The loaded legacy of the UT Tower shooting

Washington Post, 7/31/16

The 50th anniversary of Charles Whitman’s rampage falls on the day students can legally carry concealed weapons in University of Texas classes

The modern era of mass shootings began here on a searing summer day in 1966. Just before noon, from high atop the University of Texas Tower, an ex-Marine sharpshooter named Charles Whitman leveled his rifle over the railing, peered through his scope and shot a pregnant student in the belly.

He hit her boyfriend in the neck. He shot a teenager in the mouth. Blasting at victims 500 yards away, the 25-year-old engineering student fired at will for 20 minutes — the time it took for students and residents to fetch their own high-powered rifles and shoot back, helping an unprepared and outgunned police force.

Some worked alone, taking position on roofs or behind bushes. Others partnered with Austin police officers, whose handguns and shotguns could not reach Whitman nearly 300 feet above. Officers even raced to gun stores to get ammo for the civilians, who were told to shoot to kill.

“These guys were pretty good shots,” said Bill Helmer, then a graduate student who witnessed the mayhem. “There was a lot of lead flying up there at him.”

On Monday, survivors will attend the unveiling of a memorial on the 50th anniversary of Whitman’s rampage, which left 17 dead and more than 30 wounded. That same day, Texas becomes the nation’s eighth state to allow students to brings guns onto university campuses and, in some cases, into classrooms and dorms….

read more at Washington Post


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