, bozodom. What a sick joke.

  159. #159 Kseniya
    October 31, 2007

    Nomen Nescio:

    so far i haven’t seen anybody much engaging my points.

    Sure, I’ll take on one of your comments.

    If you think that Cho’s body count wouldn’t have been much different had he been wieldeding some sort of melee weapon instead of a gun, you’re seriously mistaken, and just another gun apologist offering up arguments that are best specious, at worst dishonest or delusional.

    Your “clawhammer” argument is so mind-bogglingly stupid, I can’t believe I’m wasting cycles responding to it.

    But I hate seeing someone feel ignored.

    Yeah, yeah, if nobody fights back then people get hurt. Ye gods, you’re right! A hammer is no different from a gun if nobody fights back! In fact, a naked ten-year-old girl armed with a shrimp fork and a Barbie doll could wipe out the entire population of Russia and China, if nobody fights back!

    There. Happy?

    trying to compare the horrors of N dead as opposed to N+X dead has very little point to it, in the end.

    So you say. Maybe your’re right. Maybe. Well, unless you or someone you care about happens to be one of the “X”. Unless N=5 and X=40.

    So much for thinking it through.

    I agree with some of your statements, howeover, particularly with the fact that the problem isn’t simple, and not easily solved. Acknowledging that there IS a problem is the first step, though, and I believe you may have taken that step.

  160. #160 J. A. Baker
    October 31, 2007

    Geez. What is it with Hamdinger U? First, they produce the likes of Rudy “Rep. Keith Ellison caused the I-35W bridge collapse” Takala, and now this crap?!

  161. #161 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    I admit that I haven’t read all of the comments, but those that I have read seem to miss a few salient points.
    First, and sadly, in the USA, all evidence points to the overwhelming probability that individuals commited enough to set their “ideas” concerning their right to bear arms and their anger at minorities down in print are going to use our country’s unique conception of freedom to bear arms as an excuse to start shootin’ shit up. That’s just the way southerners (not to forget Mcveigh, I understand that there’s a holiday for him in Idaho) roll. ‘Specially ‘gainst brownies.
    The other absurd fantasy put forth by these idiots is the dream that they will emerge from their classroom, gunz-a-blazin’, to shoot down the nefarious criminal.
    What the fuck do you suppose a police officer responding to a call would do as a gun-toting student ran out of a hall-way with his pistol at the ready? Greet him as a liberator? No, the small-dicked dipshit would be shot by the responsible authorities.

  162. #162 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    #142 – Yes. I wholly believe that he was a disturbed individual with little care for his self preservation or survival in the situation. Adrenaline does some incredible things, especially when mixed with an “I don’t care if I die mentality.” He wanted to commit suicide and take some people down with him, any way he could. Had he chosen to only use a knife, or axe or what ever, he would’ve surely killed a couple before someone big enough or brave enough fought back. He chose a gun. Thanks to little fucktwits like him, law abiding citizens that own firearms get lumped in with people like him.

    #144 – “People who own handguns have issues.”
    Sure, we have issues with people like you.

    “If they claim they have them for self defense… they’re idiots.”
    Some of us claim we have them as collector’s pieces, or for hunting. Regardless, that’s not even an argument… did you learn this type of debate from Bill O’Reilly? Nothing left to say so just call your opponent a moron and scurry away?

    “There’s a reason I don’t live in the south. Too many pick up trucks with gun racks and confederate flag stickers.”
    Do you wake up in the morning with this vomit dribbling from your lips, or do you have to work up to that sort of nonsense over lunch?

    If you want to look at just the North & South, and I’m assuming you’re talking about Civil war states here since you seem to want to bring that up for some reason… there are just as many states in the north, especially New England area that have the same “Concealed Carry – shall issue” laws as many of the states in the south. There is the bastion of New York State with very strict gun laws and the bans of D.C. but those have shown not to do a whole lot of good anyways.

    Anyone who tells their opponent to “just stop” in a debate, clearly has very little left to say that’s worth a damn. Would you like to repeat the last few things you said a slightly different way Stevie C?

  163. #163 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    Timothy McVeigh was born in Lockport, New York and even served in the US Military. He became a transient and loner after his discharge and a bit of a fanatic concerning himself with the events that took place in Waco, Texas. But go ahead and lump every gun owner and every southerner with this lunatic. You have every right to.

  164. #164 Marcus Ranum
    October 31, 2007

    Uh, that is a mildly disturbing letter.

    It really is. His spelling is atrocious, and he doesn’t appear to be able to put together a coherent argument. If this is what passes for college-level writing, Hamline does indeed have a serious problem – they appear to have let in one too many “underprivaleged white kids” who escaped high school as a practical illiterate.

  165. #165 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    Zero,
    It may be true that some have been tempted by the siren song of “it’s not my region’s problem”, when the problem is, in fact, widespread. But you can not possibly believe that the American south is not more prone to the delusions of white, sorry, White, superiority that citizens thereof are not more of a risk for general bat-shittedness concerning shooting anyone who would dare suggest that they could possibly be mistaken, than the racists of northern, sorry, oppressor, states can be.
    The American south is still a disgusting vortex of ignorance. I have no prejudice against someone who is ignorant, as education may be an option, but in the South (capitalized under penalty of burning crosses), the pride taken in remaining ignorant is astounding.

  166. #166 Marcus Ranum
    October 31, 2007

    It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Cho to kill anywhere near the number of people he killed with anything BUT a gun.

    Nonsense. He had doors chained shut – about 5 gallons of gasoline would have been more lethal than a gun in that situation.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Fortunately for us, most nutters seem to like the convenience of a gun and they never do their research and bother figuring out how to improvise the really bad-ass stuff.

  167. #167 Marcus Ranum
    October 31, 2007

    autumn writes:
    That’s just the way southerners (not to forget Mcveigh, I understand that there’s a holiday for him in Idaho) roll. ‘Specially ‘gainst brownies.

    Way to stereotype!

    What’s ironic is that you appear to be stereotyping southerners as racists. Stereotyping people as stereotypers is so…. self-referential.

    Let me introduce you to my friend Mr Kettle!

  168. #168 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    The American south is still a disgusting vortex of ignorance.

    oh, I always love posting this…

    http://www.fuckthesouth.com/

    not that I completely agree, and there are of course lots of areas of the South that aren’t butt-scratcher ignr’nt, but I at least understand the sentiment.

  169. #169 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    Marcus Ranum;

    I now address this formally, as you no longer seem to be friendly to the wild idea that people raised in the stultifyingly (it’s a word now, bitches!) racist attitudes of the South may have accepted said ideas as true.
    I have to dispute this, as I have seen two examples (yes, two isn’t many, but think of the number of examples that are not shown to random retailers) of Florida state hunting licenses, fully laminated, and not readily distinguishable from actual deer or hog licenses, except that they were headed “Nigger hunting License”
    I assure all readers that the lamination and holograpic security features were evident.
    So, yes. Without reliable evidence of a southerner’s intelligence, it is okay to assume that they are idiots.

  170. #170 Colugo
    October 31, 2007

    The South has never fully recovered from the culturally and economically atrophying institution of slavery.

    Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd:
    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/712842.html

    “The American South has long been more violent than the North. Colorful descriptions of duels, feuds, bushwhackings, and lynchings feature prominently in visitors’ accounts, newspaper articles, and autobiographies from the eighteenth century onward. Statistics bear out these impressions. For example, over the period 1865-1915, the homicide rate in the South was ten times the current rate for the whole United States, and twice the rate in our most violent cities. Modern homicide statistics tell the same story.

    In their book, Culture of Honor, psychologists Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen argue that the South is more violent than the North because southern people have culturally acquired beliefs about personal honor that are different from their northern counterparts. Southerners, they argue, believe more strongly than Northerners that a person’s reputation is important and worth defending even at great cost. As a consequence, arguments and confrontations that lead to harsh words or minor scuffles in Amherst or Ann Arbor often escalate to lethal violence in Asheville or Austin.”

    Southern myths are widely held.

    1990 speech at the Confederate Memorial:
    http://www.jameswebb.com/speeches/confedmemorial.htm

    “And so I am here, with you today, to remember. And to honor an army that rose like a sudden wind out of the little towns and scattered farms of a yet unconquered wilderness. … That gave every ounce of courage and loyalty to a leadership it trusted and respected, and then laid down its arms in an instant when that leadership decided that enough was enough. That returned to a devastated land and a military occupation. That endured the bitter humiliation of Reconstruction and an economic alienation from the rest of this nation which continued for fully a century, affecting white and black alike.

    I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery. … Love of the Union was palpably stronger in the South than in the North before the war — just as overt patriotism is today — but it was tempered by a strong belief that state sovereignty existed prior to the Constitution, and that it had never been surrendered. …. Perhaps all of us might reread the writings of Alexander Stephens, a brilliant attorney who opposed secession but then became Vice President of the Confederacy, making a convincing legal argument that the constitutional compact was terminable.”

  171. #171 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    I have not made any stereotypical comments. I have merely stated the fact that, on average, those people who live in the south (to be clear, it isn’t only the actual states involved in the war, but those that later decided that they would have supported the war, had they been able to, and had that not involved actual personal sacrifice, {(cowards) as opposed to the intellectual pansies here, who continue to assert that the rebellious states were somehow prevented from doing anything, unlike our FOUNDING FUCKING FATHERS)}.
    Forgot where I was going with this.
    Wow, what the hell did I capitalize FOUNDING FUCKING FATHERS for?
    I’m probabaly drunk.

  172. #172 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    Wow, what the hell did I capitalize FOUNDING FUCKING FATHERS for?
    I’m probabaly drunk.

    …or you might have clicked on that last link I left.

  173. #173 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    No, Ichthyic, I merely (echoing Mere Christianity) mistook something I would have liked to have shouted, with anything that may have been worth shouting about.
    Lewis and I were both being overly simplistic.

  174. #174 autumn
    October 31, 2007

    Gee, I think we may have all jumped well beyond the boundaries of this original subject.
    As I have forgotton what the subject was, I’ll stop, and concede this thread to those who have more invested in it than I.

  175. #175 Brian W.
    October 31, 2007

    He’s an idiot, it’s illegal to ask people about their religious beliefs when hiring.

    But i really don’t see why he should be suspended.

  176. #176 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    But i really don’t see why he should be suspended.

    Uh, that is a mildly disturbing letter. I’d be worried about the student who wrote that myself — it’s disjointed and rambling, and while it certainly doesn’t have any direct threats in it, I’d want this kid to get psychiatric help right away.

    maybe that’s why?

    with all the hype about recent school shootings, getting a letter like that might trigger automatic investigation.

    a “better safe than sorry” kinda of thing.

  177. #177 Marcus Ranum
    October 31, 2007

    there are of course lots of areas of the South that aren’t butt-scratcher ignr’nt, but I at least understand the sentiment.

    From where I sit, the whole USA looks pretty much like “butt-scratcher ignr’nt” so it seems ridiculous to think it has much to do with geography. If you look at the recent election red state/blue state map, it appears that the national IQ test broke more into coastal/central states rather than north/south. 🙂

  178. #178 Jon
    October 31, 2007

    I agree that he should get a psych. eval., but suspension for sending a frustrated letter? He was irrationally angry, but he did not threaten anyone – he just displayed who he likes and does not like. The motives of which and also his personal problems should be the concern of a psych. eval. I don’t like Christianity, but that does not mean that I should get a psych. eval. Also, there is a problem with undergraduate education: It is too easy to get a degree. They just stamp them out nowadays. This has devalued a college education. No wonder more employers wipe their asses with the four year degree that a prospective employee shows them.

  179. #179 craig
    October 31, 2007

    “oh, I always love posting this…

    http://www.fuckthesouth.com/

    Just last week, as I was riding with my brother-in-law in a Budget rental truck carrying all my stuff as I fled Florida for New York, I was saying those three words. I got him saying them with me, laughing. I even thought about registering the domain.

    Didn’t figure someone already had.

  180. #180 Jon
    October 31, 2007

    I’ts easy to generalize millions of people in a geographic area. I’ts easy to tell them all to get fucked. It’s harder to be better than those you imagine not to be. Ad hominem on “imagined people” is not a virtue. Argue the philosophies and reasons various people might make or who you have heard make.
    1. Just because it is easy to generalize blacks as underachievers does not mean that they all are or that it is their fault.
    2. Just because it is easy to generalize that all southerners are more racist than northerners (which may not be true) does not mean that they all are or that it is their fault if their mommy told them so on their knee.
    3. How do we solve these problems instead of exasperate them?
    4. Why stops a person from being an over achiever? Is it entirely their fault? Is it a cultural problem that we should blame?
    5. Is it because free-will is an illusion?
    6. Is free-will an illusion?

  181. #181 Jon
    October 31, 2007

    Saying things like “Fuck the South” is simple minded low intelligent ad hominem frustration. Much like a child on a tinner-tantrum. Maybe people are more enlightened in Minesota, but much of the midwest still has it’s problems (not to say that other regions don’t). Would it be any worse if someone said “Fuck the Midwest”. Or, would that be just some more unintelligent, simple minded, haughty, stuck up, thinking – that only exasperates problems and does nothing to solve them? The “I’m better than you people” is meaningless in any rational conversation. It is not a morally superior attitude or intellectually superior one.

  182. #182 Nomen Nescio
    October 31, 2007

    Kseniya, you must be remarkably certain of your facts and arguments. people who sling their mud with such arrogance usually are, unless they’re just sophomoric jerks.

    as far as i can tell, your point is mainly one of firearms exceptionalism; that guns are special weapons that can do things no other tools of death possibly could. okay, granted. all i have left to ask is: how do you know this?

    surely you must have a library full of evidence to back you up, seeing as you’re certain enough of yourself to damn me with such very faint praise. (which you can keep, by the way. oddly, i’m no longer predisposed to accept any compliments from you.) i’d like to see, if not the whole library, then its card catalog. you claim a number of things are so obvious as to not be worth wasting cycles on; i must be a bigger idiot than you implied i was, because they’re not obvious to me. evidence, please.

    (oh, my credentials? i have none. i’d call myself a layman student of violence, its means, methods, and objects. i’ve had a serious temper problem all my life, which i’ve thankfully learned to control, but the process of learning control has left me with a lifelong interest in mayhem. i’ve never yet tired of studying it, reading of it, talking about it, or thinking on it.

    i’ll never be an expert on violence and weaponry — i’m too old, now, to learn a number of things i’d have to know — but i think i am able to tell the difference between those who are and those who aren’t. there’s a difference even just in how they speak on the subject, and if i’d have to judge you based on your words here, i’d have to call you an arrogant rank beginner who thinks he knows it all. i’m ashamed that i too must have sounded so, once.)

  183. #183 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    I wasn’t addressing Zero. I was addressing Nomen’s arguments.

    This isn’t a north south thing. This is a lots of guns versus fewer guns thing.

    Nomen’s and apparently Zero’s arguments that if MORE people were aloud to carry concealed weapons the U.S. would be a safer place.

    WE ALL KNOW THAT’S COMPLETE BULLSHIT. That’s why I told him to stop.

    The answer to to many guns and not enough limits is not more guns and fewer restrictions on concealment.

    We can talk about education levels and poverty levels if you want to get into a north versus south thing.

    I was expressing how truly creepy good ol’ boys are… and they do live in the south. I didn’t say ALL southerners or even most. However you “might be a redneck if…”

  184. #184 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    This discussion departed the actual subject a few hours after it was posted, and sadly I think my post was the origin of the gun control side of things. Since then it has become a thread full of sweeping accusations and stereotypes. It’s really quite amazing some of the jumps being made towards these terrible conclusions. We’ve got people lumping everyone in the south in with ignorant, racists, murderers and lynch mobs. If you live in a red state you’re automatically stupid, hate blacks, hate homosexuals, have a gun rack, have a nigger hunting license (thanks whoever told that random story), burn crosses, support the south’s succession from the union, own assault rifles, keep said assault rifles in the glove box, and voted for this current Administration.

    I don’t even consider my state to be a part of the true south, but it seems many of you so-called “intellectuals” up in the northeast would. Kentucky is a red state, but *GASP* there are plenty of moderates, liberals, and progressives here.

    This topic somehow followed this strange progression:
    1)This guy wrote a letter and got expelled.
    2)This guy was obviously a little disturbed, demented, racist, and in need of a good sit down with a psychiatrist.
    3)This guy wanted guns, guns are bad, guns kill people. (this was actually only a brief part of his letter but got textploded)
    4)Guns are not necessarily bad, people are bad, gun control doesn’t work, yada yada
    5)Gun owners are the cause of all crime in America (that jump was particularly incredible).
    6)Gun owners all live in the south and kill blacks.
    7)The South is ignorant.
    8)See above conclusion about southerners.

    Ok… so the guy that wrote the letter definitely needed a stern talking to. The anti-south “intellectuals” in this thread need to take a good look at the stereotypes bouncing around in their heads and reevaluate their own prejudices.

  185. #185 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    Look at how most of the south votes.
    Look at how the south funds it’s schools.
    Look at how the south takes care of its poor.

    I didn’t say gun owners are the cause of all the crime.
    But gun owners do shoot people. It’s funny how that works.

  186. #186 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    Nice strawman your building there Zero.

  187. #187 Nomen Nescio
    October 31, 2007

    Nomen’s and apparently Zero’s arguments that if MORE people were aloud to carry concealed weapons the U.S. would be a safer place.

    where have i made that argument? if i had to comment on the matter, i’d claim that greater availability of concealed carry permits does not seem to make us (here in the U.S.) any less safe. there are some statistics on precisely this matter, as a number of states have liberalized their concealed carry laws over the last twenty years; this legislative trend does not seem to be correlated with any increase in crime, in any of the localities involved.

    nor does it seem to be correlated with any decrease in crime, either, true. so what? if it does no harm (and it seems not to), and allows responsible citizens a bit more freedom, i say go for it.

    WE ALL KNOW THAT’S COMPLETE BULLSHIT.

    how do we know that?

  188. #188 Kseniya
    October 31, 2007

    Ok Nomen:

    A gun can kill a person at 100 yards.

    A claw hammer cannot.

    Now, YOU figure out why your claw hammer argument is utter nonsense.

  189. #189 Kseniya
    October 31, 2007

    Also, Nomen, on a personal note, I am sorry if I offended you, but if you review my comments, I think you will see that I addressed your arguments (perhaps too harshly, yes) but not you yourself. I don’t think my reputation around here is one of arrogance or hot-headedness, and your conclusion that I “know nothing” may be based on a predisposition to overlook the possibility that I’m sick of hearing the same gun-apologics arguments over, and over, and over, as if the lives lost mean nothing.

    As I said, if N=5 and X=40, your point that the difference between N and X is irrelevant starts to look like the words of someone who thinks life is cheap and that the victims (and their friends and families) aren’t real.

    (FWIW I don’t for a moment believe that you do. Once again, my intent is to address a property of your argument, rather than to claim I know who or what you are.)

    What it boils down to is this: The claim that Cho could have killed 30 and wounded 15 with a knife is preposterous. And you know it. If you don’t, then yes, we have a philosophical problem that cannot be solved.

  190. #190 jw
    October 31, 2007

    The student who wrote the letter was obviously a jerk, but I don’t see the justification for suspending him. He didn’t threaten anyone or use hate language; he just randomly spewed bigoted drivel in a semi-literate fashion. The letter was certainly unpleasant, but surely not a punishable offence. If PZ is suggesting that he was suspended for his own good, then I would say that even though I have serious lefty tendencies, that really strikes me as too paternalistic.

  191. #191 Nomen Nescio
    October 31, 2007

    oy.

    Seung Hui Cho — you know, the particular deranged mass murderer whose actions i made a particular example of dissecting — did all his killing at indoor range. pointing out how denying him long-range tools would not necessarily have made his actions any less bloody, because he didn’t need or use the ability to act at range, is not nonsense, nor does it make the rest of my arguments collapse.

    if you’d like to start talking about slayings done at rifle ranges, we can do that too. i believe i even mentioned the Charles Whitman incident earlier…

    sure, firearms can do things other tools cannot. that’s why they’re useful. that’s one of the reason i don’t want the vast majority of us to be denied them; why deny ourselves a useful tool? aren’t we a tool-using species? certainly most police officers seem to want to hang on to their firearms, odd as that might seem…

  192. #192 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    Sure, I guess my argument that we’re not all the same is a strawman. Good game? You the winner!

    Stevie_C, if anyone is building vague generalizations that are easily discredited, it would be you my friend. Look around you, no one is the same (pay attention cause this is all I said above). Do you really think there is some magic line drawn on the map where if you drive across it, everyone (FUCKING EVERYONE STEVIE) hates blacks, gays, northerners, mexicans, burns crosses, has a gun rack etc etc.? If you do you might actually want to, oh I don’t know drive through the some of the south at least. This isn’t the 19th Century anymore Stevie, the Civil War is long gone, bye bye.

    I never said more armed citizens would make America safer either. I claimed that removing the ability for law-abiding citizens to purchase and own a firearm would pretty much give criminals a “no one will shoot back” mentality. If you look above, I’m all for tighter restrictions and more required training to carry, but I am very against this “guns are scary and kill people on their own” crap. This is just false. People are capable of evil, guns are not, they are not living things that know right from wrong. The person behind the trigger should be on trial, not the firearm.

    To bring my argument down to your level stevie:
    Anyone that thinks banning guns in America will lower the crime rate, is an Idiot.

  193. #193 MartinM
    October 31, 2007

    Seung Hui Cho — you know, the particular deranged mass murderer whose actions i made a particular example of dissecting — did all his killing at indoor range

    Did he do all his killing at clawhammer range? If you’re seriously claiming that, I’ll need some evidence. If not, you’re dodging the issue.

  194. #194 Brownian, OM
    October 31, 2007

    certainly most police officers seem to want to hang on to their firearms, odd as that might seem…

    Especially when they could all be armed with claw hammers for a fraction of the cost.

    Stupid military and police forces, spending all that money on guns and planes and ships.

    Don’t they realise anything could be a weapon in the right hands?

  195. #195 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    #193 – The palm, knee, knuckles, forehead, fingers, feet, shins, elbows just to name a few of the “tools” everyone has at their disposal that can be used as weapons. I would agree that it would be really damned hard to kill someone with a feather, although eye trauma with the quill would probably do the trick, but you seem to be making light of this, poking fun at the argument that he couldn’t have killed anyone without a gun. Human beings were doing fine for over 100,000 years killing each other before the gun was invented.

  196. #196 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    Article on Gun Control and it’s failure in England

    I point you to this article and more specifically to the example cases in which the citizenry that just try to defend themselves are now the outlaws and the criminals prevail.

    “In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted 5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin.”

    When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Guns.

  197. #197 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    Banning guns will drop the number of people killed by guns.

    And I made generalizations about good ol boys, and people obsessed with guns.

    Not the entire south. I said the reason I wouldn’t want to live in the south is good ol’ boys. And don’t act like they don’t exist.

    It’s ALOT harder to kill someone with your bare hands or a knife. It’s up close and personal and there’s a chance the victim can defend themselves.

    The strawman you were building is that I was saying everyone in the south is a racist, gun toting redneck. I never said such a thing.

    Hey if people are the problem then maybe we need BIGGER guns. I mean by your rationalization every “law abiding citizen” should be able to own grenade launchers, flame throwers and gatling guns… hell, let people own TOW missles if they want.

    I bet if you lived in NYC you would want to carry a concealed weapon.
    Yet the per capita crime rate here is about the same as Boise, Idaho.

  198. #198 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    The burglars didn’t have guns did they? Should I post the story of the Japanese student murdered outside a home in Texas because he didn’t know what freeze meant?

  199. #199 Nomen Nescio
    October 31, 2007

    way back up in the late double-digit comments i claimed there was no debate left in this subject, that it was all a neverending flamewar. then i went on to stress, as best i was able, that what matters in society (and crime) is living people and not inanimate tools.

    so what do i see? mocking and jeers from no end of folks who keep insisting that of course tools matter more than people because… because… well, we all know that it’s so, after all it’s obvious.

    good thing i decided to skim the whole thread over again and was reminded of my earlier comment, or i might not have caught on to how i was allowing myself to be snowed by the flamers. flamewars can be fun, but this one’s worn out its entertainment value to me. i’ve stated my main points as best i can; if they haven’t got across yet, then i’m not able to bring them across.

  200. #200 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    They got across. Your point was silly. This country has failed the test of responsibility.
    I don’t trust the average citizen to be responsible with a gun.

    The country needs to grow up.

  201. #201 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    I have to agree with BC @ #2. What is so difficult about apostrophe usage? Why don’t people understand the difference between a plural & a possessive? And, more importantly, how can someone not only make it all the way through 12 years of education, let alone be admitted into an “excellent liberal arts college,” without having absorbed this fairly basic & important element of writing? I see this all the time in comment threads from the Left & the Right. If we cannot grasp the relatively simple rules regarding apostrophe usage (and non-usage, as the case may be), how on earth are we supposed to grasp the complex issues facing us today, such as gun control? Does every culture have such a difficult time learning its own language or is it only America?

  202. #202 MartinM
    October 31, 2007

    …the citizenry that just try to defend themselves are now the outlaws and the criminals prevail.

    Spectacular choice of example. Tony Martin shot a 16-year-old kid in the back with a shotgun for which he had no license. Had the jury believed he acted in self-defence, they had the option of finding him guilty of manslaugher; they found him guilty of murder. On appeal, three senior judges again rejected his claims of self-defence.

    Oh, yes, and the reason he had no shotgun certificate was that he shot at someone who stole apples from his orchard.

  203. #203 Hank
    October 31, 2007

    zero: Again, you are making a straw man argument. Noone is saying that he couldn’t have killed anyone without a gun. What I’ve been saying all along is that he wouldn’t have been able to cause _as many_ deaths without one. Stop lying.

  204. #204 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    Some of us are lazy proofreaders.

    Dick.

  205. #205 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    Zero,

    Your citing of the Tony Martin case has blown what little credibility you had left. The right to self defence is not the same thing as the right to impose capital punishment on someone who breaks into your house. In the Martin case the original conviction for murder was overturned on appeal, not on the grounds the killing was justified but because Martin was found to be mentally ill at the time and thus the murder conviction was replaced with one of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

    Tony Martin is a poster child for reasons for restricting access to firearms, not relaxing controls. The man was insane and the likes of Zero think he is a hero. Am I alone in thinking that brings into question Zero’s motivation here ?

  206. #206 MartinM
    October 31, 2007

    Am I alone in thinking that brings into question Zero’s motivation here ?

    To be fair, if you read the article he cited under the assumption that it’s not a blatant hatchet job, you can understand the conclusions he draws.

  207. #207 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    I’m a dick because I expect adults to understand something they should’ve absorbed by the fifth grade? I’m not talking about String Theory here; only apostrophes.

  208. #208 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    Martin,

    I will confess I did not bother reading that article as I am already pretty familiar with the (Tony) Martin case. If the article failed to mention Martin’s mental illness though it is not likely to be reliable.

  209. #209 MartinM
    October 31, 2007

    If the article failed to mention Martin’s mental illness though it is not likely to be reliable.

    The passage zero quoted is all it says regarding the Martin case. It’s not even attempting to be reliable, as far as I can tell.

  210. #210 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    Martin,

    Then foolish me for assuming that when someone mentions something like the Martin case they might actually know something about it. Stupid of me I know but I like to think people try to be honest.

  211. #211 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    You’re a dick for implying Americans don’t know how to use the apostrophe. One of the lamest things anyone can do in a blog’s comments is bring up punctuation and typo.

    It’s even lamer that you use blog comments as your evidence that we’re all illiterate idiots.

  212. #212 MartinM
    October 31, 2007

    Then foolish me for assuming that when someone mentions something like the Martin case they might actually know something about it.

    Wait, are you saying that a single paragraph doesn’t actually tell you everything about a subject?

    Well, damn. That’s just not fair.

  213. #213 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    I’m not implying that Americans don’t know how to use the apostrophe; I’m applying that Americans don’t know how to use the apostrophe. And it’s not just in blog comments. The letter that is the subject of this blog post was written to the faculty of a university in order to address the university’s policies. Don’t you think using correct grammar & punctuation would’ve strengthened the writer’s arguments? I see apostrophe abuse everywhere — public signs, letters to the editor, business correspondence — it’s so pervasive that I’m forced to conclude that there is something terribly wrong with the American education system, and by extension, Americans themselves.
    I’m astonished that a visitor to the Science Blogs is actually defending shitty grammar.

  214. #214 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    It is not just Americans who do not know how to use the apostrophe, many Britons do not either.

    That said I think there is a difference between writing a letter, writing a blog entry and adding a comment to a blog. The first two are somewhat more formal, and as such should be carried out with a bit more thought with regards spelling and grammer. A reply to a blog though is a less formal thing and errors in spelling and grammer are more forgivable I think.

  215. #215 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    I think there is a difference between writing a letter, writing a blog entry and adding a comment to a blog…

    I agree. My original entry was directed at the gun-toting wingnut who is the subject of this blog post. But after Stevie called me a dick, I decided to expand my vitriol.

  216. #216 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    I’m defending Americans. Yes the letter shows that the guy he is horribly educated.
    He should be put in remedial writing classes at his school, as well as close psychiatric supervision.

    Does that mean all Amercans are kooky right wingers too?

    I’m defending lazy blog posters. Like myself.

  217. #217 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    But, that being said, I stand by my original point that apostrophe usage isn’t that difficult. I understand that comments at blogs shouldn’t be expected to withstand the same level of scrutiny that more formal texts are expected to withstand. However, since learning the rudiments of apostrophe usage is fairly elementary, I still marvel at the frequency with which the apostrophe is abused – even in comment threads. I mean, either you know how to use one or you don’t, and if you do, why wouldn’t you just use it correctly all the time — even in comment threads? This sure wasn’t the reaction I expected.

  218. #218 Colugo
    October 31, 2007

    Instead of citing individual cases, look at the Nationmaster statistics (which were useful in the health thread).

    The US is the murder king of the Western industrialized world, no doubt (let’s leave Communist-traumatized Eastern Europe and the Third World out of it). But look at the rate of burglary and violent assault in the UK, or burglary and rape in Canada, compared to the US. Higher or nearly as high in those places.

    Global trends in crime
    http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0199-2687232_ITM

    Robberies per capita: United Kingdom
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rob_percap-crime-robberies-per-capita

    Burglaries per capita: Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, UK, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_bur_percap-crime-burglaries-per-capita

    Rapes per capita: Australia, Canada
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita

    Scotland’s violent death rate is pretty high due to gangs, knifings, alcohol, etc.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article568214.ece

    Tentative conclusion: Guns and murder certainly go together, but the commission of other crimes doesn’t require guns.

    Interestingly, Canada seems to keep up with the US (relative to its size) in the most hyped form of gun crime: media-spectacular but demographically insignificant mass shootings

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/school-shootings/

    I conclude that unlike ordinary homicides, gun spree killings are not so much a function of gun availability but of memetic and other factors, and is the latest manifestation of an ancient cross-cultural phenomenon variously known as amok, wendigo psychosis etc.

  219. #219 Stevie_C
    October 31, 2007

    I’m defending Americans. Yes the letter shows that the guy he is horribly educated.
    He should be put in remedial writing classes at his school, as well as under close psychiatric supervision.

    Does that mean all Amercans are kooky right wingers too?

    I’m defending lazy blog posters. Like myself.

    Maybe I overreatcted.

  220. #220 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    Yes the letter shows that the guy he is horribly educated.

    It doesn’t just show that he is horribly educated; it shows that in America, it is possible — in fact, likely — that a horribly educated person can make it all the way through junior high & high school and then get accepted at a fairly well respected university. That is my beef. How can someone whose ideas and ability to convey them are so pathetically abject be accepted at a prestigious institution of higher learning? The fact that this scenario is commonplace is what I’m beefing about, not simply the occasional typo, misspelling or malapropism.

  221. #221 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    BDM,

    I will agree with you that proper apostrophe use is not hard.

    The way I was taught was to read the sentence back to your yourself but expand its/it’s to “it is”. If when you say “it is” the sentence still makes sense then make sure you use “it’s”: if it does not, then use “its”. Simple rule but of course there are always times when you write when you are tired or distracted.

  222. #222 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    One thing, this guy is supposed to being studying for an MAPA which when I asked was told is a masters degree in public administration.

    Now maybe I have his wrong for the US but in the UK you do a masters degree AFTER you have a first degree (A BSc (BS for Americans I think) or a BA) which would suggest this chap has already passed one degree course.

    Scary to think about that.

  223. #223 BDM
    October 31, 2007

    Yes, in the States, your two-year degree is an Associates, then the four-year degree is a Bachelor’s (BA or BS), then Master’s, then Doctorate. So not only did this guy make it all the way through compulsory elementary education without grasping the apostrophe concept, he actually made it through four years of university as well. Now he thinks he’s educated, which will make him even more incorrigible. I rest my case. I’m not a dick after all. 🙂

  224. #224 ronsullivan@speakeasy.net
    October 31, 2007

    When apostrophes are outlawed, only outlaw’s will have apostrophe’s.

    And grocers’, I suppose.

  225. #225 zer0
    October 31, 2007

    Matt Penfold and MartinM, thank you for bringing to my attention the full scope of this case. I apologize for my lack of understanding of all the circumstances involved. In a hurried attempt to provide some evidence of how extreme gun control leads to a citizen becoming a criminal when defending themselves and their home, I managed to trip nicely onto that “hatchet” job of an article. The story was obviously trimmed to the writer’s agenda and I apologize.

    To Matt: Knowing what I do now about this case, I see it as a tragedy that a 16 year old boy was shot. However you paint the scene, they were still breaking into someone else’s home but that is another argument really. Thank you for weighing in with your previous knowledge of this case, and preventing anyone from being mislead by my irresponsible citing of this case.

    To MartinM: Thanks for taking the time to read that “Hatchet” job and understanding why I might pick this out as I skimmed over it.

    To Colugo post #217: Good research. It shows that guns aren’t necessarily to blame for many types of crimes.

    To Hank post #202: I’ll remind you of someone’s earlier post #165. He chained the doors shut, a fire would’ve done the job. “_as many_” ? This guy killing just one person on campus that day would’ve still been a tragedy to me.

  226. #226 Ktesibios
    October 31, 2007

    The original letter is an impressive piece of work. The rambling, disjointed style suggests similar thought processes, which in turn suggests the possibility of mental illness. The excruciatingly bad English, coming from someone who, as a grad student, has presumably successfully completed a bachelor’s degree suggests the possibility of a deteriorating mental condition.

    It not only expresses a deeply-felt resentment towards minorities in general, it uses unambiguously hostile language “the dirty bums” to describe one group against which the author holds a grudge. It indicates that the author feels threatened enough by the world around him that he wants to be allowed to carry a deadly weapon.

    If this had been written in response to the assignment “compose a letter which will push every single one of an administrator’s alarm buttons in the most efficient manner possible”, it would have deserved an A+.

  227. #227 Kseniya
    October 31, 2007

    Nomen:

    Any distance greater than the reach of a dagger, main gauche, falchion, epee, mace, katana, broadsword, mattock, flail, naginata or halberd is “at range”. This is no less true in a 20’x30′ classroom as it is out on the open prairie. A gunman can calmly sit in a chair and shoot you dead at twenty paces as you try to run away, and can cut you down before you get close enough to even attempt to subdue him if you don’t. Do you dispute this? How long are your arms?

    A single person with a gun can terrorize and systematically slaughter a roomful after roomful of civilians with an ease that is simply unavailable to the gunless. Does this not describe almost exactly what Cho did? Do you honestly believe he could have killed and wounded the same number of people if he’d used a pitchfork or a maul?

    I think we agree that ultimately, yes, the fact is that “people kill people,” but your insistence that the tools are so irrelevant as to be unworthy of discussion is a puzzlingly monolithic stance. You might as well argue that a truck bomb is no different from a potent and well-aimed punch. Same logic, eh?

  228. #228 drunkentune
    October 31, 2007

    Kseniya,

    As it’s said, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”

    You’ve made your point and now he’s just being difficult.

  229. #229 DDeden
    October 31, 2007

    Is that a concealed thermonuclear warhead in your pocket or are you just happy…

    Everybody has the right to bare arms and bare feet.

  230. #230 Don't Panic
    November 1, 2007

    Kseniya’s right, ranged weapons are different than mle weapons. Confronted by someone with a gun in a situation like that in Virginia one is most liable to sit tight behind whatever available shelter one can get. While against someone with a knife or clawhammer I could consider picking up a chair or desk and charging. Especially since it’s likely one could convince others to make a simultaneous attack. Any object that would serve to block or deflect knife or clawhammer would put me on semi-equal ground, while it being obviously less useful against someone with a gun — where one would have to be damn accurate at throwing at some distance while most likely exposing themselves to a clear shot. Bullets much more penetrating power than a knife thrust. Yes, they could get lucky with a knife/clawhammer against an aware opponent (sneaking up on sleeping individuals might put a clawhammer on equal footing against a silenced gun) but no matter how you slice it N is going to < < N+X in just about any imaginable circumstance.

  231. #231 Don't Panic
    November 1, 2007

    Oops, "Preview" ate my double less-than sign:

    no matter how you slice it N is going to N+X in just about any imaginable circumstance

    Should have been "…N is going to be much less than N+X…"

  232. #232 HPLC_Sean
    November 1, 2007

    Ah the beautiful logic of it all:
    More concealed guns = Less violence

    That’s like taking 2x your dose of Paxil in the hope of getting half the side-effects.

  233. #233 frog
    November 1, 2007

    Marcus: “If you look at the recent election red state/blue state map, it appears that the national IQ test broke more into coastal/central states rather than north/south.”

    No, it’s an urban/rural divide. The stereotypical “Southern” attitudes are common through out rural areas of the country. It’s just that urban Southerners have greater loyalty to the idea of “ruralness” than Northerners.

    The great problem in the country, from religion to guns to politics, is a delusional deference to, in impolite terms, a bunch of ignorant and back-ass hicks who think that what works in the mountains of Idaho applies to the rest of us, on top of their brain numbingly damaged fellow travelers in our urban centers.

    Our out-dated and damaged constitution gives these folks electoral weight far beyond their weight in numbers or economic value. Our national self-delusions of our founding produces cultural values that may be appropriate for a backwoods village instead of a modern industrial state. We’re just whack.

  234. #234 Ron Sullivan
    November 1, 2007

    Ah the beautiful logic of it all:
    More concealed guns = Less violence
    That’s like taking 2x your dose of Paxil in the hope of getting half the side-effects.

    Wait. You mean the gun-control debate is about homeopathy?

  235. #235 Russell Blackford
    November 1, 2007

    Agree that the email in itself was not grounds for suspension … but enough to put the administration on notice that they might have a problem.

  236. #236 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    I point you to this article and more specifically to the example cases in which the citizenry that just try to defend themselves are now the outlaws and the criminals prevail.

    “In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted 5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin.”

    Well, over here, excess of self-defense is a crime. You have the right to kill someone who is trying to kill you, but not someone who is stealing your stuff. IMHO that should be obvious.

  237. #237 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    I point you to this article and more specifically to the example cases in which the citizenry that just try to defend themselves are now the outlaws and the criminals prevail.

    “In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted 5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin.”

    Well, over here, excess of self-defense is a crime. You have the right to kill someone who is trying to kill you, but not someone who is stealing your stuff. IMHO that should be obvious.

  238. #238 Don
    November 1, 2007

    I am not sure how this became a gun control discussion. Scheffler was not suspended for “expressing his views” on gun control.

    And, he was not suspended for one email.

    Clearly this is about a cumulative series of red flags, this email being only one of them. It seems perfectly reasonable that the suspension is in effect only pending a psych evaluation. This is prudent considering all the evidence.

    This guy has issues. Resentment, anger, and a white-guy persecution complex. Did anyone notice in the above email where he said “It took me complaining to a few different people before even the hamline website finally included white people in the random pictures on the main page.”? He cares about how many white people are in the pictures on the website? Enough to complain to multiple people until they appeased him? The guy is on a crusade.

    By the way, this comment about the website not displaying white people is right after the part where he complains that he thought the school was full of white Christians and that Hamline is guilty of “wanton misrepresentation.” I’m not sure how he could have been fooled by the website since there wasn’t a white person represented until he caused a stink about it.

    Secondly, he in both emails says that people are on edge and ready to snap because of the race issue, then says he doesn’t blame them. His reasoning is that the swastika graffiti is a perfectly reasonable and natural outcome of all the darn brown people taking up his white Christian educational dollars. He warns “there may be people on the edge ready to snap. I cant say I blame them…”. In other words, he’s just a few more institutional insults to his whiteness away from snapping too. How much more warning does the administration need to simply demand a psychological test?

    Whenever something horrible happens somewhere, everyone laments how the authorities or the administration “should have seen the warning signs”. Well, here you go.

    It’s the school’s call. I think they made the right one.

  239. #239 Don
    November 2, 2007

    Oh, and I forgot about this question a couple of commenters brought up. They asked if suspending the student was more of a prevention of violence or a provocation to the student. In other words, is suspending the student going to help pacify him, or will it actually antagonize him?

    The answer is clear. If the school’s suspension pending a psych evaluation actually provokes him and exacerbates his violent side, then clearly the school was right to worry about him in the first place.

  240. #240 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    Whenever something horrible happens somewhere, everyone laments how the authorities or the administration “should have seen the warning signs”. Well, here you go.

    I believe Don has summed things up nicely.

  241. #241 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    Kseniya wrote “It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Cho to kill anywhere near the number of people he killed with anything BUT a gun. Not even another ranged weapon would have given him anywhere near the killing power of even the most modest handgun, and the notion that he could have somehow “pulled off” [interesting choice of words, there] the massacre with a blade or a club is just absurd, and reeks of apologetics.”

    Utter tosh. It’s called gasoline and a match. Arson is a far more effective weapon for mass killings.

    As to some posters who doubt whether a person can kill dozens with a knife…I suggest you read up on a little country called Rwanda. This would be the one where nearly a million people were hacked to death in the space of about 90 days. There are numerous well documented cases of of 500-1000 people hundled together (typically in churches) who were massacred by less than a dozen young and untrained men armed with cheap machetes in time periods shorter than 30 minutes. The victims included children, but the majority were adults.

    How, you ask, is this possible? Well by doing exactly what Cho did: chaining shut the doors and then systematically killing people one at a time. Could these hundreds of cowering people have overpowered their knife-wielding assailants? – of course! And they could have easily overpowered a handful of people with a gun too. The victims advantage in numbers was always staggering. But in both cases it would require a specific person to decide to sacrafice themselves so that other strangers could live. And the extraordinary evidence from Rwanda and similar incidents is that human psychology doesn’t work that way – very few people step up to fight back.

  242. #242 Ichthyic
    November 2, 2007

    who were massacred by less than a dozen young and untrained(???) men armed with cheap machetes in time periods shorter than 30 minutes.

    invalid.

    group vs. single individual

    try again.

  243. #243 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    Utter tosh. It’s called gasoline and a match. Arson is a far more effective weapon for mass killings.

    True, and someone has already pointed that out (have you read the entire thread?) but irrelevant to the discussion. The claim was that Cho could have used a hammer instead of a gun and it would have made no difference in the body count. Vans filled with fertilizer have been known to be pretty effective, too – but we’re not talking about those, either.

    Interesting point about Rwanda, though. Citations? I understand semi-automatic weapons, grenades, and bulldozers were also used. Also, you overlook the fact that Cho was but one man. I wonder if one man with a machete could have hacked his way through hundreds of people in Rwanda or anywhere else? Are they any well-documented instances of a single man with a knife killing dozens or hundred of people in one spree?

  244. #244 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    (Ah, I see Ichthyic has been watching, too…)

  245. #245 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    The comparison is perfectly valid. A dozen people spread amongst almost 1000 is no different than 1 person approaching 50.

    There’s no question that the perpetrators in Rwanda could have been overpowered very quickly in these church cases. But people really and truly didn’t coordinate to fight back. They all tripped over each other to hide and hoped that they would be missed in the chaos. Some did survive by hiding, which is of course the real reason people don’t fight back. If you choose to be the one who fights you’re almost guaranteed to die, although you’ll save many, many others. But if you hide there is a chance that you might survive. Like they say…every man for himself.

  246. #246 Ichthyic
    November 2, 2007

    A dozen people spread amongst almost 1000 is no different than 1 person approaching 50.

    yes, it’s quite different. especially given the exact spacing described in your original post.

    still invalid.

    try again.

    . If you choose to be the one who fights you’re almost guaranteed to die, although you’ll save many, many others. But if you hide there is a chance that you might survive. Like they say…every man for himself.

    which of course is entirely irrelevant to the guns vs. knives issue.

    try again.

  247. #247 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    The army to army fighting definitely involved bullets and hand grenades, but the civilian deaths (which made up the vast majority) were generally killed by the rag-tag militias who were armed only with machetes. Guns were somewhat of a short commodity in Rwanda, so the army couldn’t affort to waste bullets on those who were unarmed. That’s why they bought all the machetes to distribute to teenagers and others who weren’t in the army. I’ll try to dig up some online reference, the only ones I have are paper (“Shake Hands with the Devil”, etc.)

    It’s not irrelevant that random people don’t band together to fight when suddenly faced with an armed madman. It’s the reason that even knife death totals can be surprisingly high. If you allow the perpetrator to always approach people one at a time, then even with a machete they are pretty unstoppable until the police or someone better armed intervenes. And my point is that given less than 30 minutes (the timeframe of some mass shootings), an unchecked man without exceptional skill can roam around in a building of trapped people and stab dozens.

    Hundreds would require more time than is realistic, but I’m not aware of any lone gunman in these cases taking down hundreds of people either for the same reason.

  248. #248 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    Sarah has brought something substantial to the table, and I am open to persuasion pending more information. It has already been established that mayhem leads to death when nobody fights back (no, really?) but what has not been established is in what proportion of cases do the intended victims fight back against a smaller group of assailants.

    There are counter-examples, noteably United Airlines Flight 93, the circumstances and outcome of which are rather exceptional, I admit, but which shows that it’s not unheard of for a rather small unarmed group to attempt to fight back against a somewhat smaller armed group.

    Maybe we just don’t hear about those very often when they do occur. In a situation where the assailant is subdued, the lower death tolls may make the event unworthy of national reporting. If all I had to go on was the evening news, I’d conclude that people were being robbed and killed everywhere, all the time, but of course they are not.

  249. #249 Mike
    November 2, 2007

    This is a horrible post. The university has no right to evaluate someone’s mental health via email. I would think that authorities arbitrarily deciding that someone is mentally ill would ring a few bells, but apparently Pharyngula has authoritarian tendencies too.

  250. #250 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    I think United 93 is a good example to understand the psychology of why people do or don’t decide to fight, because we can contrast it with the decision of the passengers on the other 9/11 flights. As United 93 showed, it was quite easy for the passengers to subdue a handful of men with box-cutters if they so chose (of course at that point it was too late since some had locked themself in the cockpit). No one even needed to died in the process.

    So why didn’t passengers in the other flights do so, and why didn’t people on United 93 do so earlier? Well we know why – on the other flights people thought there was a chance they would survive if they stayed back and did what they were told. Once people with cellphones on United 93 realized that they were definitely all going to die if they did nothing their attitude changed.

    I think time and spacing is important too. I would definitely agree that people would fight eventually if given enough time to consider the situation rationally and discuss it with others. The problem is that outside of a plane scenario (like in a school) the potential victims often scatter around in small groups if not as individuals, so their opportunity to scheme is quite limited and they may not even know what’s been happening or what the killer looks like.

    And one person can make a difference too, of course. There are exceptional people who are very brave (or very foolish depending on your perspective 🙂 who sometimes step in to play the hero. But I don’t think there’s any guarantee that’s going to happen, and I suspect it’s less likely than people suppose.

    I should point out that my perspective is not that a mass kniving is always going to result in dozens of dead, nor that such an outcome is even very likely. My point is that it’s within the realm of possible if the killer has carefully planned how to trap people and move among them. I am merely refuting the statement that it is categorically impossible to kill large numbers with anthing but a gun.

  251. #251 Stevie_C
    November 2, 2007

    If you send a letter as full of hate and idiocy as that one, I see no reason why the school can’t have you undergo a psyche exam. They aren’t committing him to a mental hospital, they’re just requiring him to talk to a trained physician.

    They gave him a choice.

  252. #252 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    I am merely refuting the statement that it is categorically impossible to kill large numbers with anthing but a gun.

    Good points top-to-bottom, Sarah, but I must point out that no such categorical statement was made. The statement was very specific: Cho couldn’t have killed 32 and wounded 15 with a knife or a club, as zer0 and Nomen were claiming.

    The outcomes of these situations depend on many variables. If it had been an experienced Navy Seal gone postal in a Chuck E. Cheese’s, I wouldn’t have been so inclined to challenge a similar assertion about the efficacy of guns vs. melee weapons in that specific situation.

  253. #253 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    Ah ha…got to love google. Here’s a news article on a knife rampage in Germany:

    “A teenager was jailed for seven years on Friday for running amok with a knife and wounding dozens of people at the opening ceremony of Berlin’s new central station. A youth court in the German capital found the 17-year-old guilty on 33 counts of attempted murder.The court heard he had charged through the crowd, slashing randomly at passers-by with a flick knife as darkness fell . . . eight people received life-threatening wounds to the stomach, lungs and kidneys and two were cut on the thighs, while others suffered minor injuries. The teenager insisted during the trial that he had no recollection of carrying out the attack because had been drunk at the time, and publicly apologised to the victims.”

    http://www.aegis.com/news/afp/2007/AF070353.html

    It’s not hard to imagine that an older man armed with a bigger knife who wasn’t falling over drunk might have killed quite a few given that this teenager managed to stab at 33 before being disarmed.

    What’s really weird is that this apparently happened in 2006 and I can’t remember ever reading about it in the news. Somehow I think that if the boy had shot 33 people (even non fatally) in Berlin this would make headlines around the Western world.

  254. #254 Kseniya
    November 2, 2007

    Wow. The truth is strange enough, but shooting 33 people without killing a single one would be quite an accomplishment.

    Running through a crowd at dusk – at a public ceremony, no less – and slashing at random does seem to be a a good way to pile up a high wound count and a low death count. I know I’d be shocked and surprised to find myself cut and bleeding with no assailant in sight, and not inclined to give chase. The people with me probably wouldn’t even understand what had happened until after the guy was well away. Sheesh!

  255. #255 Ichthyic
    November 2, 2007

    I am merely refuting the statement that it is categorically impossible to kill large numbers with anthing but a gun.

    I’m looking back at the post where it was defined categorically, rather than implied from a probability standpoint, and not really finding it.

    Is that the point you really wanted to make?

    that it’s not impossible to kill several people with something other than a gun?

    talk about trivial.

    now if you want to make the point that it is somehow just as PROBABLE that someone could kill multiple people with a gun as with a knife, then we have something altogether different to laugh at you for.

    so which would you prefer to be laughed at for:

    making an entirely trivial, pedantic argument?

    or making a very silly extrapolation from exceptional cases to one of general probability?

    maybe I’m missing an actual serious argument you are trying to make somewhere?

  256. #256 Julie Stahlhut
    November 2, 2007

    Mike wrote:

    This is a horrible post. The university has no right to evaluate someone’s mental health via email. I would think that authorities arbitrarily deciding that someone is mentally ill would ring a few bells, but apparently Pharyngula has authoritarian tendencies too.

    The university did no such thing. The administration did not diagnose the student with a mental illness. Rather, they were concerned enough about his provocative behavior that they required him to be evaluated by someone qualified to determine whether or not he is mentally ill.

    If see someone trying to hide in your yard, suspect he’s trying to break into the house, and call the police, you are neither arresting the suspect nor convicting him of a crime. You’re reporting the situation to people who are trained and authorized to handle potentially dangerous situations. That’s a better analogy to what the university administration did.

  257. #257 Sarah
    November 2, 2007

    “shooting 33 people without killing a single one would be quite an accomplishment.” You would be surprised. Kimveer Gill shot 20 at Dawson College and only killed one person who was at point blank range, despite his gun club experience. The case was all over the news for weeks in Canada (ironically a triple homicide stabbing the same day in Toronto didn’t even crack the front page). Modern medicine means that many people survive shootings and stabbings when attended to promptly.

    The original statement was “It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Cho to kill anywhere near the number of people he killed with anything BUT a gun.” Leaving aside the arson, poisoning, carbon monoxide, explosives, etc. possibilities…I repeat that it is not impossible. I never said it was PROBABLE that he would kill “anywhere near” that number with a knife but it is possible. It’s also not probable that a given school shooter would kill the number of people Cho did. I believe his record stands as the highest total in history, most shootings barely cracking double digits. So the Cho case is itself very exceptional not “general probability” and it is fair to compare it to exceptional stabbing cases.

    Here’s a case in the Phillipines where a guy killed 10 and injured 14 on a stabbing rampage. No doubt the fact he had a 21″ blade rather than a switch knife helped increase the body count. Again this is a case where the perpetrator was drunk and appeared to have no plan. Sadly school shooters are nothing if not meticulous planners, so I submit that if they devoted that level of scheming to a machete attack that they could very well match the number of stabbings of these haphazard drunken cases I’ve mentioned and kill a large number of the victims.

    http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=535786

  258. #258 JJR
    November 2, 2007

    As a pro-gun Progressive (yes, we exist), this incident made me wince, because, as much as I agree that students who are 21 and meet the CCW requirements for their state ought to be able to Concealed carry like any other legal adult, this guy just didn’t know when to shut up, and ended up really hurting the cause he was arguing for. Needs a good persuasive writing class–stay on topic and don’t drag in a lot of unrelated crap. Stay polite but firm, and ALWAYS ON MESSAGE, etc.

    Unfocused rants may feel good, but they don’t tend to move or persuade people.

    The pro-RBKA message is the ONLY thing in the guy’s letter that I agree with.

    Check out more *responsible* people over at http://www.concealedcampus.org/

    -JJR

  259. #259 Robin Levett
    November 3, 2007

    Sarah said:

    Here’s a case in the Phillipines where a guy killed 10 and injured 14 on a stabbing rampage. No doubt the fact he had a 21″ blade rather than a switch knife helped increase the body count. Again this is a case where the perpetrator was drunk and appeared to have no plan. Sadly school shooters are nothing if not meticulous planners, so I submit that if they devoted that level of scheming to a machete attack that they could very well match the number of stabbings of these haphazard drunken cases I’ve mentioned and kill a large number of the victims.

    Do you think it’s relevant that (a) all of the victims were killed in small groups with large proportions of young children and (b) 7 of the dead were young children (as were a number of the wounded), one was a pregnant woman and the other two were killed in their sleep? Because I do.

    The issue here is whether concealed carry weapons are a help or a hindrance in situations like Virginia Tech; some have the idea they’d help, others that not only would it hinder, but that denying the perpetrator access to guns would have been far more effective in saving life, because armed only with a knife or claw hammer he couldn’t have killed nearly as many. That last assertion still stands unrefuted by your example; and indeed our example is irrelevant for another reason which is that guns in the hands of the victims wouldn’t have prevented killings either; apart from the pregnant woman, all those killed were either young children or asleep.

  260. #260 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2007

    I believe his record stands as the highest total in history, most shootings barely cracking double digits.

    and how many shootings vs stabbings cracking more than one or two people, eh?

    again, you are either making a trivial point, or you are trying to argue somehow that you could easily kill just as many with a knife as a gun.

    which ridiculous argument would you like to continue with?

    pick one.

    No doubt the fact he had a 21″ blade rather than a switch knife helped increase the body count

    and if he had a gun with a decent sized clip?

    you’re defeating your own argument, at least as clearly as I can make out your argument, anyway.

    Robin brings us back to square one, and is quite correct that you have not brought any argument to the table that refutes the idea that guns obviously kill people faster and easier than knives (or hammers) do.

    so again, I ask, what is it exactly that you wish to prove to us?

    are you seriously trying to say we should allow both guns and machetes on a given campus as the best way to alleviate campus violence?

    other than arguing for the sake of arguing, I can’t see the point of continuing this “debate”.

  261. #261 Sarah
    November 3, 2007

    I have no particular opinion on concealed carry bans, but it seems to me that passing a campus concealed carry ban in a jurisdiction where concealed weapons are generally legal (I can’t imagine why you would bother otherwise) is pretty lame since it’s totally unenforceable and certainly isn’t going to be “denying the perpetrator access to guns”.

    Let us assume, however, that some mystery place passed laws that really did succeed in denying a determined, suicidal, student madman access to a firearm (I have my doubts). What would he do instead? As my first post stated, I’m pretty sure the most likely choice would be to chain the doors and then burn the building down, which is hardly comforting or likely to save lives in comparison to a shooting.

    But let us suppose that this guy prefers a more personal hand in his killings and decides he’s going to use a knife. Aside: I suspect this personal touch might actually be why a lot of egotistical killers choose guns over the more deadly arson. He plans it for months, as it seems they always do. What strategy would he use? Well, as Robin pointed out it’s very effective to stab even grown men to death in their sleep, so perhaps he’d acquire a skeleton key and then roam through his dorm in the dead of the night with a machete. Or maybe he’d follow the thinking of our fellow in Germany and attack a crowd in the cover of darkness. Chain the doors, trip a breaker in the campus nightclub, and then go at it.

    A person who’s carrying out a planned attack will adapt their tactics to the weapon chosen. So our hypothetical person wouldn’t do it in exactly the same way as he would carry out a shooting, but the end result in deaths and people wounded could well be similar. Afterall it’s no less of a tragedy that someone was killed in their sleep rather than while running away. Or that a person might decide to target women more than men.

    Ultimately guns are more effective as a military weapon against other armed people, but when talking about attacking unarmed people caught completely by surprise and targeted in a planned attack under conditions deliberatly made to the advantage of the attacker I think it’s pretty much a wash what they’re armed with.

  262. #262 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2007

    totally unenforceable

    so metal detectors wouldn’t work to detect concealed handguns, or knives, for that matter?

    news to me, since they use them at many campuses already.

    Moreover, that’s the rule in every Courthouse in the Nation, AFAIK.

    seems quite enforceable to me.

    I think it’s pretty much a wash what they’re armed with.

    and you still haven’t made a convincing argument on that front, either.

    frankly, I find your entire set of arguments not only unpersuasive, but patently ridiculous.

    sorry.

    maybe Kseniya sees something i don’t.

  263. #263 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 3, 2007

    This twirp needed a good “spanking”. (Um, yeah, too late. Again).

    Free speech is fine, but I agree that this fellow is seriously unhinged. He’s a potential danger, and such things have to be dealt with, whether we like it or not. With school and university shootings, etc, the situation has been getting awful hot.

    The remarks of this student amply show a disregard of ethical poise and an abiding intolerance of others. Should he be suspended? If I were on the board, I’d vote to kick his ass out. Meet intolerance with equal intolerance. It’s the only way.

  264. #264 Robin Levett
    November 3, 2007

    Sarah:

    To adapt what someone said above – a 10-year-old armed with a toothpick could work her way through the population of China given enough time and provided no-one fought back. The point is first that a gun is enough of a force multiplier – provided you don’t mind whom you hit – that a single person can kill many even faced by a crowd; and second that the existence of concealed weaponry within that crowd, while it might theoretically be able to prevent slaughter, would in practice work to increase the slaughter because of targeting problems (which person with a drawn gun started the shooting) and just plain bad aim (which wouldn’t matter to the slaughterer) whether because of adrenalin or otherwise.

    A knife isn’t anything like as much of a force multiplier – or all modern armies would use knives exclusively as a close quarters weapon, rather than relying upon firearms. One reason is that a gun is a ranged weapon – and in this context that means being able to kill out of arm’s reach; and secondly that a gun is “fire and forget”; you don’t have to worry about retrieving the bullet from the last victim before going onto the next one.

  265. #265 David Marjanovi?
    November 3, 2007

    Besides, a 21” blade is not a “knife”. It’s a sword or a machete.

    I don’t think people should be allowed to carry swords around on a campus any more than guns…

  266. #266 David Marjanovi?
    November 3, 2007

    Besides, a 21” blade is not a “knife”. It’s a sword or a machete.

    I don’t think people should be allowed to carry swords around on a campus any more than guns…

  267. #267 Sarah
    November 3, 2007

    We’ve come up with a lot of dumb and hysterical ways to blow billions of dollars on gun control up here in Canada (registering BB guns comes to mind), but even we haven’t thought that employing a small army to run metal detectors at every entrance of every building on a university campus is workable. Or perhaps the plan is to surround all the acres with a barbed wire fence, frisk people as they cross the threshold and then have them walk the rest of the way. This would be quite a sight at the University of Toronto which is in the middle of downtown and consists of over a hundred buildings crisscrossed by major roads. It’s not enforceable and would never be attempted.

    I maintain that a strategy of preventing deaths from undiagnosed madmen by denying them access to guns is pretty futile. Even if you did succeed in denying them access to a firearm, there are countless other ways they could achieve comparable double digit death tolls. I’ll repeat the easiest ones – arson, rat poison in the cafeteria food, mowing down a crowd with a truck, etc. You cannot deny them access to all these weapons, and when their potential pool of victims includes everyone alive you cannot deny them access to their victims either. Courtroom metal detectors only have an effect because you are trying to prevent the targeting of specific individuals (lawyers, witnesses, etc.). They have no impact on protecting the general public from random killers.

    If you want to save lives, then deny them access to publicity. The knowledge that their name and stories will be broadcast at nauseum over every media outlet in the land is the real root cause of these shootings. They are social outcasts who crave to be noticed, to have the world pay attention to them and their long “suffering”. Convincing the mainstream media not to publish the names of mass killers would by no means be an easy task, but compared to the alternate strategy of ridding the country of firearms it begins to look more achievable – and would be equally effective against any tactic or weapon chosen.

  268. #268 Robin Levett
    November 3, 2007

    Shorter Sarah:

    Crikey, there’s a wombat…

  269. #269 Kseniya
    November 3, 2007

    But JJR, aren’t you glad that all he shot off was his mouth?

    Sarah wrote:

    The original statement was “It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Cho to kill anywhere near the number of people he killed with anything BUT a gun.”

    Once again I must point out that this was NOT the original statement. It was a response to this:

    the massacre at VT would’ve been much more difficult to pull off had he chosen to use a knife, a sword, or even a bludgeon

    In this context, “anything BUT a gun” is limited to melee weapons of a type similar to those mentioned by zer0 in the statement above: blades, blunts, polearms and, of course, whole frozen tuna.

    Nomen then claimed that Cho could have done it with a clawhammer provided nobody fought back, and we were off and running. That’s when I presented my shrimp-fork argument. *(cough)*

    The point is, again bringing arson, poison etc. or any sort of WMD into the discussion as a response to the “original” statement betrays an ignorance (willful, perhaps?) of the context in which the statements were made. Once again (once again) I must point out that this is why we’re not talking about bazookas, truckbombs, weaponized anthrax, or nuclear-payload ICBM’s.

    My use of the word IMPOSSIBLE was ill-advised and I should have said “highly unlikely” which is closer to what I meant anyway. (Extreme statements always backfire, don’t they? Ooops, I mean often backfire… heh.) Anyways, if I had said “highly unlikely” we might not even be having this discussion, because Sarah seems to concur.

    However, I am starting to have doubts about the validity of her well-presented arguments. Sarah, if you’re offering cases where (as Robin claims) ALL ten victims were either a) young children, b) pregnant women or c) asleep, all I can say is that using that case to bolster the claim that Cho could have killed 30 of his peers with a knife or a rolled-up newspaper is… well… unconvincing at best, dishonest at worst. What else are you misrepresenting, I wonder…?

    Perhaps nothing. The Rwanda information is interesting and (I think) relevant; I concede the point that the tendency for people to lay low and ride it out (or hide) rather than put themselves directly at risk by fighting back against armed assailants may be quite a bit stronger than I thought; and I totally agree with your assessment of the 9/11 passengers who fought back – of course they realized they had no choice. But wouldn’t the same apply to Cho’s victims once they realized they couldn’t get out of the building, a realization that would have come more quickly as they were fleeing the knife rather than trying to hide from the gun?

  270. #270 Ichthyic
    November 3, 2007

    Crikey, there’s a wombat…

    LOL

  271. #271 Kseniya
    November 3, 2007

    Convincing the mainstream media not to publish the names of mass killers would by no means be an easy task, but compared to the alternate strategy of ridding the country of firearms it begins to look more achievable – and would be equally effective against any tactic or weapon chosen.

    Perhaps, but how would we ever know? 😉

    Hey Sarah, have you ever heard a song by Ellis Paul called “Who Killed John Lennon?”

    Do not mention his name.

    The man kills John Lennon, now he’s on TV again.
    He’s blaming Holden Caulfield in the face of the lens.
    And each time he does it, he kills him again.
    Who killed John Lennon?

    A loser with a pistol, a martyr’s best friend.

    And each time he’s televised, he kills him again.

    (And so on…)

  272. #272 Robin Levett
    November 4, 2007

    Ichthyic:

    Crikey, there’s a wombat…

    LOL

    It’s not original with me, I’m afraid – borrowed from talk.origins usage.

  273. #273 Sparticus Rex
    November 5, 2007

    Guns don’t kill people.

    People with guns kill people.

  274. #274 truth machine
    November 6, 2007

    he is just saying that the school should not promote its image as “Christian” if most of its teachers, staff, or whatever clearly aren’t.

    This characterization is nearly as dishonest as John Leo’s.

    The existence of such additional reasons for suspension as qetzal provided was readily inferable from the letter. And despite the evidence qetzal provided, we still have idiots like Mike in #247 whining about something that didn’t happen. Try reading what Don, not an idiot, wrote in #236.

    As for all the libertarians arguing against gun control … see PZ’s previous thread about the quality of libertarians and libertarian thought.

  275. #275 truth machine
    November 6, 2007

    Guns don’t kill people.

    People with guns kill people.

    Sometimes the only person present is the one killed. Sometimes unintentionally. It’s no more correct (or honest) to say that guns don’t kill people than to say that earthquakes, hurricanes, falling rocks and buildings, and cigarettes don’t kill people. Lung cancer kills people, cigarettes kill people, cigarette companies kill people, cigarette company executives kill people, congresspeople voting for tobacco subsidies kill people — events don’t have single causes.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.