In an April 17 article headlined "Gun control debate resumes, on one side," the Los Angeles Times asserted that "Monday's deadly rampage at Virginia Tech sparked a largely one-sided response in the long-running debate over guns." The article continued: "Gun control advocates said the shootings pointed to the need for tougher laws, while supporters of gun rights generally kept their heads down." As evidence, the Times simply reported that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) "added a political note to her statement of sympathy. 'The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby.' " But, in fact, gun rights supporters hardly "kept their heads down." In the aftermath of the mass shooting, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino, and various conservatives reiterated their belief in a "right to bear arms."
For instance, as Salon.com's Tim Grieve noted on the website's War Room weblog, according to an April 16 Associated Press report, McCain said that "the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech does not change his view that the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to carry a weapon." The AP quoted McCain as saying: "We have to look at what happened here, but it doesn't change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don't fall into the hands of bad people. ... I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon. ... Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens."
Similarly, while the Los Angeles Times reported that President Bush "said nothing about the gun control debate," during the April 16 White House press briefing, Perino stated: "As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting" is illegal. She added: "[I]f there are changes to the President's policy we will let you know. But we've had a consistent policy of ensuring that the Justice Department is enforcing all of the gun laws that we have on the books and making sure that they're prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Also, as Media Matters for America noted, on the April 16 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson asked: "So, theoretically, in this lecture hall where all 31 were killed, there could have been someone with a carry permit carrying their gun to shoot the shooter?" Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano replied: "No," adding, "Virginia lets you carry a gun at a gas station or a bank or a stadium, but not on a college campus, where you may protect kids."
Napolitano's and Gibson's comments echo those of right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin, who, citing a September 5, 2006, op-ed written by a Virginia Tech spokesperson, noted on her weblog that the university prohibits handguns. She then quoted a weblog post from "Andrew's Dad," who wrote: "Just imagine if students were armed. We no longer need to imag[in]e what will happen when they are not armed." Malkin also quoted an email from a reader who claimed: "Imagine if sensible CCW [Concealed Carry Weapon] laws allowed people to defend themselves, this tragedy could have been avoided."
In addition, as freelance writer Sonia Smith documented in an April 16 Slate article, several other conservative bloggers used the Virginia Tech shooting to discuss gun laws:
The conservative at Snapped Shot tells those liberals calling for gun control to simmer down, as Virginia Tech had already banned guns on campus. "In short, don't start blaming this on our 'gun culture.' I can assure you that our very liberal colleges have no such thing. This is the action of someone who's clearly got criminal intent, nothing more." Conservative Steve at Hog on Ice blames that gun ban for the high death toll: "This lunatic knew he could shoot until the police arrived. In a sane world, he would only have been able to shoot until a student or university employee produced a firearm. ... The beauty of privately owned guns is that they work while the cops are still across town," he opines.
From the April 17 Los Angeles Times article:
Monday's deadly rampage at Virginia Tech sparked a largely one-sided response in the long-running debate over guns.
Gun control advocates said the shootings pointed to the need for tougher laws, while supporters of gun rights generally kept their heads down.
And leaders of both major political parties expressed sympathy for victims and their families, while avoiding comment on gun control.
Bush, a longtime champion of the right to bear arms, said nothing about the gun control debate.
However, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y), whose husband was among six people killed by a gunman who opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road train in 1993, added a political note to her statement of sympathy. "The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby."
Beyond politics, one reason for the restrained reactions may be the lack of firm information about what happened, including the identity of the gunman or gunmen and how the guns were obtained.
Virginia's gun laws make it easy to buy and own firearms, including handguns, and the state often has been criticized as the source of guns used in crimes in the Washington area and other East Coast cities. But it is not known what role, if any, state laws may have played in the Blacksburg killings.
The National Rifle Assn., the nation's leading gun lobby, expressed its condolences but said, "We will not have further comment until all the facts are known."
Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, sounded an equally cautious note. "I can't say how this will play into the debate until we know how old the shooter was and how he got his guns."