I’ve got a new piece up at PJ, entitled “‘Gentle Justice’ Meets Mass Murderer.” It discusses the Norwegian policies of unarmed police and short penal terms in light of Breivik’s attacks.
That was one of those articles that could have easily been 100,000 words rather than 1,000, there was so much information. So of necessity, the piece just skims the surface of what I would like to have said.
The research for it was quite fascinating, although very disturbing. As part of my reading, I studied the reactions of the victims in a number of other mass shootings and tried to compare them to Utoya. This part of my reading never appeared in the PJ article, which already had threatened to become too long. But I discovered that, in general, it is extraordinarily difficult for unarmed people to mount any sort of effective response to someone with a gun, even if the former way outnumber the latter.
It’s not that no one ever tries. It’s just that, in order to be successful, the response usually needs to be co-ordinated in some way, and that is nearly impossible under the circumstances of most surprise mass shootings. At Columbine, for example, there were two gunman rather than one, and the students were fragmented geographically. Several were taken by surprise while walking around or sitting outside. The bulk of the victims already knew there were shooters in the school, and were hiding under tables in the library. When Harris and Klebold entered the room, the other students couldn’t get an overview of what was happening—which was that the murderous pair went around, seemingly randomly, firing at the students under the tables (sometimes without even looking to see who was there).
Contrast to the situation at Ft. Hood, where instead of high school students the victims were soldiers, and there was only a single perpetrator. Nevertheless, it was very difficult to mount any sort of defense until armed police appeared on the scene and shot Hasan. The Ft. Hood shooting lasted a lot less time than the Columbine killings (which in turn lasted for a shorter time than is commonly thought, somewhere between 19 and 25 minutes or so). But at Ft. Hood there were still at least three attempts by unarmed soldiers to stop Hasan in his murderous rampage. This is what happened to them:
According to witnesses, Army reserve Captain John Gaffaney attempted to stop Hasan, either by charging him or throwing a chair at him, but was mortally wounded in the process. Civilian physician assistant Michael Cahill also tried to charge Hasan with a chair before being shot and killed. Army reserve Specialist Logan Burnette tried to stop Hasan by throwing a folding table at him, but he was shot in the left hip, fell down, and crawled to a nearby cubicle.
With a few exceptions, it’s generally only armed people that can stop an armed gunman. That, or the gunman running out of ammunition—or running out of steam, like the Columbine killers, who still had plenty of ammunition but unaccountably decided to stop killings others and to kill themselves instead.
I may write a longer post some time on this topic. Till then, go to PJ and read about Norway. You can comment there, or here, or both.