Media reacts to Cho
Behind some of the plaints of Virginia Tech staff that nothing could be done about Cho, you can hear the undercurrent: Who were we to judge? Of course, if he had occasionally uttered racial slurs rather than frightening those around him with bizarre behavior, the full apparatus of administrative power at Virginia Tech would have been brought down on him.
But Virginia Tech also had to cope with an extremely strict state law that requires that someone represent an "imminent danger" to himself or others before he can be compelled to seek treatment. ...
There is, of course, a balance to be struck between civil liberties and treating the mentally ill. But that balance is now badly off-kilter. Cho Seung-Hui was basically abandoned to his private mental hell at Virginia Tech. While he hatched his lunatic and hateful plot, everyone tried to ignore the scary guy in class behind the sunglasses.
- Rich Lowry, editor of National Review
Cho became by any person's reckoning a danger not only to himself but to others, although his future behavior was hard to predict. Because of that unpredictability, the law in California and elsewhere should allow involuntary detention based on current actions and past history of mental illness.
No one wants anyone held involuntarily without reason. No one wants anyone housed in Dickensian facilities. There can be, however, times when one person's continued liberty collides with the public's safety. This week's shooting spree was such a time.
- San Diego Union Tribune
But when you face a decision about a human life that is crumbling before your eyes, and the law reduces the complexities of a malfunctioning mind -- or, if you prefer, a lost soul -- to a printed checklist ("Alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and treatment . . . were deemed suitable," says choice "A" on Virginia's Form DMH 1006), it's time to treat the law as it treats people in pain: dismissively.
- Marc Fisher, Washington Post
Common sense and human decency also would have dictated some mandated treatment for the tormented Mr. Cho. But the law put that out of reach, as well. And here we are.
This situation is an understandable overreaction to abuses of the past, when the mentally ill were confined too often and too long. But it's time for the pendulum to swing back to a more sensible middle.
That's slowly happening.
- Steve Blow, Dallas Morning News