When parents send their children off to summer camp, they reasonably expect them to return refreshed and more attuned with the world than when they left home. Even in their wildest nightmares, they don't foresee them returning in a pine box.
We must now add Norway to the expanding list of unsafe places that includes Columbine, Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, London, Madrid, Ft. Hood and Virginia Tech. The host of the 1994 Winter Olympics and home to the Nobel Peace Prize has had its sense of safety and security violated in ways it could never have imagined; shattered by a crazed gunman with an inflated sense of self, on a mission from Hell where he'll soon be sent.
Police are calling the gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, a "Christian fundamentalist" because we must have labels (except when describing Muslim fundamentalists, which police, politicians and much of the media try to avoid for fear of angering Islamists). Breivik is as much a "Christian fundamentalist" as Judas Iscariot was and he deserves a similar fate.
Writing in London's Daily Telegraph, reporter Mark Hughes notes, "Norway's intelligence service had previously been criticized for its failure to keep track of suspected terror cells and the country was felt to be complacent about the prospect of a terror attack," according to secret cables from WikiLeaks files.
That may be true, but how does a government crack a "cell" that isn't a cell? Breivik only recently created a Facebook page and his 1,500-page manifesto ranted against Muslims (about 2 percent of Norway's population is made up of Muslim immigrants, and that number is growing) and indigenous Europeans, whom he accused of betraying their heritage. That none of his young victims are responsible for the conditions he railed against adds to the madness of this inexplicable event.
Listening to some of the survivors tell their stories is heartbreaking. It took Norway police 90 minutes to arrive on scene, probably because of the "diversionary" bomb Breivik exploded outside government offices in Oslo. Breivik used the time to hunt down more victims until police finally arrived.
Norway forbids civilians from carrying concealed weapons, or owning an automatic weapon, unless they are gun collectors. As in America, gun laws do not deter criminals who are determined to cause harm with a weapon. What would have deterred Breivik would have been a gun in the hands of a competent person capable of stopping his mass-murdering spree.
If Norway can be a site for terror, is there a safe place on Earth? The answer is no. There are no "safe" places; no one can be 100 percent safe. Does that mean everyone should be armed? Not necessarily. What it means is that for some countries, some people and some places, a way to make the environment as safe as humanly possible is to have properly armed and trained people who can respond to such events.
Would Anders Behring Breivik have thought twice about his killing spree if he had known in advance that someone would shoot back? That is impossible to know. But if someone on Utoeya Island had returned fire, there's a possibility that far fewer would have been killed. This approach may not be pleasant for some to contemplate, but the alternative is more personal and national mourning, as is now being experienced in Norway.