Shock, Sorrow, Prayers and Questions

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Groups and politicians on both sides of the Second Amendment debate have issued statements on the mass murder at Virginia Tech, but with details still sketchy, the anticipated debate on gun control has not yet erupted.

A gunman (according to early -- and erroneous -- reports, he was a 24-year-old Chinese exchange student in the U.S. on a student visa) shot and killed two students in a Virginia Tech dormitory Monday morning, then about two hours later killed 30 more people in a campus classroom building. (The gunman turned out to be a 23-year-old student from Centreville, Va., who came to this country from South Korea as a child.)

As of Tuesday morning, police were still trying to confirm that the same gunman was involved in the separate shooting incidents. The names of victims -- and updates on the 12 people still hospitalized -- were expected later Tuesday.

Reports say the shooter used two 9mm pistols and was carrying several fully loaded magazines. He apparently killed himself as police moved in.

Police and university officials treated the first shooting in the Virginia Tech dormitory as an isolated incident, a decision that many people are criticizing in hindsight. They said they thought the gunman had fled the campus.

But questions swirl about the timeline: Police responded to the first deadly shooting in the dormitory at 7:15 a.m., but it wasn't until 9:26 a.m. that the university sent an email telling students about it.

The second shooting was reported at 9:30 a.m., and the school issued a second email at 9:50 warning everyone, "A gunman is loose on campus" and to take cover. A third email at 10:16 a.m. announced the cancelation of all classes; and a fourth email at 10:52 a.m. warned of "a multiple shooting with multiple victims" in Norris Hall.

At 12:15 p.m., University president Charles Steiger and campus police chief Wendell Flinchum announced that more than 20 people had been killed.


The Brady Campaign, a leading gun control group, expressed sympathy for the victims' families and noted that details about the shooting are still coming in, including questions about how and where the shooter got his guns.

"It is well known, however, how easy it is for an individual to get powerful weapons in our country," said Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke.

"Eight years ago this week, the young people in Littleton, Colorado suffered a horrible attack at Columbine High School, and almost exactly six months ago, five young people were killed at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. Since these killings, we've done nothing as a country to end gun violence in our schools and communities. If anything, we've made it easier to access powerful weapons," Helmke said in a statement on the group's website.

"We have now seen another horrible tragedy that will never be forgotten. It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur."

A statement on the The National Rifle Association's website said the NRA "joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech University and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

"We will not have further comment until all the facts are known."

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia called the shooting an "incomprehensible act of violence," and a "senseless tragedy." Warner also called Virginia Tech "an exemplary institution of higher learning," promising that the "tradition will carry on."

Sen. James Webb of Virginia said he was "truly saddened" by the "senseless act." "My office has been in communication with the Governor's office and officials at Virginia Tech to offer any assistance," Webb said in a brief message on his website.

Various presidential hopefuls carried "shocked and saddened" type messages on their websites.

"As a parent, I am filled with sorrow for the mothers and fathers and loved ones struggling with the sudden, unbearable news of lost son or daughter, friend or family member," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who has advocated gun control, cancelled his campaign appearance and issued a statement calling Monday a "day of national tragedy" and a time for Americans to "stand together as a country to mourn those who lost their lives."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a statement calling the shooting a "horrific act of cruelty," and he was later quoted by the Associated Press as defending the Second Amendment:

"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," McCain said Monday in response to a question.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying, "This unspeakable crime has stunned our nation," and he asked Americans to remember victims and families in their prayers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the tragedy "breaks our hearts and shakes us to our very cores. We pray for those who were lost and for the speedy recovery of the wounded. And we pray that America can find the strength to overcome our grief and outrage as we face this tragedy together."

Various interest groups also weighed in.

The American Decency Association issued a statement saying it was grieving for the loss of life at Virginia Tech: "May God use this needless destruction of precious life to draw us to see our great need for Him in these difficult days of unrest and spiritual decline," the group said.

The Family Research Council also said it was praying for students:
"It is in times like these that we should turn to our faith for reassurance," FRC P. II Corinthians 1:3-5 reminds us, 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.'"

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