A Vain Plea for Decorum

Like everybody else, I’m horrified by the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. It’s the sort of nightmare situation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

Of course, the bodies aren’t even cold yet, and already the blogosphere is a-flutter with people touting this as proof that the US needs to change its gun laws in one direction or another. I’m not going to link to them, but I’ve already seen three or four pieces using this to push one side or the other of the gun control debate, and I have a simple message for those people:

Stop. Please, just stop.

For the love of God, show a little tact, and shut up, at least until the families of the victims have been notified, and the community has had a chance to grieve a little. Next Monday would be a fine time to start– personally, I’d prefer “never,” but at a minimum, I’d say that while there are still families out there who don’t know whether their loved ones are alive or dead, you can sit on your hands, and spare us all your opinions.

You’re going to have the rest of your life– may it be a long and happy one– to spend telling us all how this incident absolutely and irrefutably confirms your position on gun control. There are thirty-three people in Blacksburg who are never going to get that chance. Show a little respect, and spare us your wisdom for a few days.


  1. #1 Uncle Al
    April 16, 2007

    One shooter hit 60 targets. They died like sheep. Civic virtue is dead. America is a nation of cripples, cowards, and victims. Cf.: Milgram at Yale in 1961 and Zimbardo at Stanford in 1971. Compassion plus obedience means never having to make the hard decision – shut up and die. École Polytechnique in Montréal 06 December 1989 or Hitler’s camps. They died like sheep.

    Civic virtue is the difference between being governed and being ruled. “Those who trade freedom for security will obtain neither.” WHO OBJECTS TO WARRANTLESS SEARCH AND SEIZURE AT AIRPORTS? nobody

  2. #2 Chad Orzel
    April 16, 2007

    That’s three comments in the history of Uncertain Principles on ScienceBlogs disemvowelled. All from Uncle Al.

    I’m not in the mood for this shit right now.

  3. #3 Stuart Coleman
    April 16, 2007

    I completely agree with you and made the same plea. Of course, someone got angry with me and said exactly that it means we need gun control laws. Oy.

  4. #4 milkshake
    April 16, 2007

    Clive James wrote this piece in 2002:
    Calling Home

    The shock wave from the car-bomb outside the nightclub on Kuta Beach in Bali went all the way to Australia in a matter of minutes. As soon as the young Australian survivors stopped trembling long enough to touch one button at a time, they were calling home to say they were all right. But there were some young Australians who did not call home, because they were not all right. The casualty list is lengthening even as I compose this opening paragraph, and by the time I reach a conclusion the casualty list will be longer still. I owe it to my dead, wounded and bereaved countrymen to say straight away that I have no clear idea of what that conclusion will be. This is no time to preach, and least of all from a prepared text.

  5. #5 Jeb, FCD
    April 16, 2007

    Al really needs a ban. And I’m not talking about the deodorant (but he probably needs that too).

  6. #6 C. Birkbeck
    April 16, 2007

    Just as important, we need to let the dust and allow all the facts come in. Nothing makes an insensitive debate worst than ignorance.

  7. #7 Kurt Montandon
    April 17, 2007

    Nothing makes an insensitive debate worst than ignorance.

    Time won’t do anything to alleviate ignorance on the part of those who’ve already decided their positions – new information either supports their ideology, or is discarded.

  8. #8 IRobot
    April 17, 2007

    I know it has been said in other posts, but no, no, no. Know is not the time for self-censorship. Why wouldnt this be an argument for gun control? Wouldnt taking at least a small step to limit guns be a good thing to do in the memory of people murdered by some crazy with a gun? It seems that this “respect” leads to no debate about gun control which is whay you want. Funny how that works sometimes!

  9. #9 Chad Orzel
    April 17, 2007

    Why wouldnt this be an argument for gun control?

    Will it somehow stop being an argument for gun control a week from now?

  10. #10 Little Miss Know it All
    April 17, 2007

    …Chad at Uncertain Principles pleads for decorum and a lack of rush to judgement about gun control (or concealed carry) as we take time to mourn…

  11. #11 adam
    April 17, 2007

    Chad #9: In a week’s time, people won’t be so much emotional and open to suggestion. If Congress weren’t so populist, there’d be little to gain, but as you (and I) said in the other thread, they are.

    As long as a type of human behaviour is incentivised, there will be people that perform that sort of behaviour (thus, we have ambulance-chasing lawyers, seedy paparazzi, manipulative plastic surgeons, amoral drug-dealers and politicians). I guess that learning to ignore those aspects of the behaviour which annoy or upset us is a good life skill (although we can’t so easily ignore other aspects of the behaviour that do materially affect us).

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