Va. Tech. Weapons Dealer Visits Campus

(AP) The online dealer who sold one of two guns used in the Virginia Tech shootings visited the school tonight to support a campaign in favor of concealed weapons on college campuses.

Extra campus police officers were on duty in case students protested the visit from Eric Thompson, but no trouble erupted.

About 60 students listened politely as Thompson spoke. The dealer said people who want to arm themselves should be free to do so.

Ken Stanton of the university's chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus says the visit didn't stir controversy until a school spokesman denounced it.

Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said he found it "terribly offensive" that Thompson would set foot on campus.

The school last week marked the first anniversary of the shootings in which 33 died, including shooter Seung-Hui Cho (sung wee joh).

Cho bought a Walther .22-caliber handgun through Thompson's Internet gun store, which also sold handgun accessories to the man who killed five Northern Illinois University students.

"The organizers appear to be incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims who lost loved ones and to the injured students still recovering from this horrendous tragedy," said the statement issued Hincker.

Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin was injured in the shootings, said it is Thompson's First Amendment right to speak at the school but added: "I think it's rather insensitive of him, though."

Ken Stanton, president of the university's chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, the group advocating weapons on campus, said that he lost a friend in the April 2007 shootings and that it taught him "firsthand the importance of self-protection."

Virginia Tech last week marked the first anniversary of the shootings in a dormitory and classroom building in which 33 died, including shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

Cho bought a Walther .22-caliber handgun through Thompson's Web site, based in Green Bay, Wis. Through another company Web site, Thompson also sold handgun accessories to the man who killed five Northern Illinois University students and himself in February.

Thompson told WBAY-TV in Green Bay this week that "what I'm really hoping to do (during the visit) is just lend a voice. Unfortunately, a set of coincidences and circumstances, I've been in the media, and I think with that I have a special responsibility to help out."

"And this is a case where I think my advocacy here will help change some people's minds. I hope, anyway," Thompson said.

Goddard said he thought the idea of people carrying concealed weapons on a sprawling campus like Virginia Tech's was "absolutely ludicrous."

"It's straight out of the movies," he said. "Bruce Willis can do it because he doesn't have to worry about people shooting back with live ammunition."

Stanton, a Virginia Tech graduate student, said he began receiving complaints about the planned appearance only after Hincker's statement was issued. He said he had never considered carrying a gun until the shootings, in which his friend Jeremy Herbstritt died.

Members of the student group, which claims a membership of 25,000 nationwide and 200 at Virginia Tech, are wearing empty holsters to classes this week to protest laws and policies that restrict concealed weapons on campuses. Thompson said he has helped provide hundreds of holsters on nearly 30 college campuses.


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