Seeking safety

"Seeking safety" Continued...

Issue: "Rich man, poor man," May 5, 2007

"Gun-free zones are invitations to criminals who want to use guns," Kates told WORLD.

The Utah State Legislature bucked the national norm in 2004, passing a bill that forced the University of Utah to rescind its ban on guns, saying only the state legislature can regulate firearms. The Utah Supreme Court upheld the legislation last September, saying a university cannot create policies contrary to the law.

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hinckner told The Roanoke Times that the school "unequivocally" stands by its policy against weapons on campus. Virginia law already bans concealed weapons in public and private K-12 schools, as well as courtrooms, jails, places of worship during services, and private property with a "no guns" notice. Hinckner said Virginia Tech has the right to enforce a similar "common-sense policy" on campus: "In an academic environment we believe you should be free from fear."

Up close and personal

Two days after the Virginia Tech shootings that claimed 33 lives, three grieving students sat in a tight circle on the campus drill field, holding hands and praying for their bereaved community. A crowd of photographers and cameramen slowly formed around the young women, capturing the painful moment.

At least 14 photographers trained wide-angled lenses inches from the three tear-stained faces. When the girls moved their heads close together for privacy, a television reporter maneuvered a boom microphone into the circle to record the sound.

Meanwhile, Campus Crusade director Jim Highfield moved through the crowd of other small groups that had gathered for the interfaith prayer meeting. As a mass of cameramen and photographers closed in, Highfield repeated through a megaphone: "Ignore the media!"

Ignoring the media has been impossible for beleaguered Virginia Tech students. Satellite trucks crammed parking lots, and reporters waited at every turn to capture the gut-wrenching story.

(Ministry leaders, like Franklin Graham, and church-goers from all over the country showed up as well. Some abruptly approached grieving students, saying: "God loves you and has an awesome plan for your life.")

But while grieving publicly is difficult, pastor Chris Hutchinson of nearby Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church said the church's work will continue when the cameras are gone. "We aren't bothered by the way the media did not notice or appreciate the work that goes on here among students all the time before this tragedy, and we won't be bothered when the attention stops," Hutchinson told WORLD. "But the work will continue. That's the character of our church and that's the character of Blacksburg."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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