With at least 95 innocent people dead from the grizzly Norway attacks, the world has been presented with a puzzling case study. How should Norway, a traditionally peaceful nation with strict gun laws, prepare for future terrorist attacks?
We have the facts of Norway’s recent tragedy: an armed man with multiple automatic weapons opened fire on scores of youths at a summer camp located on the island of Utøya. Tragically, it took the police almost 90 minutes to respond to frantic phone calls for help.
Over an hour?
According to one of the would-be victims, they attempted to call an emergency hotline but it did not work. They instead had to call the nearest police station in Hønefoss located about 15.5 miles away from the dock directly across from Utøya.
Why did the hotline not work? Why did it take police officers well over an hour to travel less than 20 miles on country roads? According to police officials, one of the reasons it took them so long to get to the island was because there were no boats available. Surely, these facts alone would give one reason to reevaluate the state’s current security practices.
But when asked if the massacre would prompt Norwegian politicians to consider stronger security measures to ensure against these types of tragedies, Oslo’s mayor Fabian Stang responded, "I don't think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect."
Just take a minute to reflect on his comment. The mayor says that the appropriate response to youths being gunned down is to teach "greater respect?" How do you teach “greater respect” to an unhinged maniac with a bag full of assault rifles? Who is crazier: the lunatic or the "sane" man who thinks he can reason with him?
To say that it was a lack of “respect” that led to the Norwegian shooting spree is tantamount to saying that it was a lack of emphasis on the food pyramid (excuse me, "food plate") that led Jeffery Dahmer to cannibalize 17 victims. Why not simply call evil by its name? To respond to evil by saying that society needs to “embrace tolerance” or to call for more “openness,” and to not at least consider taking steps to guard against it, is naïve, unproductive and dangerous.
And what does he mean by "greater respect"? As defined by who? How does he plan on implementing "greater respect"? Does he actually have a solid plan, or is this one of those meaningless phrases that politicians love to throw around?
For the mayor to reject the notion of reevaluating security methods--ones that don’t involve the police taking well over an hour to travel 15.5 miles--and to instead claim that people need be “nicer” to each other is not only insulting but it also speaks to a darker problem in modern thought.
The mayor’s response shows that he lacks one of the supreme virtues: prudence. His answer reveals that he is unwilling to exercise caution or circumspection in regards to real dangers or risks and that he fails to exhibit good judgment.
To be prudent is not just to know what the right thing is but also to act on it. Therefore, in order to be or act prudently one must know the “good,” and to act upon it in accord with the situation. However, because prudence is an intellectual virtue, and is heavily based in experience, knowing the right thing to do in a situation, and doing it, involves a level of moral reasoning.
This is where we encounter the problem. We have lost our deeper understanding and appreciation for the “moral.” Essentially, our modern moral language has been informed by Sesame Street. As a society, we no longer talk about "good" versus "evil," of morality and immorality, but instead we are taught that man’s highest calling is to be “nice to each other” and to not be “mean.”
Without a proper understanding of what morality is, and with a lack of prudential formation, it only stands to reason that the mayor's response would betray an amount of naivety, that is, a deficiency in worldly wisdom or informed judgment. Responding to mass murder with calls for ambiguous ideals will not deter madmen. Good judgment, informed by prudence, and necessary precaution does.
But at least the mayor is not being “mean.”
And back to the original question regarding Norway and future precautions: as there is no apparent public desire to introduce a concealed carry permit, easing of guns laws might not be the best answer.
Furthermore, one would probably be wrong to suggest that, after several years of relatively successful gun control, Norway should suddenly throw open its doors and encourage every citizen to purchase one. However, what should be acknowledged, and this is where the mayor is wrong, is that a new variable has been introduced into the Norwegian social equation. Crazy people with guns do exist and theydo want to cause harm.
What this means is that a wise person, informed by experience, must now reevaluate what he once thought a solid formula.
Therefore, instead of copping out with a feel good answer like "greater respect," a truly prudent statesman would have responded to the security question by saying, “Perhaps.”