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On April 16, 2007, a school shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston Hall and Norris Hall at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Seung-Hui Cho, an undergraduate student at the university and a U.S. resident of South Korean origin, shot 49 people on campus with two semi-automatic pistols (a Glock 19 and a Walther P22), killing 32 and wounding 17. Several other victims were injured jumping from windows to escape Cho. As police stormed Norris Hall to find and arrest Cho, he shot himself in the head with a pistol, and died instantly.:92:78
The massacre is the deadliest mass shooting on a college campus, surpassing Charles Whitman's rampage at the University of Texas in 1966. Although it was at the time the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in U.S. history, it has since been surpassed by two shootings at an Orlando nightclub and an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas.
The attacks received international media coverage and drew widespread criticism of U.S. gun culture. It sparked intense debate about gun violence, gun laws, gaps in the U.S. system for treating mental health issues, the perpetrator's state of mind, the responsibility of college administrations, privacy laws, journalism ethics, and other issues. Television news organizations that aired portions of the killer's multimedia manifesto were criticized by victims' families, Virginia law enforcement officials, and the American Psychiatric Association.
Cho had previously been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. During much of his middle school and high school years, he received therapy and special education support. After graduating from high school, Cho enrolled at Virginia Tech. Because of federal privacy laws, Virginia Tech was unaware of Cho's previous diagnosis or the accommodations he had been granted at school. In 2005, Cho was accused of stalking two female students. After an investigation, a Virginia special justice declared Cho mentally ill and ordered him to attend treatment; however, because he was not institutionalized, he was still allowed to purchase guns. The shooting prompted the state of Virginia to close legal loopholes that had previously allowed individuals adjudicated as mentally unsound to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also led to passage of the only major federal gun control measure in the U.S. since the year 1994. The law strengthening the NICS was signed by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2008.
The Virginia Tech Review Panel, a state-appointed body assigned to review the incident, criticized Virginia Tech administrators for failing to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel's report also reviewed gun laws and pointed out gaps in mental health care as well as privacy laws that left Cho's deteriorating condition in college untreated.:78:2
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