Threats: Ignoring potential for violence not an option

Only one person can say — and he may not know, really — what would have ensued had police not arrested a West Virginia University student accused of threatening to engage in a shooting spree.

According to witnesses, the 21-year-old Preston County man made the threats during a class last week at the WVU Health Sciences Center. “I honestly feel like going home and getting my gun and killing everybody,” he reportedly said.

Witnesses alerted a WVU official, who went on up the ladder to the university’s Office of Student Conduct and Office of Student Life. They contacted police, who arrested the man.

WVU Police Chief W.P. Chedester said the man insisted he does not own a gun. Chedester added, “We don’t take any chances …”

The student was arraigned and released on $50,000 bond. He is not permitted on university property.

Making threats such as that the student allegedly uttered is a felony under West Virginia law. Those convicted can be sentenced to as much as three years in prison.

Was the student seriously considering an act of violence? Again, only he knows. Would he have actually carried out a shooting? Even he may not know the answer to that. Things said in the heat of the moment do not always lead to action.

But students who reported the threat were right to do so, and police were right to make an arrest. There is no doubt.

Perhaps there was a time when such talk could be ignored safely. Not now.