Group recalls Va. Tech killings

People dressed in black lay on the ground for three minutes Wednesday at Marion Square in Charleston to protest the easy availability of handguns in the United States.

Some wore their maroon Virginia Tech T-shirts. Most wore black. Many of them stood, but more were lying on their backs.

Young and old, Hokies and not, a crowd of more than 40 gathered near the Marion Square fountain Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the campus shootings that killed 32 people.

"Handguns are used to kill people — not birds." So said the homemade protest sign of Walter Foulke, 69, a part-time Charleston resident from Philadelphia. "So many people are killed with handguns. It's just frightening."

He said he understood why people want handguns for self-defense but advocated better gun-control laws. "More and more people are just totally fed up. To not have regulation of one of the most dangerous instruments, it just doesn't make sense," he said.

The event marked the day gunman Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally disturbed student, killed 32 people and wounded two dozen others at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, before committing suicide.

Former Virginia Tech students at the ceremony declined comment. One could be seen crying afterward. A current student, Paul Jarrett of Charleston, said in an e-mail from Blacksburg, "God has a plan for everything. I think we all lose sight of that sometimes, but when horrendous things happen, believing that everything ultimately has a purpose gives you the peace to mourn, and the motivation to get back up again and continue."

Protest Easy Guns sponsored 80 such events in 36 states. "This is not a protest for gun control but for responsible gun ownership," local organizer Sallie Duell said. The protestors lay on the ground for three minutes, which is the time it takes to buy a handgun in the United States, she said.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or pfindlay@postandcourier.com.