The TriData Corporation specializes in report writing—they knew exactly what they were doing. TriData may have been following instructions, or did not want to be too specific and alienate the state of Virginia, a state that might hire them again.
Then there are the excuses. While you are on pages 81-82 of the report checking Roy’s quote, look at the section on page 82 entitled “Decision Not To Cancel Classes or Lock Down:”
“… Most police chiefs consulted in this review believe that a lockdown was not feasible.”
This statement is clearly intended to make excuses for a bad decision not to act. My questions are how many police chiefs were asked, and how many said the school should be locked down. This assertion that police chiefs consulted “believed a lockdown was not possible” clearly indicates the police chiefs were cherry picked to ensure responses favorable to the school’s inaction. In my talks with campus security representatives from colleges and universities, 100% said the school should have been locked down. The sentence also runs counter to the school’s own past practices—do I have to cite the Morva incident again? In that case, the school didn’t believe the killer was on the campus, yet it locked down.
On the next page (83) the excuses continue: “In the Morva incident, when the school was closed, it took over an hour and half for traffic to clear despite trying to stage the evacuation.” An hour and a half is a small price to pay to save 30 lives.
The paragraphs on law enforcement records are especially disturbing.
On pages 63 and 64 your will find, “Law enforcement agencies must disclose certain information to anyone who requests it. They must disclose basic information about felony crimes: the date, location, general description of the crime, and name of the investigating officer. Law enforcement agencies also have to release the name and address of anyone arrested and charged with any type of crime. All records about non-criminal incidents are available upon request. When they disclose non-criminal incident records, law enforcement agencies must withhold personally-identifying information such as names, addresses, and social security numbers.
“ … Most of the detailed information about criminal activity is contained in law enforcement investigative files. Under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep these records confidential. The law also gives agencies the discretion to release the records. However, law enforcement agencies across the state typically have a policy against disclosing such records.”
Many actions may be legal, such as withholding vital information in the nation’s worst school shooting, but to do so is morally and ethically repugnant. The panel should have made that point. Furthermore, the police, in order to remove any suspicion that they did not do their job in connection with Cho’s purchase of weapons, should have willingly released all documents.
Chapter VI of the Addendum, “Gun Purchases And Campus Policies” is important and unfortunately, it is also a disappointment. Perhaps nowhere else in the report is it as evident as it is on these pages that the panel members did not want to address critically sensitive issues.
Please take a look at page 71—“In investigating the role firearms played in the events of April 16, 2007, the panel encountered strong feelings and heated debate from the public. The panel’s investigation focused on two areas: Cho’s purchase of firearms and ammunition, and campus policies toward firearms. The panel recognized the deep divisions in American society regarding the ready availability of rapid fire weapons and high capacity magazines, but this issue was beyond the scope of this review.” This borders on stating the obvious; how does it help? This paragraph should be dropped.
For example, on page 71 you will find, “Cho was not legally authorized to purchase his firearms, but was easily able to do so. Gun purchasers in Virginia must qualify to buy a firearm under both federal and state law. Federal law disqualified Cho from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The federal Gun Control Act, originally passed in 1968, prohibits gun purchases by anyone who has ‘been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.’ Federal regulations interpreting the act define ‘adjudicated as a mental defective’ as ‘(a) determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of … mental illness…is a danger to himself or to others.’ Cho was found to be a danger to himself by a special justice of the Montgomery County General District Court on December 14, 2005. Therefore, under federal law, Cho could not purchase a firearm.
“The legal status of Cho’s gun purchase under Virginia law is less clear. Like federal law, Virginia law also prohibits persons who have been adjudicated incompetent or committed to mental institutions from purchasing firearms. However, Virginia law defines the terms differently. It defines incompetency by referring to the section of Virginia Code for declaring a person incapable of caring for himself or herself. It does not specify that a person who had been found to be a danger to self or others is ‘incompetent.’ Because he had not been declared unable to care for himself, it does not appear that Cho was disqualified under this provision of Virginia law.” The report should have done a better job of reconciling Cho’s legal status to buy a gun. First the report says “under federal law, Cho could not have purchased firearms.” Then it implies that there are exceptions under Virginia law. When you read the following, perhaps the reason for this lack of clarity becomes clearer.
On page 72 the issue of whether Cho should have been able to buy a gun is blurred. “This uncertainty in Virginia law carries over into the system for conducting a firearms background check. In general, nationally, before purchasing a gun from a dealer a person must go through a background check. A government agency (which government agency?) runs the name of the potential buyer through the databases of people who are disqualified from purchasing guns. If the potential purchaser is in the databases, the transaction is stopped. If not, the dealer is instructed to proceed with the sale. The agency performing the check varies by state. Some states rely on the federal government to conduct the checks. In other states, such as Virginia, the state conducts the check of both federal and state databases. In Virginia the task is given to the state police.” Did the police not do their job? The report never even attempts to address that point.
Again, on page 72—“In Virginia, the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE), a division of the state police is tasked with gathering criminal records and other court information that is used for the background checks. Information on mental health commitments orders ‘for involuntary admission to a facility’ is supposed to be sent to the CCRE by the court clerk (Was this done?) who must send all copies of the orders along with a copy of form SP 237 that provides basic information about the person who is the subject of the court order. (Was this done?) As currently drafted, the law only requires a clerk to certify a form and does not specify who should complete the form. Because of the lack of clarity in some jurisdictions (Which jurisdictions—the one where Cho bought his firearms?) it was reported to the panel that clerks in some jurisdictions do not send the information unless they receive a completed form. Recommendations to improve this aspect of the law were given in Chapter IV.”
The lack of clarity continues on page 73, “The state police did not permit the panel to view copies of the forms in their investigation but indicated that Cho answered “no” to this question (Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective, which includes having been adjudicated incompetent to manage your own affairs?) or have you ever been committed to a mental institution? It is impossible to know whether Cho understood the proper response was “yes” and whether his answers were mistakes or deliberate falsifications. In any event, the fact remains that Cho, a person disqualified from purchasing firearms, was readily able to obtain them.”
Then on page 74 the reader is told, “Federal law prohibited Cho from purchasing ammunition.” So, was the law broken? If so, why was no one held accountable?
The Key Findings on gun ownership and gun rights are weak and clearly represent the timidity of the panel when confronting a politically sensitive issue: gun ownership and guns rights. Indeed, the Key Findings are so weak as to be meaningless. (To be continued)