The VT shootings were an atrocity, not a tragedy. Tragedy is an art form where good people's flaws are combined to make the author's point. No reason to ask why the killer did what he did. He was crazy. Shooting a bunch of people you don't know isn't the act of a sane guy. Note: he was a killer, not a gunman. We don't call a knife murderer a "Knife-man". We wouldn't call a reckless driver a "Car-man". The act is abhorrent, not the tool.
It appears* the killer was committed for insanity, so he should not have been able to buy the pistols. I guess the folks responsible for entering that data into the magical Brady Campaign Database just took a little break. Guess their fingers were just too tired. I bet they are so proud.
When a guy goes nuts, he will either be stopped by the bottom of his last magazine, or by a bullet at the top of the magazine of someone else. VT used to allow students to carry pistols, but changed to "help the students feel safe". Most recently, they voted down a proposal to permit students and employees with Virginia Concealed Carry Weapons permits to exercise their right to be ready to defend themselves on Campus. Boy, that sure worked out well.
Tam at "View from the Porch" [http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/] has a good idea if asked by someone about licenses and registration. Tear a piece of paper in two, and hand the fellow one. Say "this piece of paper is my license, your piece of paper is my registration. My pen is my gun. Now, with just these two pieces of paper, explain to me how you would keep me from shooting someone." She reports that the results are hilarious.
An article [http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/80510] from a student that has a CCW, but is not "allowed" to exercise it on the VT campus. Mausergirl [http://mausergirl.blogspot.com/2007/04/shoot-me-now.html] also has some good comments.
Lawdog suggests (http://thelawdogfiles.blogspot.com/2007/04/we-license-cars-yackyackyack.html) that if someone suggests "we license cars, don't we?" that you call them a liar to their face. He gives examples of what that would mean. He doesn't mention, but I will that we lose about 40,000 lives a year to cars, and guns take much less, say, 16,000 a year, even if you leave in police shootings, and legitimate self defense. Deaths now counted as gun suicides would probably not be prevented by gun laws, because suicides would select a different method to accomplish their goals. Perhaps cars, pills, knives, tall buildings.
The previous worst shooting was in Ruby's Restaurant in Texas. A Texas State legislator was a survivor, and was able to push through the Texas law that permitted good citizens, with training to obtain a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) permit. It passed over the veto of the then Democratic Governor, Ann Richards. Two weeks later, a similar shooting occured in a different restaurant. The shooter was stopped after only getting two rounds off. No headlines, many lives saved. I bet Ann Richards was so proud of her position. Did she really want all those people who survived the second shooting to die?
If you want to know what kills more than guns, more than cars, start with medical malpractice, about 100,000 deaths a year. Oh, and we already license doctors, pharmacists, physyican assistants, and nurses. Doesn't seem to help much. Perhaps if medical people had to post their success/fail rates on the internet, they would be more careful.
The Environmental movement is also a great killer. By banning DDT, they made the world safe for the mosquito, which murders about a million every year, the number who die of Malaria in Africa. That is about 40 million since DDT was banned.
The greatest killer of humans of all time? Bad history (thanks Karl Marx). That lead to 100 million deaths in China (thanks Mao Tse Tung), 70 million in the Soviet Union (Thanks Stalin, Lenin, Trotksky) and National Socialist Germany (thanks Shicklegruber, aka Hitler). If only more Germans had enough weapons to fight back. If only more Jews had decided to fight back as they did in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Hitler's "Union of All Germans" became notably less aggressive when faced with the resolute defense preparations of the German Majority in Switzerland. Swiss citizens were advised that any report that the Swiss government had surrendered, or agreed to union were to be regarded as a trick by the enemy. Swiss independence is maintained by a well prepared army, now the largest in Europe. It was not always so. Before the First World War, a Swiss Officer in response to a German's assertion that Germany could field an army twice the size of the Swiss Army replied: "Shoot twice, go home."
* Update: It appears that he agreed to be committed, and so was not involuntarily committed. That distinction would have been responsible for passing the instant check. My remarks about the data base enterer were incorrect, and they have my apology. The Brady database is thus revealed as less useful than I thought it was.