On guns and Norway

In a post on the Norway killings, I said maybe this wouldn’t have happened in a place where open and concealed carry is legal. Sue and others took exception to this, saying a lunatic can kill lots of people in a short time regardless if others are armed. As for there being no rifles at the camp, apparently it was in a peaceful area on an island with no animal predators. Why would they need a rifle? And no one could have foretold what happened.

Legal carry of handguns could be a problem in heavily urban areas. Let’s say a psycho starts shooting at people on a crowded sidewalk in Phoenix and several others draw their legal handguns and shoot at him. There could be considerable collateral damage.

Someone close to Sue and I recently killed himself in what apparently was a tragic handgun accident. He leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. At a family reunion a while back we played a gag game and one question was, How many people here have accidentally discharged a handgun indoors. Several sheepishly raised their hands, including a Marine colonel. Guns can be dangerous to their owners too.

The data about gun laws vs crime is murky at best. Various studies have differing conclusions. What do you think?


  1. Until this Norway event, the most killed by a single gumman was here in Australia when Martin Bryant shot 35 people in 1996.
    As a response to this spree killing, Australian State and Territory governments placed tight restrictions on semi-automatic centre-fire rifles, high-capacity repeating shotguns and high-capacity rifle magazines. In addition to this, heavy limitations were also put into place on low-capacity repeating shotguns and rim-fire semi-automatic rifles.

    We also did not execute Bryant as Australia has no death penalty.

    Today, a trade in illegal weapons exists of course — esp related to the drug industry — and the gun lobby, like elsewhere right wing libertarian, in parts, hid a few caches. But we don’t have the obsession with the right to bear arms, and what defeated the ammo obsessed was the massive support for the move to restrict personal arsenals.

    • A Scottish friend says what happened in Norway couldn’t happen in Scotland because guns aren’t permitted at home. They must be kept elsewhere, and you need permission and a reason to use them. Farmers and folks like that get exceptions because of demonstrable need for, say, a shotgun. But even then they must be locked in a case with a padlock.

      Of course, outright criminals will just ignore the law.

  2. Statistically there is no correlation between rates of legal gun ownership and rates of crime. As with states so it is with nations: Some with low gun ownership and tight restrictions have low rates of gun violence, others have high rates of gun violence, and the same is true of states and nations with high rates of gun ownership: some have low rates of gun violence and others have high rates. Clearly the determining factor is not how many guns there are or aren’t.

    We should remember that it only takes one firearm to create a massacre. Dave mentions that even in the wake of heavy restrictions, there is still trade in illegal firearms – can even one firearm be prevented? How’s that War on Drugs working?

    As to whether more firearms might have prevented what happened, maybe yes and maybe no. It depends in large part on the experience and training of the person or people wielding the firearms – and sometimes just plain luck. The 2007 Trolley Square shooting in Utah was cut short when an off-duty police officer who was carrying his handgun – and used it effectively. A Texas legislator was held hostage by a gunman committing a robbery; she claims she could have saved lives if she had been carrying. Yet it is also possible that ill-trained firearm users WOULD fire into a crowd attempting to kill the gunman. There’s just no way to predict.

    Do guns kill people accidentally? Of course. So do automobiles and power tools. We rely on user training and safety features to minimize the problem – why don’t we do so with firearms? In fact, why is the issue of user training not heralded by either side of the debate? It would seem to address the issue of effectiveness as well as safety. We expect people to take drivers ed before we let them use a car, we train people before they use heavy equipment or practice medicine or even prepare a tax return. But we expect that people will somehow instinctively know the proper safety methods to prevent accidents for two of the most dangerous things in society: we require no training for the use of guns and genitalia. Go figure.

  3. Guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people! Remember that horrible NRA slogan: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. So stupid. As if I’m going to walk into a bank with an axe and rob it.

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