This article is part two of a series of articles focusing on the subject of guns on college campuses. John Woods, a founder of Texas Gun Sense, spoke about his groups’ goals to help prevent gun violence on campus. You can read part one of the interview here.
John Woods was a student at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 when fellow student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and wounded 17 others during two separate attacks about two hours apart before committed suicide. Among those killed was Mr. Woods’ girlfriend, Maxine Turner. Mr. Woods serves as a spokesperson for the family and has directed his attention to advocating for “common sense regulations on firearms”.
In this part of the interview, Mr. Woods discusses in depth the issue of mental health resources on college campuses and what he feels could have been done to prevent Virginia Tech type massacres from occurring.
Amanda Amaya: With regard to mental health on campus, do you feel that colleges do a thorough job of helping students that exhibit mental illness?
John Woods: They do as best they can with limited funding. Mental illness is extremely prevalent in our society, and often manifests for the first time in the college/grad student age group.
AA: With the VT shooting, the shooter was also declared "mentally incompetent" a year before the shooting. But this information was never shared with the Federal background check system. Do you feel that the incident could have been prevented if Virginia had reported records such as these?
JW: God, yes. In fact, bills were filed several times to get that information reported to NICS, but the NRA consistently blocked those bills -- they cited privacy concerns.
I think it would have been significantly harder for someone like Cho to get a gun. But to be a hundred percent certain, I think we needed universal background checks. I used to believe, "Well, this kid was crazy -- no one would sell him a gun at a gun show, or he wouldn't know to go to one." But since then, I've decided that's probably naive.
I do think there needs to be personal responsibility if you sell a gun without a background check. If someone goes and kills someone with a gun I sold them, and I didn't do my due diligence, I should bear some portion of the responsibility for the lives that were shattered.
AA: Do you feel that the shooter could have been stopped if someone in the building had been armed?
JW: First of all, there was a professor who was armed. He was violating campus policy. It didn't help. He locked himself in his office, as Virginia CCW permittees are trained to do.
Regarding mental health services on campus, Mr. Woods describes the situation at Virginia Tech prior to the shootings: “Virginia Tech struggled with funding for programs. They had to cut nonessential services one of these was the counseling center”. He continues ““The counseling situation got better after the shooting, but that was only because volunteers donated their time to help the students”. He concludes, the issue of mental health on campus “is something that is a major problem nationwide.”
In the next part of this interview, Mr. Woods discussed the issue of "campus carry".
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