But this killing spree came to an abrupt halt. The gunman was subdued. And was hauled off to jail. Further loss of life was prevented. The death toll may have reached 32 but was held to 3. Tragic to be sure, but nothing like the carnage that took place on the Virginia Tech campus last Monday.
At the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia (just 95 miles southwest of Virginia Tech) on January 16, 2002, a mentally disturbed Peter Odighizuwa was dragged to the ground and held by three heroic students before he could wreak more devastation on the local populace.
Oh, another detail. The reason Odighizuwa abruptly ceased his murder spree and went to the ground in submission - two of those who were confronting him had guns of their own trained on him and they made it known that he was the next to die.
The students were armed.
The details, as told to columnist Larry Elder at the time by one of those who brought the wanton destruction to an abrupt end:
A campus shooting. One of many. Too many. But the death toll in this one, perhaps, wasn't as bad as it could have been. The outcome certainly wasn't as horrific as that which our neighbors in Blacksburg are trying to cope with today. Because a few students at the Appalachian School of Law (!) decided to not be victims. They had armed themselves. They saved lives.
"We were located in the classrooms just across from where the first professor was shot. We heard the first three shots. At the time, we didn't really know that it was gunfire. Just a few seconds later, we heard the next three shots, followed by some screams. Another student and I went into the hallway. We ran into a professor and he said that Peter [the gunman] was in the building and that he was shooting. So I ran back to the classroom and, what students were left, I said you all need to get out – there's a shooter in the building.
"We exited out the back stairwell of our building. As I exited, that day I was running a little late, so I did park in a faculty parking spot, which put my vehicle between me and the shooter. We saw him in the front yard there. I stopped at my vehicle and got my handgun out.
"As we approached Peter, I started giving him a lot of verbal commands. ... I told him to drop his weapon, to get on the ground. ... His back was to us, and once he turned around and saw that I had a weapon, he laid his weapon down and stuck his hands in the air. At that time we approached him, and there was somewhat of a struggle, but we took him to the ground and handcuffed him until the authorities got there." (source) (my emphasis)
At Virginia Tech? The only thing that prevented more butchery was the murderer deciding he'd had his fill, having killed 32 people, and blowing his own brains out.
Our politicians are turning their attention, now that the funerals and memorial services are winding down, to fine-tuning our layers upon layers of gun laws. They're befuddled by some loophole that exists, a discrepancy between federal law and state law regarding how crazy a person has to be before he's allowed to carry a loaded, multi-round, semi-automatic, high-power, high velocity, high-impact, devastatingly destructive firearm. Crazy enough to be considered deranged? Or even more crazy, enough to be sent to a shrink for psychiatric treatment. Such the dilemma.
They'll figure it out though, I'm sure.
And we will be the safer for it, you bet. At least until the next madman goes on a rampage, and scythes through another swath of guiltless humanity. Expect then, once again, for our leaders to go through that process of legislative review and policy tweaking. It's what they do. It's the only thing they know to do.
You have a say in all this, you know. Regardless what the politicians end up doing, you have a right, actually an obligation to yourself and to those you hold dear - to the entire civilized world - to decide whether or not you are going to be a victim. Or if you are going to be prepared, when that psychopath bursts through your door, to defend yourself with whatever means are necessary.
Tracy Bridges made that choice. And he and countless others who were on the law school campus that day in January 2002 live to tell the tale.