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Appropriate Blame Placement Response

It's a couple days after the VT tragedy, and now the second-guessing is amping up a level. It seems this psychotic fellow may have provided indications that he was anything but mentally sound. Multiple people filed reports, and yet the response was "there's no explicit threat, there's nothing we can do." The blame game is, of course, swirling quickly. Allow me to take a few minutes to discuss my take on placing blame against a few key targets...

* The University: The media was quick to call for the resignation of the VT president, and they've continued to discuss the responsibility of the university in this incident. Reports are also emerging that multiple people on campus had serious concerns about this individual, who was clearly disturbed. Really, though, what could the university have done? Notified law enforcement? Done. Expelled him? Probably not (no real threats made). Referred him for counseling? Possibly, but we know from LE interviews that he refused to speak when addressed. Even his roommates indicated that he was socially maladjusted and unable or unwilling to engage. Until a psychotic episode occurs, it's very difficult to understand the depth of the problem. We understand it clearly now, but it isn't fully reasonable to think we would have in the present. Hindsight is 20/20.

* Law Enforcement (LE): I believe that LE does hold some responsibility in this matter. The attacker was a subject of interest. Multiple people had reported concerns about his behaviors. Why wasn't his file flagged? How was he able to get an instant background check to purchase a second gun on 4/13? If LE had received concerns about this individual, then it seems that there's a discontinuity on their part. Beyond that, I don't fault their response, as mentioned previously. Understand this: there are good, legitimate reasons for investigative processes and the need to follow them. As an experience incident responder and investigator, as much as I'd like to have a lightning response to everything, it oftentimes is necessary to seek out more information and evaluate the ongoing risks. Placing blame for the 2-hr gap between incidents and the lack of communication is inappropriate.

* Guns / Gun Industry: For starters, let establish that a gun is an inanimate object that does not have any free will or consciousness. It didn't choose to do the crime. It was merely a tool in the attack, much as a hammer or knife or pipe bomb would have been. The big question, then, is about the role of the gun industry in this incident. Much is being made in the news of the background checks being performed in Virginia prior to gun purchases, and the instant background check loophole on purchases. As mentioned, in the previous section, I really have to wonder why LE did not flag the file for this disturbed individual, as that could have prevented the sale of the second gun (if not the first, also). Bottom line, though, is that none of these things are the direct responsibility of the gun industry. There was no information made available that would indicated to an impartial outsider that this person was a threat to human lives.

* Students & Teachers: The only question here, and not blame, is could students and teachers have done more to anticipate and proactively prevent this horrible tragedy? We know flags were raised. We know that people tried to reach out and go nowhere. I think this is important to understand: students and teachers must not blame themselves for this incident. As far as I can tell, this person was disconnected and unwilling or unable to be connected. He displayed deviant behavior. He was maladjusted. There are limits to what we mere mortals can do. Were people surprised that this person perpetrated these destructive acts? No. But that doesn't warrant guilt or blame.

* Society: One might question the role of society in this entire affair. Clearly people around this freak noticed problems. But how did he get to this point? There's not enough information or space here to get into the philosophical discussion, but it seems likely that society may be partly to blame, in a very small part, for not better servicing this person who clearly suffered from a social adjustment disorder of some sort.

* The Parents: It's unclear at this point how aware the parents were of their son's condition. If they were aware and did not seek help for him, then they would be partly to blame for the build-up and culmination. Again, though, it's unclear at this point to know enough to make a sound statement.

* The Attacker: Be not confused. Above all else, mentally ill or not, this disturbed person is primarily to blame for this event. He did not accept social attempts from people around him. He displayed deviant behavior. He apparently planned this event for months in advance. He is the ultimate culprit.


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» VT Killer: Blatant Narcissist from The Falcon's View
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