Va Tech: How Pols and Lobbies Play the Tragedy
Immediately when tragedy strikes, the nation's most finely-tuned industry--the great American publicity machine--springs into action.
Here's a look inside a reporter's in-box in the first hours after the Virginia Tech shootings:
A pro-gun group called opencarry.org blasted Virginia Tech administrators for opposing bills in the Richmond legislature that would have erased rules banning students from carrying guns on college campuses: "It's not illegal in Virginia for 21 year old+ college students and staff holding concealed handgun permits to carry concealed handguns to class; but college "rules" have long threatened students and staff with expulsion or firing if they legally carry a gun on campus. And for the last two years, Virginia Tech and other VA college bureaucrats have successfully lobbied the VA General Assembly by opposing & killing bills...to follow the lead of Utah and nullify these dangerous college rules."
Gun advocates were even quicker and more aggressive than gun control groups to jump onto the tragedy. Larry Pratt, the northern Virginia man who leads the Gun Owners of America, offered himself up for TV and print interviews, noting that he was prepared to appear on talk shows to say this:
"When will we learn that being defenseless is a bad defense? All the school shootings that have ended abruptly in the last ten years were stopped because a law-abiding citizen -- a potential victim -- had a gun. The latest school shooting at Virginia Tech demands an immediate end to the gun-free zone law which leaves the nation's schools at the mercy of madmen."
Politicians and even ex-office holders instantly served up statements of sympathy and concern that said nothing but functioned only to get the pols' names out there. Even former Senator George Allen sent out a statement. Some excerpts:
"As parents of a college student in Virginia, Susan and I ache for the heart-broken families and friends who have lost loved ones today at Virginia Tech due to this heinous, despicable mayhem. Our prayers are with them. As many of us know, Virginia Tech is not just a school, it is close and caring community. Susan and I will join them and the rest of Virginia as we pray for the lives we've lost today and for the recovery of the students who survived this senseless, terrible tragedy."
Virginia Senator Jim Webb's office even sent out an MP3 of his statement on the floor of the Senate expressing his sympathies for the victims.
Universities across the region and nation put out word that they were prepared for all emergencies and that they--perhaps in contrast to Virginia Tech--had well-oiled plans to inform students in the event of any disaster. College presidents joined politicians in issuing statements; for example, here's what came from George Washington University prez Stephen Joel Trachtenberg:
"No words can describe our heartfelt sorrow and sympathies in response to the unconscionable tragedy at Virginia Tech. This incident reminds us all that senseless violence can occur anytime, anyplace. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of the victims as well as to the entire Virginia Tech community."
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