Monday, April 16, 2007


Some are blaming the Va Tech Administration and police for not 'locking down' the campus after the first shootings, and suggesting that the Administration holds some degree of responsibility for the second wave of shootings. Had the Administration cancelled classes and closed the campus to incoming traffic and restricted on-campus students to their respective dormitories, the argument goes, then the shooter wouldn't have been able to inflict anywhere near as much damage as he did.

Maybe, maybe not.

One problem with this type of argument is that nobody really knows what would have happened had one only done what seems obvious in hindsight, in this case, had the Administration shut down the campus and confined students to their dorms. Maybe this would have deterred the gunman, perhaps it would have resulted in fewer kids being shot. But, as bad as this day was, one never knows the circumstances under which things could have been even worse. One does not - and can not - know if the gunman wouldn't have reacted in a way that would have resulted in even more students being shot. Had the gunman not been able to gain access to the classroom, is it impossible to rule out his going elsewhere - other schools in the area, shopping centers, a hospital - to take out whatever anger he had?

The second problem is that, even presuming that cancelling classes would have lessened the number of casualties, this would have required the University President and campus police to take what I'd call the 'Most Pessimistic View' of the likelihood of something bad taking place later in the day... and not only in such situations as this, but in any situation where there existed a possibility - no matter how remote - that something bad could happen that could be prevented if only precautions were taken.

While this might sound good in theory, especially if you are close to someone who was shot today (and if you are, boy, do you have my condolences), I see it as close to impossible to implement. Any shooting or other act of violence - whether at a school or elsewhere - might turn out to be only Act I of a multi-act tragic play, and preparing for the worst would require school officials - if not society as a whole - to go into lockdown mode after each and every act of violence. And given how many acts of violence could be Act I, we'd be in lockdown mode pretty much all the time... which isn't a particularly pleasant outlook to contemplate.

At times like this, it is only natural to look back and think 'if only we had done X, we could have kept this from happening'. hat could have been done to keep this from happening' (just as it is too common for those with an agenda to argue that implementing their agenda would have prevented such a tragedy).

But contrary to the old adage, hindsight is not always 20-20. Sometimes, even on days like this, it is possible that things could have been even worse.

And that is the only thing I can find to be positive about today. It could have been worse.