Washingtonpost.com asked prominent think tanks which public policies failed and what can be improved in the wake of the the Virginia Tech shootings.
Resident Fellow Theodore Frank
Today, however, we have a legal system that gives entrepreneurial lawyers the incentive to find others than Cho to blame--but the deepest pockets, rather than the most culpable. This can lead to absurd results: A New York jury held that terrorists who exploded a truck bomb in the World Trade Center in 1993 were only 32 percent responsible, but that the landlord was 68 percent responsible for the losses from that crime.
We can expect the same blame-shifting over this week's tragedy. With 20/20 hindsight, some will blame Virginia Tech for not anticipating precisely where a spree killer would be; others will seek to hold gun sellers or video-game makers liable. Millions of dollars will be spent on lawyers and perhaps even extortionate settlements.
But ironically, that same legal system will not consider its own contribution: a professor notified authorities about the clearly troubled Cho months ago, but "legal hurdles" prevented intervention.
The responsibility for the Virginia Tech massacre lies with Cho Seung Hui. But if lawyers are going to ask us to point fingers at peripheral parties, let us look at the effects that fear of liability has had on the ability of schools to do the right thing.
Ted Frank is a resident fellow and director of the Liability Project at AEI.