Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech

The report entitled Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech was released in August 2007, four months after the tragic events at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”). On April 16, 2007, a student opened fire in two related incidents on campus that left 32 students and faculty dead and 17 injured ,before turning a gun on himself.

Three days later, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine commissioned a panel of subject matter experts to conduct an independent and thorough review of the events leading up to the shootings; the handling of the incidents by public safety officials, emergency services providers, and the university; and, the services provided to families, survivors, caregivers, and the community in the aftermath. The Virginia Tech Review Panel reviewed the life and mental health history of the gunman; federal and state laws concerning the privacy of health and education records; the perpetrator’s purchase of guns and relevant gun control issues; the shootings and the responses of Virginia Tech leadership, the actions of law enforcement officers, and the work of emergency responders; emergency medical care at Virginia Tech and in cooperating hospitals; the work of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia; and, the services provided for surviving victims and those injured, the families of the victims, members of the university community, and caregivers.

After conducting more than 200 interviews and reviewing thousands of pages of records and relevant documents, the report’s authors made more than 70 recommendations directed to colleges, universities, mental health providers, law enforcement officials, emergency service providers, law makers, and other public officials were made. They include:

  • Virginia’s mental health laws are flawed and services for mental health users are inadequate. Lack of sufficient resources results in gaps in the mental health system including short term crisis stabilization and comprehensive outpatient services.
  • There is widespread confusion about what federal and state privacy laws allow. Also, the federal laws governing records of health care provided in educational settings are not entirely compatible with those governing other health records.
  • Virginia is one of only 22 states that report any information about mental health to a federal database used to conduct background checks on would-be gun purchasers.
  • Some Virginia colleges and universities are uncertain about what they are permitted to do regarding the possession of firearms on campus.
  • State systems for rapidly deploying trained professional staff to help families get information, crisis intervention, and referrals to a wide range of resources did not work.
  • In order to advance public safety and meet public needs, Virginia’s colleges and universities need to work together as a coordinated system of state-supported institutions.