Return to Transcripts main page
Virginia Tech Shooter Kills Dozens; Web Site Tracks Islamic Hate Speech
Aired April 16, 2007 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, sitting in for Glenn Beck.
I want to begin tonight with something Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said at a press conference earlier: "Today, the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions."
Sadly, his words couldn`t have been more accurate. We will not have a clear idea of the final death toll or injuries, both physical and emotional, for quite sometime.
But one fact we do know right now: today`s campus shootings in Blacksburg, Virginia, are certainly the most deadly school shootings in U.S. history and likely mark the most deadly shooting rampage in this country.
The investigation is still unfolding, bringing to light more questions than answers. But authorities believe this horrific crime is the work of a lone gunman, the alleged murderer found dead among many of his victims.
Amy Steele is the editor-in-chief of the "Collegiate Times" at Virginia Tech. She was there today.
Amy, first of all, how are you doing?
AMY STEELE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "COLLEGIATE TIMES": I`m holding in there. It`s been a crazy day, but I`m holding in there.
SMERCONISH: The rest of the nation is now seeing film footage of your campus. You know the area where the shootings took place well. Describe it for us, please.
STEELE: The campus has pretty much turned into a ghost town at this point. It was crazy this morning and for a couple of hours after that. But our newsroom was basically -- all the people are off-campus right now.
SMERCONISH: Any history of violence on that campus?
STEELE: No. Not until this year, actually, which is something that we are looking into.
The first day of school this year, there was a prisoner in the local jail that escaped and broke away from the hospital. He killed a security guard at the hospital and the police officer here, which was crazy at the time, because nothing like that had ever happened on campus.
In the past two weeks we had two bomb threats, one April 2 and one this past Friday. And then this happened today.
So Blacksburg has always been known as a very calm town and then for all this to have happened in the past year is just crazy to think.
SMERCONISH: Is there any reason to believe that those incidents that you`ve just described are related to that which occurred today?
STEELE: I don`t think that the one on the first day of school is in any way related to this. But right now, we are investigating to see if the bomb threats are in any way related. We have not found any information yet, and I`m not sure if they are, but we are looking into that right now.
SMERCONISH: Amy, where exactly were you when you heard this news? Did you hear the rat-tat-tat of the gunfire, the way that we`ve all watched it on Headline News all day?
STEELE: No. I actually was at my apartment, which is off-campus, this morning, and one of our reporters called me right after it happened, saying that he heard that he thought there had been a shooting. And telling me that we should probably look into that.
So I drove to campus and contacted our news editors and reporters, to try to get everybody out as quickly as possible. And we were all on campus trying to figure out what was going on.
SMERCONISH: Amy, thank you. And please accept our condolences for your fallen classmates. And perhaps we`ll get a chance to talk to you again later in the hour.
Joining me now is criminal profiler Pat Brown.
Pat, what`s the profile for something like this?
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Michael, we`re going to see it over and over again until our country wakes up and decides to do something about it.
This is somebody who has decided -- and they`re obviously a psychopath, probably from a very young age. But they have been inundated with violent videos, violent, you know -- all these games they`re playing.
And at a certain point, these people decide, hey, you know, life isn`t worth living, and I want to get back at society. So they decide let`s go shoot some fish in a barrel. And where can you get fish in a barrel? School.
Hey, it worked for Columbine. Twelve kids got murdered there. Let me see if I can beat the numbers. And I`ll go down in history as some antihero. And so he goes out and he accomplishes it. Didn`t he? I mean, he`s killed, what, is it 22 now? I mean, that`s absolutely appalling.
SMERCONISH: It`s in excess of 30.
SMERCONISH: When you say society needs to do something about it. No doubt the culture is completely debased in the world in which we live today.
BROWN: It is.
SMERCONISH: But what about protecting the institutions, the schools, the university, the campuses themselves? Have we done enough in that regard?
BROWN: We haven`t -- we haven`t done anything in any regard. There`s a problem -- there`s three issues here. One is that we`re raising children to be violent and we`re refusing to acknowledge that fact.
In other words, we have the Super Bowl. You take advertisers and they`ll spend millions to be 30 seconds on the Super Bowl. And yet we allow -- that works. Why do they spend that money? Because they know they put that 30 seconds out. They`re going to get their product sold.
Yet we ignore the fact that children are being inundated daily, hours and hours and hours of violence in their -- on the computers on the Internet and the movies. We ignore that fact. We just stick our heads in the sand.
SMERCONISH: I have to tell you something. My kids play those computer games, and I`m standing here, and I`m saying, what kind of parent am I?
And Pat, perhaps I should be embarrassed to tell you I spent Saturday afternoon celebrating my son`s 11th birthday at a paintball party, ten kids out there shooting paint ball at one another. Maybe that`s part -- maybe that`s a symptom of the problem.
BROWN: Well, I think we`ve all gotten sucked into it. I think it`s just not really affecting our kids. And maybe we, if we are really great parents, our kids are going to find this amusement. You know, people always say, you know, it`s not the actual thing that we`re doing; it`s what comes behind it. And there`s some truth in that.
But the fact is, if our kids are going to get -- and they`re getting good parenting, what happens with the kids who are getting crappy parenting? They`re sitting alone in their basements, angry at their parents, angry at society, sucking this stuff up.
And at a certain point, they say, I`m just going to go out and take revenge on society. They walk into these institutions, fish in a barrel. There`s no security. And a lot of times they can access weapons even from their own parents, who never get charged with abetting a murderer.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you this. Is that -- is part of the problem that the campus environment, whether it`s a high school, whether it`s Columbine, whether it is Virginia Tech, is itself an emotional pressure cooker? Is that part of the cause of what we see on the campuses in particular?
Because I mean, I don`t want to give ideas to the nut jobs who are out there, but there are plenty of stadiums each and every day that are vulnerable.
BROWN: Well, Michael, I really don`t think so. I think it`s just a fact that it`s so simple. In other words, these are innocent people sitting in a classroom doing nothing, just 30 or 50 people sitting in a little square.
And you can walk in. We don`t allow carry permits in this country pretty much. I mean, we have security guards that don`t even have weapons on them. And so these kids, they can either get a hold of the weapons or they get them from their parents, who are never charged with abetting a murder. They can walk in with tons of weapons and just shoot down everybody and get away with it.
And we just sit there and say, "Gosh, wow, what a surprise." And we`ve been doing this since Columbine, and nobody has ever done anything about it. It`s going to happen over and over.
SMERCONISH: There`s a guest who I believe is coming up a little bit later this hour who`s got great credentials, and he can speak for himself. But I think he`ll be here to offer the view that, frankly, there`s nothing you can do about it.
Don`t turn your life upside down on a school environment, because in the end, if some whack job wants to get into a school environment like the guy at Virginia Tech, they`ll be able to do it. What do you say to that argument?
BROWN: I think he`s one of those people that wants to aid and abet this crap going on. First of all, we can stop pornography on the Net. We can stop violence on the Net. We cam stop violence in our movies. We can require that anybody who owns a weapon, if it`s ever used in the commission of a crime, they are put in jail for murder.
So any of these parents that allow their children access to the weapons, they get put away forever. Let me tell you, they`ll be locking the weapons up.
We can start letting people arm themselves and so when these people walk out, they say, whoa, I really don`t know if the security guard has got a weapon on him or the teacher has a weapon on him. We can do something about it.
We do nothing about it. We just sit there and let it happen over and over again.
SMERCONISH: Maybe in the -- maybe in the aftermath of the whole Imus situation, this is one more reason to take a look at the lyrics of a lot of what people listen to, in hip-hop in particular.
BROWN: Exactly. We`ve allowed -- in other words, we have allowed to become so cruddy as a society. Imus -- I mean, I`ve done Imus` show, but I am appalled by what he said. I`m appalled by -- you know, we`ve had a lot of people out there recently with something.
Mel Gibson. People went to see his movie after he said the garbage he said. I think Mel Gibson should be out of the business completely. You act that way, you`re gone. But we don`t do that. We put them back in there. We support people who act like garbage.
SMERCONISH: And it`s all connected. There was a new movie came out - - I know it didn`t do well at the box office -- with Tarantino a week or so ago. And it`s a bloodbath.
Hey, Pat. Stick around for more about this Virginia Tech tragedy.
BROWN: Will do.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I`m Erica Hill with your Headline Prime newsbreak.
At least 32 people are dead tonight following this country`s deadliest shooting rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech. First this morning, a gunman opened fire, killing two people. Two hours later, more than 30 people were shot in a classroom. That gunman, who did not have any identification, later shot himself.
Students say they didn`t know about the dorm shooting until the second shooting happened about two hours later. University police initially thought that first attack was an isolated incident.
President Bush said the students touch every student in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, our nation grieves WITH those who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers. And we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Stay with Headline News for the latest on that deadly shooting at Virginia Tech.
I`m Erica Hill.
SMERCONISH: Today, Virginia Tech saw the worst school shooting in our nation`s history, possibly the worst school shooting of any kind our country has ever seen.
As of right now, over 30 young men and women are dead or wounded, and it`s likely we won`t know the exact extent of this tragedy for quite some time.
I`m joined once again by criminal profiler Pat Brown and on the telephone by Steve Rogers from New Jersey`s police department for some perspective on how authorities in Virginia may be proceeding.
Lieutenant, it occurs to me that it asks a lot of local law enforcement to respond to have to something like this or something like Columbine.
STEVE ROGERS, NEW JERSEY POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is a worst nightmare scenario for any police department. This is why we have and are beginning to develop -- to develop nationwide active shooter training. Local police departments need to be equipped, and they need to be trained to deal with threats like this.
SMERCONISH: Well, perhaps a naive question, but it makes me wonder, does every local police department have a SWAT team or at least access to a SWAT team?
ROGERS: Well, not every local police department has a SWAT team, but they do have access to SWAT. And what I see and what I`ve seen this morning in Virginia, the police officers there were pretty well equipped. And it looks like they were well trained to deal with this threat. So you know what? One can only commend these officers who went into harm`s way under the circumstances they did.
SMERCONISH: What`s the protocol, Lieutenant Rogers, for handling the crime scene in a circumstance like this in its immediate aftermath?
ROGERS: Well, what they`re going to do is secure that crime scene. They`re going to take dozens and dozens of photographs. They`ll look for forensic evidence and also, how did the suspect die? Was it self- inflicted? Was it a police officer`s shot that took that suspect down? So there`ll be ballistics tests done on the bullet that entered the suspect`s body.
SMERCONISH: Pat Brown, it occurs to me that your expertise is something that we`d like local law enforcement to be acquainted with. Now how do we -- how do we do that moving forward? How do we make them knowledgeable about the type of a profile that could bring about, as the lieutenant mentioned, a worst case scenario?
BROWN: Well, the lieutenant is right that, you know, the police are responding in the proper way. But quite frankly, goody two shoes, it`s too late.
I mean, they`re doing everything they possibly can. They`re going to arrive on the scene. They`re going to try to protect people. They`re going to try to take the shooter down. They`re going to do all the crime scene analysis after the fact.
But it`s not their fault that they cannot get there in time to do anything. Because the fact is, when these people come in and decide they`re going to take everybody out and commit suicide, quite frankly, there`s just no way you can get a police response in time.
So you either have to stop this type of person from being created -- in other words, you have to create -- stop psychopaths from being created and stop giving them a forum in which to go and amuse themselves. We`ve got to arm people in the general public so that when these guys go into a school, they`re not saying, "Wow, I can just go shoot everybody down. And quite frankly, by the time they get the 911 call out and they get some police over here, I`ve killed 30 people."
SMERCONISH: Well, wait a minute. I think you`re speaking my language now when you say we need to arm the general public. Is your thought process that we`d be better served if more individuals, law abiding Americans, were carrying firearms so that they could take down whomever it is that perpetrated these acts?
BROWN: You bet, Michael. I`m one of those people. Yes, I do believe that.
SMERCONISH: OK, well, that makes two of us. And I imagine, Lieutenant Rogers, we may not get a beef out of you on that?
ROGERS: Well, the problem with that is, that, when the police, who are well trained to deal with these situation, enter into a dorm, who`s the shooter? Who`s the killer? Who`s the murderer?
You know, it`s an easy fix to say, well, let`s arm everyone. But we`ve got to be concerned about how many more lives could be lost. These police officers, and I agree with Pat, you know, they`re reacting to a tragic situation. But what they did, what these officers did this morning was no doubt minimize a lot more losses that could have been incurred by this suspect.
SMERCONISH: Lieutenant, I imagine the hardest part of the drill is for law enforcement to arrive on the scene and have, frankly, absolutely no idea what they`ve got on their hands.
ROGERS: Well, the first arriving officers are the most critical officers at the most critical time. You don`t know who the shooter is. You don`t know what`s going on behind closed doors. There`s a lot of panic. There`s a lot of confusion.
So this is where the training kicks in. This is where the officers do remain calm. They set up a command process. It sounds like a slow process, but believe me, well trained officers know what they`re doing and they know how to execute a plan.
SMERCONISH: I imagine that one of the other lessons of a tragedy like this is that there be proactive training for disaster. In other words, schools across the country ought to be preparing for these type of scenarios.
I know that a school in New Jersey recently caused some waves because they created a hypothetical. And in the hypothetical, it was a fundamentalist Christian group. And frankly, I`m not aware of any fundamentalist Christians taking over schools. But that type of preparedness needs to be undertaken.
ROGERS: Well, let me share with you something that the public probably don`t know. The Department of Homeland Security gives funding out for -- to police departments to equip themselves against terrorists, but they will not give the funding that is necessary to respond to situations like we saw this morning.
And so there are police departments saying, "Hey, wait a minute. You know, how are you defining a terrorist?" This morning, a terrorist took over a college dorm and executed over 30 people.
So that`s -- we need to see funding come into local police departments, to equip officers locally to deal with these active shootings immediately.
SMERCONISH: Pat Brown, we don`t want our schools to be encampments, prison-like. There`s a balancing act. I want to send my four kids off to school everyday and have some freedoms and some latitude and at the same time, have them protected. How you strike that balance, I guess, is the issue of the day.
BROWN: It is a big issue, Michael. But you know, I really disagree with the concept that you can possibly -- this is not a terrorist. This is a psychopathic mass murderer. He`s decided to murder everybody he feels like murdering and commit suicide at the end of the day.
This has nothing -- there`s nothing political here. He just wants to kill people. And if you allow this man to walk in and he walks into a classroom and he`s got 30 sitting ducks, 50 sitting ducks in a dorm, he knows not one person is armed. He knows that by the time the police arrive, there is nothing -- you know, he can just kill everybody.
If he thought one person had a gun in there, he might think twice. If the security guards could have guns, if there was any kind of armed anybody. But the fact is, they know nobody has any weapons to fight back.
And we allow these weapons to fall into the hands of young people, because we do not ever prosecute the people who allowed those guns to fall in. If the daddy of this person has guns in his house, and this kid accesses it, I guarantee you, nobody is going to charge Daddy with accessory to murder. They go, too bad.
You know, this is ridiculous. And until we get our heads out of the sand and decide we`re going to stop people from committing crimes like this, we`re just going to see crimes like this keep on and on. And the police do their best, but they`re too late.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you this question, relying on your expertise as a criminal profiler. What was this type of a profile, this sort of an individual doing 50 years ago? In other words, there were folks then who, you know, were motivated to do bad acts, motivated to harm other individuals.
But frankly, as I think about my youth, I don`t have a recollection of an incident like this.
SMERCONISH: So this type of a profile, what did they do then?
BROWN: We have changed. The thing is things are changing, Michael. That`s the whole point. I grew up also. And I don`t even remember a fistfight in my high school.
I mean, people didn`t do things like this because we didn`t have the violence put into -- programmed into our brains, and we didn`t have access to weapons.
But now, we have constant violence programming into our children`s brains. We have kids are becoming psychopaths by this age of 9. And then we`re arming them with tons of weapons and nobody is doing a darned thing about it.
And we keep saying, well, you know, it`s not the weapons that hurt the kids. And it`s not the porn that hurts the kids. It`s not the bombs that hurt the kids. It`s just their upbringing.
Well, their upbringing is crappy, but they`re also getting a lot of crappy inputs. But until we`ve decided to fight back and make our children`s lives decent and stop porn and violence and guns from reaching them, we`re really in a bad way. I mean, we`re just going to see a lot of our children get shot down.
And 30 innocent people have died for one creepy kid. And that`s ridiculous. I`m just really frustrated, because we...
SMERCONISH: We all share your frustration. Thank you, Pat.
Thank you, Lieutenant Rogers.
Up next, in their own words, I`m going to talk to a guy who set up a web site that tracks the hate speech that`s flowing out of the Middle East.
And later, we`ll update this terrible story coming out of Virginia. It`s the worst mass school shooting in U.S. history. I`ll talk to a criminal justice expert about whether we can ever stop these kind of killings.
SMERCONISH: I`ll have more on the Virginia Tech shootings in just a bit.
First, if you`ve watched Glenn`s program at all, you know that we`re at war with Islamic extremism. However, what you might not appreciate is just how much vicious anti-American hatred is being broadcast daily in the Middle East.
We need to stay informed on the realities of this threat. And a new web site, TheirOwnWords.com, aims to do just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their own words embraced death and hatred of democracy. Their own words distort the Koran to justify terrorism. Their own words say they intend to dominate the entire world.
We need to ask ourselves, are we really prepared to do whatever it takes to protect democracy? These are their own words. How seriously should we take them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, "TheirOwnWords.com" founder, Colin Hanna.
Colin, some pretty frightening stuff. What`s your goal?
COLIN HANNA, THEIROWNWORDS.COM:
The goal is awareness and education, Michael. It`s very important that the American public understand just what`s being said about us by these extremists because, ultimately, I think the cure for this problem has to come from within Islam.
And that comes about when people are made aware of what hateful things are being said in the name of Allah, in this name of religion, so that the vast majority of reasonable Muslims will rise up and reject that message.
SMERCONISH: What was impressive to me about your web site is that there`s -- there`s no spin, there`s no hyperbole. It`s just here`s what they`re saying, which begs the question for me, are these fringe players? Did you go out there and look for some fringe individuals? Or do you believe that they are mainstream within certain sects of Islam?
HANNA: Well, I guess when you say mainstream within certain sects, you`ve hit it exactly right.
We have over 1,400 clips available to us, through -- through a site in -- called the Middle East Media Research Institute. And we have about 15 of them up on the web site. And they span a wide range.
So I don`t think that they`re selective or fringe players at all. I think they are representative of a segment. But I wouldn`t want to say that that segment represents the majority of Islam, not by a long shot. In fact, we have a part of the web site called "Islam is not the enemy."
SMERCONISH: You know that some folks are going to say that this is all intended to stoke up the country to invade -- I don`t know, maybe Iran. And Ahmadinejad is in that commercial. To those critics, what do you say?
HANNA: I say that we`re not trying to raise fear at all. We`re trying to raise awareness. But there are those out there who are absolutely fear mongering, and we simply need to be made aware of them. Otherwise, our policy decisions, Michael, won`t be made on the basis of informed, educated opinions. They`ll be based on ignorance, and that`s no basis for policy.
SMERCONISH: Final question, how is TheirOwnWords.com funded?
HANNA: Entirely by private donations through our parent organization, Let Freedom Ring. There is no corporate money. There are no secret associations or anything like this. That is -- it is grass roots support from individual Americans.
SMERCONISH: Colin Hanna, thank you.
I encourage people to check out TheirOwnWords.com.
Up next, the "Real Story" on today`s terrible tragedy in Virginia. Can we ever expect to stop these shootings? I`ll have some answers.
SMERCONISH: In a case like today`s deadly shooting at Virginia Tech, there are far more questions than answers. Who was the shooter? And what could possibly be the motivation for such a vicious rampage? Those are just the beginning.
However, no matter what the answers, we immediately have to ask: How can we prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again? Earlier today, President Bush spoke to the nation about the shootings, calling them "horrific."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today. The exact toll has not been yet confirmed, but it appears that more than 30 people were killed and many more were wounded.
I`ve spoken within Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who had been devastated by in this terrible tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining us once again, criminal profiler Pat Brown. Also, James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at the Northeastern University, and author of "The Will to Kill" and "Extreme Killing."
Professor, I recall interviewing you, sir, on my radio program after that tragic shooting in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. And I don`t want to put words in your mouth, but you telling me something to the effect of, "There`s really not much we can do about an incident like this."
First of all, have I properly characterized your view?
JAMES ALAN FOX, AUTHOR, "THE WILL TO KILL": Probably, and certainly in terms of security. And in a college campus, we can do even less than nothing. This is a wide open space, acre after acre at Virginia Tech. And if we tried to build a wall around the campus, certainly if someone was there, because they were a student, they could be there anyway.
If we made a campus like a fortress, no one would want to go there. These are rare events. And we can`t turn our college campuses into armed camps. It`s just the sad price that we pay for our freedom.
SMERCONISH: What`s the relative danger of this sort of an incident? And I guess the relative danger has increased as of today. This is the worst ever. But historically speaking, what`s the relative danger that you face on a college dorm or in a school with something like happening versus other catastrophes that are out there in life?
FOX: Very tiny. The chance of your being killed at a public school or even a college campus is far less than your chance of being killed at a shopping mall, at a restaurant, in your own neighborhood, perhaps even in your own home. These are sad events, rare events, though, but sad. There`s not much we can do to prevent them, and there`s certainly nothing we can do to predict them.
SMERCONISH: But folks who are parents like me, four kids at home, you know, we hear this and we say, "Well, surely, there`s something we can do. Please, don`t send my kids off to school without some form of protection being implemented."
FOX: Well, there`s reasonable precautions that many schools do take. If they`re in a high-crime area, they may have metal detectors, for example. But if you think a metal detector is going to prevent a bloodbath, you`re wrong. There are many ways that shooters can get guns into a school despite metal detectors. Or they can do like two young children did in Arkansas, and they just pull the fire alarm, and they shot their victims when they came out to the black top.
SMERCONISH: Pat Brown, does this make sense to you?
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, I agree with Dr. Fox that, after the fact, you can`t do much about it. But I think that, if we`re going to ignore the fact that we are creating psychopathic children and we can`t do anything about that, that`s ludicrous. I mean, we have to look at our society. We have to say, is this a society what we want to have today?
When I was raising my children, I remember taking my daughter, 5 years old, to my public school, planning to send my child there. I spent three hours watching the school. And they told me then where I could take my child to sign her up. And I remember leaving that school, holding my little daughter by the hand, and saying, "They`re never going to get you. They`re never going to get you." I home schooled all three of my children.
Why? Because I said, you know, my kids haven`t committed a crime. I don`t see why they should be a juvenile detention system so soon. This is how bad the school was in my neighborhood. It was a disrespectful environment. And as long as parents allow their children to grow up in a disrespectful environment, with violent videos, violent porn, and all this kind of garbage, they allow the children to go into institutions that are disrespectful and violent, we cannot expect some children in those environments not to become violent predators. And that`s what we`re raising up. If we`re going to say we`re not going to do anything about that, we`re idiots.
FOX: You can home school your kids. And if you`re concerned about a college campus, you can take a course online.
BROWN: What a bummer though, isn`t it? That`s ridiculous. We shouldn`t have to do that, and most people can`t.
FOX: On college, schools, sure. If you really want to understand why these shootings happen where they happen, you look at the size of the schools, you look at the kind of discipline system they have, where kids are treated with disrespect by the administration. All the same is, you cannot predict who the next school shooter will be by trying to do a profile of the kids.
SMERCONISH: Professor, if I could just pursue that with you for a moment, because you have far more expertise than I. And Pat Brown is a profiler. But it seems to me that the incidents, they run the gamut. They`re in urban environments. They`re in suburban environments. They`re on the West Coast. They`re in the Middle America. They`re on the East Coast. What common denominators do you see?
FOX: Well, if you`re talking about the high school-type of episodes, actually they`re far more common -- these large shootings, they`re in suburban and rural schools, generally by white kids who mimic and idolize other rural and suburban high school kids who have gone on these rampages. There are very few actually that have happened in big, urban schools, perhaps because they do have different kinds of security.
But we`re talking about an epidemic -- not an epidemic here, but we are talking about a contagion effect, where kids out there -- most kids identify with the victims. They pray everyday that a Columbine or a Virginia Tech will not happen in their school, but there`s a few kids who identify with the power of the perpetrators. They would like to be just like them and see them as heroes. I worry...
SMERCONISH: This is this frightening part, that some young person watching this broadcast or a broadcast like this, Pat Brown, and deciding, "Boy, I`d like to be the one on TV." Now, how do you identify from a profiling standpoint that mindset?
BROWN: Well, the problem is, Michael, that you can identify them. A lot of people -- these kids are not unknown to other children. Other teenagers and young adults are saying, yes, that guy running around in the trench coat talking about killing people, he`s been playing that online Columbine game where you shoot all your classmates down. They`re recognized.
But the problem is, you can`t stop them, you know, from doing it. So the problem we have to get to is that, why do we permit the kind of atmosphere that encourages? Because everybody runs from a fantasy. In other words, we all learn in our lives, if we`re in an atmosphere where we learn good and healthy things, we`ll learn good and healthy things. If we`re in an atmosphere which teaches us nothing but hatred and mayhem and violence, we`re going to learn that.
And we have to get to the point in this country where we say, look, our children are important enough to us that we crack down on this garbage out there and we do not keep perpetrating this stuff. Yes, it`s nice if you have great parents who can allow their kids to play a few violent video games, but you had to have wonderful parenting so it doesn`t effect them, but the fact is, the rest of those children are out there, and there are a lot of kids who don`t have good parents out there who are watching this garbage in their basement and have access to weapons. And so we can`t say, just because our kids get away with turning out healthy, that we should perpetrate this on the rest of society.
SMERCONISH: Professor, we have just a minute left. And I recall, sir, you telling me, in the aftermath of the Amish school shooting, that we`d be better served channeling our kids toward getting kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles. First of all, do you remember saying that?
FOX: Yes, they have a much greater chance of that, of being killed on a bicycle.
SMERCONISH: I want you to just take our final moment. Do you still feel that way, even in the aftermath of what is now...
FOX: Because, statistically, there are many risks that our kids face everyday that we can prevent, like accidents on bicycles. There should be a national bicycle helmet law, for example, hundreds of kids every year.
But let me talk about this episode. If you really want to reduce the chances of this going to happen, stop talking about this being a record. I`ve heard, every 10 minutes, this is the largest, this is the biggest -- we love records in America...
FOX: ... and they`re to be broken.
SMERCONISH: Yes, what a frightening thought.
Pat, James, thank you both very much. Up next, what are the students who survived today`s shootings going through? I`ll try to find some answers. Don`t go away now.
SMERCONISH: We`re back with more on the horrific Virginia Tech shootings. More than 30 people were gunned down on campus in what government officials are calling the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. Earlier today, the president of Virginia Tech held a press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES STEGER, VIRGINIA TECH PRESIDENT: I`m really at a loss for words to explain or to understand the carnage that has visited our campus. I know no other way to speak about this than to tell you what we know. And let me do that now.
It is now confirmed that we have 31 deaths from the Norris Hall, including the gunman; 15 other victims are being treated at local hospitals in the Roanoke and New River valleys. There are two confirmed deaths from the shooting in Ambler Johnston dormitory, in addition to the 31 at Norris Hall.
We have not confirmed the identity of the gunman, because he carried no identification on his person, and we are in the process of attempting that identification.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: It`s a tragedy no doubt for everyone at Virginia Tech University. And it begs the question, what kind of effect is this having on the students at Virginia Tech and around the country?
Joining me now, Avery Friedman, a law professor who`s taught at over 24 universities across the United States.
Avery, I`ve got four young kids at home, three of them young sons. And I`m wondering first, what do I tell them when they watch this news footage?
AVERY FRIEDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR: Michael, it`s going to be very difficult for you to explain this to anyone, whether they`re little ones or even in college. The ripple effect of Blacksburg will resonate throughout this nation, believe me, from Palo Alto to Durham, from Austin to Boston, because -- and I think the president actually said it earlier, Michael. He talked about the university -- I mean, the president of the United States - - as a sanctuary. And that sanctuary has been obliterated. And there is no way that you can rationally explain to the children, Michael, what really happened because of the behavior of a madman.
SMERCONISH: In your travels at 24 different universities across the country, did you see any signs that solitude of a college campus was about to be invaded?
FRIEDMAN: There was no way. I mean, the whole essence, the whole mission of the university experience is one of tranquility. I mean, that Phi Beta Kappa key wouldn`t be hanging on your vest there if you wouldn`t have gone to school in an environment that promoted, that advanced free thought, intellectual experimentation.
And the reality is that that`s what universities do. So the ripple effect of Blacksburg, beyond the obvious of the inextricable relationship between trying to learn and being concerned about fear now, will last for God knows how long in this country.
SMERCONISH: You know, I`m listening to you two times now refer to Blacksburg, and I`m saying to myself, it`s a permanent part of the lexicon of American language and history, and not for good reason, but get used to it, in the same sense that Columbine is a word that`s now associated with such a tragic event.
FRIEDMAN: That`s exactly right. And you know what? April 16th will also remain in our minds, because it was a day like any other day, and now we have lost the bright eyes and bright minds of probably nearly three dozen young people. And it is unprecedented in an open society.
In fact, remember, Michael, that the president of Virginia Tech talked about, you know, in response to a question, what do we do? In an open society and an open campus, there is very little that can be done, because by virtue of being open, we want universities to be open. We want accessibility. And so you`re going to really have to talk to the security people to find out what can be done. I see, as one who teaches, very little opportunity to stop the behavior of people like this.
SMERCONISH: And I guess it`s a question for the experts, meaning law enforcement and the profilers among us, but what is it about the school environment that makes it such magnet for this type of an incident or, Avery, in my backyard, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that god-awful shooting at an Amish schoolhouse, or in Columbine. And, you know, it`s everywhere. It`s across the country. It`s mostly suburban environments, but there`s got to be something driving this.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know what? I`m going to disagree with that, Michael. My fear is that we will take an incident -- which, again, involved likely a loner, a madman, who created the carnage. And I think that the worst thing that can happen in institutions of higher learning is to clamp down and frighten and at least have an environment of fear where it inhibits, it prohibits the thought that we can educate our young people, and they are unencumbered with fear and the sort of violence that we saw today. So I`m not really sure that it`s endemic of anything; we`d like to think that it`s nothing more than isolated.
SMERCONISH: You know, Avery, we had a guest on earlier tonight with some expertise in studying these school shootings who wanted to explain that the risk of being injured or being victim, meaning being killed in a school environment, is still minuscule. And he said time would be better spent focusing on things like bicycle helmets, but that`s a hard message for the country to swallow on a night like tonight, because we all feel like we should be doing something. Surely there`s a way we can address this.
FRIEDMAN: Well, the only thing I think we can do is to be aware of this possibility, but, again, to clamp down and make security and safety preeminent in institutions of higher learning, we destroy the crucible of experimentation, intellectual experimentation. We can`t really do that or we actually diminish the mission of higher education in America.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I hear you. I`m left wondering, you know, there have always been bad seeds among us. A hundred years ago, there were bad seeds, but they didn`t take out their frustrations and energies in this fashion. What were they doing then? I don`t know. To be continued, because more unknown than known.
Hey, Avery, thank you very much. Really appreciate you being here.
That does it for us this evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, sitting in for Glenn Beck. Good night.