Norway: A Postscript

They are still counting the bodies in Norway, and it is probably unseemly to start making political points. I haven’t seen any information about the apparent perpetrator, so his motivations (if any, other than insanity) are unknown at this point. But one observation seems to be in order; no doubt, it has already been made by many others.

What happened on Utoya island was that the murderer, dressed as a policeman and heavily armed, took a boat to the island, ordered teenagers to assemble around him, and started shooting. His rampage continued, as I understand it, until a SWAT team apparently dispatched from Oslo arrived on the island and shot him. In the meantime, he murdered at least 80 kids.

Many facts are still unknown, but at this point it appears that a key ingredient in the tragedy was the fact that the killer had the only gun on the island. It is, really, one of the ultimate horror scenarios: hundreds of kids, accompanied by a relative handful of adults, isolated on an island with a crazed killer. The outcome might have been very different if some of those adults had been armed.

Would the same thing happen here, if, for example, there was a group of a thousand or so Boy Scouts assembled with their leaders? I am not sure. Thinking back on my native South Dakota, it is hard to imagine a mass murder being carried out over an extended period of time because there is no one nearby with a firearm. In any event, if the adults who are responsible for the safety of similar groups of kids here in the U.S. haven’t been arming themselves, especially in isolated conditions, they should consider doing so.

UPDATE: The most recent news accounts indicate that the gunman shot up Utoya Island for an hour and a half before he was finally stopped. The SWAT team that wounded and captured him arrived at the island 40 minutes after they were called. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the death toll was due in part to the fact that there were not more firearms more readily at hand.

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