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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2008, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Students remember Virginia Tech dead
by Iain Mackenzie
Newbeat US reporter, Virginia Tech university

On 16 April 2007, Cho Seung-hui walked into Virginia Tech university and shot dead 27 of his fellow students and five members of staff before killing himself.

The massacre sent shock waves around the States and reignited the debate about gun control. Some students at Virginia Tech are calling for a concealed weapons scheme, while others are against guns in the classroom.

Newsbeat revisits Virginia Tech a year after the shootings to hear both sides of debate.

Virginia Tech memorials
Virginia Tech was the deadliest shooting spree in modern US history

"The weather wasn't like this last year," says Kyle Gochenour, shading his eyes from the sun. "It was snowing that morning."

With its wide college greens and tree-lined paths, the sprawling campus of Virginia Tech is an idyllic location.

Trained, licensed individuals on campus, in classrooms, will add a safety barrier
Kyle Gochenour

Yet 12 months ago, the scene was very different. Students ran screaming from their university buildings. Others had to be carried out, bleeding. For some there was no escape.

Twenty-seven students and five members of staff were killed on 16 April 2007, shot dead by fellow student Cho Seung-hui.

It's a day Kyle will never forget.

"I lost nine people. Classmates, friends, teachers," he said.

"It still hits home every day. I can't go to the memorial. I walk by, but I usually lose it when I go up near it."

Firearm debate

Like Kyle, Virginia Tech's 23,000 students have spent the past year trying to make sense of events.

Among the questions they have been asking, why did no one realize the danger posed by Cho?

The 23-year-old had a history of mental health problems and had run into trouble for stalking and harassment.

The shootings also sparked debate, both on campus and nationwide, about gun control.

Cho Seung-hui
Cho sent a video to US network NBC on the day of the shootings

On the first issue, there is broad agreement. Cho fell through the net. He didn't get the help he should have.

Over the past year, Virginia Tech has invested time and money setting up new mental health services.

Yet on the matter of firearms, there is no agreement. In fact, the university is split down the middle.

Many students are calling for the introduction of a concealed weapons scheme, where designated individuals can carry guns.

In the event of another attack, they argue, a potential killer could be stopped.

'Safety barrier'

Among those supporting the idea is Kyle Gochenour.

"If you have trained, licensed individuals that have gone through the background checks, having those individuals on campus, in classrooms, will add a safety barrier."

Fighting back tears, he tells the story of one his friends.

Guns don't belong in the classroom
Larry Hincker

"Matt La Porte. He was in the Corps Cadet. From the stories I have heard, he attempted to subdue the shooter. Every ounce in my body tells me that if he had a gun Cho wouldn't have done any more," he said.

The campaign is being backed by national group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Handgun ban

Yet the university is adamant there will be no guns allowed at Virginia Tech.

Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations, said: "Our university stand is no different than it was before. Guns don't belong in the classroom. Guns don't belong in dorms and they don't belong on campus.

The more people that have guns, the more likely you are to have this
Ethan Wechtaluk

"We've not changed and we don't plan to deviate."

There is also opposition to the plan from other students.

Ethan Wechtaluk, from Blackford, Virginia, lost several friends in the shootings.

"The argument that people owning guns could prevent things like this, to me, isn't valid," he said.

"The more people that have guns, the more likely you are to have this."

Prior to the shootings there was talk of a legal challenge to the university's handgun ban.

Since Virginia Tech became the name of a tragedy as well as a university, no one seems keen to push the issue of concealed weapons beyond gentle suggestion.

One year on, with emotions still raw, there is little appetite for a fight.

The one thing everyone at Virginia Tech can agree on - now is a time for remembering.

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