There is a tendency in Hungary to assume that bad things happen only in the United States. On the other hand, went the common wisdom until recently, in Europe it is unimaginable that someone would go berserk, enter his school, and kill several teachers and fellow students. Then it happened. First in Germany where a seventeen-year-old student killed sixteen people and then in peaceful Finland where there was a similar shooting rampage with ten victims. After these two European tragedies, the story changed somewhat in Hungarian folk wisdom: in Hungary such things cannot possibly happen. After what occurred yesterday at the University of Pécs Hungarians can no longer tout their spotless record which, by the way, wasn't that spotless but people's memory is short. In 1973 two brothers entered a dormitory for girls in Balassagyarmat and held fifteen students hostage. When the police arrived the two turned their machine guns on them. After negotiations failed, a sharpshooter killed one of the boys. The other gave himself up. That was in those wonderful, peaceful days of the Kádár regime!
It seems that the student who killed one and wounded three others in Pécs was most likely a schizophrenic who belonged to a shooting club and thus was entitled to carry a handgun between the club and his home. Unfortunately, he didn't stick to the rules and arrived at the university with his 9mm parabellum, two magazines, and forty-one rounds of ammunition.
There is a bad habit among certain experts: before they know anything about the details they immediately pontificate. One psychologist announced that the shooting in Pécs is "only the tip of the iceberg" because "aggression spreads like the H1N1 virus." He added that aggression of course existed before but it wasn't so much in the forefront of Hungarian thinking. But through the media it "seeped into our everyday lives." Old story, the media is at fault.
Then it turned out that the boy wasn't, as one fellow student said, "100%." Among other things, he had substance abuse problems and a spotty academic record. Often he didn't show up for classes or labs. He was twenty-three years old but only a first-year pharmacy student. Students normally enter university, including the Faculty of Pharmaceutics, right after high school. The shooting rampage occurred in a biophysics lab.
About the circumstances the only thing we know is that he apparently misbehaved during the laboratory session and was asked to cease and desist. He then jumped up, ran out of the room, and returned with his gun–presumably in his backpack ready to be used. In the total panic that followed he managed to leave the scene but didn't get very far: he tried to find refuge in a nearby hospital. A few minutes later he voluntarily surrendered. However, since then he has refused to say anything.
The minister of education and the minister of justice (also in charge of public safety) immediately drove to Pécs, a fairly long trip from Budapest especially given the unfinished state of the superhighway between the two cities. The minister in charge of public safety immediately suggested making gun laws tougher. Gun laws are very tough in Hungary as it is. Joining one of these clubs that allow their members to have a gun permit is a long, arduous procedure. Although there is a "medical examination," it is a simple physical, but it has to be repeated every year. There is no psychological test. Only security guards have to take such a test and, according to someone who took it, this test wouldn't filter out potential murderers. Indeed, there is no such magic screening technique.
As far as our man's psychological state is concerned, according to people familiar with his case he did see a psychiatrist a few times but he wasn't under his continuous care. Moreover, according to someone who seems to be familiar with the case, the psychiatrist most likely had no idea that his patient owned a gun.
After the psychologist and the spokesman for the Institute of Criminology expressed their expert opinions came the politicians. Now that was a real disaster. The Christian Democrat István Simicskó blamed the government for the tragedy. Because naturally for the actions of a "latent schizophrenic," as the president of the University of Pécs described him, the socialist government is responsible. Because it is obvious that brutal aggression is spreading in the country. He said at a press conference that "in a normal country a decently functioning government can guarantee order and security for the people living there." Domokos Szollár, the government spokesman, called Simicskó's statement "irresponsible and shameful." After all, one should not exploit tragedy for political purposes.
Norbert Miskolczi, whom I called the "chief student" in one of my earlier blogs, also had a few wise words. Miskolczi is the head of HÖOK (Hallgatói Önkormányzatok Országos Konferenciája). In Hungary there is a whole hierarchy of student unions with wide responsibilities and privileges. Each university has a student union that sends delegates to a national organization. Miskolczi heads this national body. Way back then I expressed a very negative opinion of Miskolczi. Well, I had the pleasure of hearing him again today and my opinion hasn't changed in the interim. He, the big cheese, called upon the Hungarian courts to come up with a verdict that would be a real "deterrent." As if a sick man's horrible act would inspire others to murder their fellow students and a very tough sentence would deter them from committing these acts. He complained about the "changing value system that necessarily leads to such acts." Again, the implication is that the government is responsible for this changing value system.
It is unfortunate that everything but everything becomes part of the political tug-of-war in Hungary. Be it the H1N1 virus or the terrible tragedy caused by a troubled young man. But perhaps sooner or later the Hungarian public will realize that there are events that have absolutely nothing to do with what kind of government is in power. After all, the horrific bank robbery that took place in the town of Mór during which eight people were gunned down happened while Viktor Orbán was the prime minister. And I don't remember anyone blaming him and his government for this massacre. Perhaps sanity will return one day.