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Have We Forgotten the Utøya Massacre?

Oh how quickly we forget.

In 2011, in Oslo, Norway, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb made of fertilizer and fuel in the government quarter of the city. The explosion killed eight people and injured at least 209 others. The car bomb, as horrible as it was, was only the beginning.

Less than two hours later, at a summer camp on the island of Utøya, Breivik arrived dressed as a police officer, and told the islanders that he was there to provide security in response to the explosion. He then began shooting people.

Norwegian special forces arrived some time later to finally put an end to the massacre. Breivik surrendered, but not before he had killed an additional 69 people, 33 of which were children, making the final death toll 77.

The Utøya massacre should have taught the world a few things about gun control and mass shootings. It should have, but apparently it did not.

Gun Control in Norway

This first obvious question is, how did Breivik get the weapons he used? The answer might surprise you.

Breivik first tried to obtain the weapons used illegally in the Czech Republic. When that failed, he decided to obtain weapons legally in his own country. This is unusual, as criminals most often do not go through legal channels to obtain weapons. However, while unusual, I think some important lessons can be learned about gun control if we take a closer look.

Breivik legally purchased a Ruger Mini-14, which is a semiautomatic rifle chambered in .223, as well as a Glock pistol, both of which require a rather lengthy process to obtain.

Gun ownership in Norway is very restricted, and limited to one gun per caliber. To own a gun in Norway, one must document a need for the gun (sound familiar?), and obtain an ownership license. Oh, and self-defense is not a valid reason to own a gun in Norway. I mean, what do you need to protect yourself from, a mass murderer?

There are two ways to get an ownership license in Norway, the most common being a hunting license, and the other being a sporting license. “Hunting and sporting use” ring a bell, anyone?

Hunting License

From Wikipedia:

To obtain a hunting license, the applicant must complete a 30 hour, 9 session course and pass a written multiple choice exam. The course includes firearm theory, firearm training, wildlife theory, and environmental protection training.

Once the exam is passed, the applicant may enroll in the hunter registry and receive a hunting license. The membership must be renewed each year, through license payment. The hunting license is brought to the police station, where the applicant fills out an application for obtaining the proper firearm for his or her hunt. After evaluation, part of the application is sent back to the applicant if it was approved. Upon approval, the applicant can take the returned form to the store and purchase the firearm listed in the application.

Sporting License

From Wikipedia:

The qualification process for sporting is theoretically easier, but requires more time and practice. The applicant must enroll in a firearm safety course, lasting at least 9 hours. The course includes a written test, but is shorter than the hunting exam, as it only deals with firearm safety. Two thirds of the course is completed on the shooting range as practice. The passing of the test results in acceptance to the approved gun club, and a license for competition.

However, while the hunters can obtain their firearm almost at once, sports shooters must prove their intentions to compete by actively training or competing in the gun club. This means regular attendance (at least 15 times) at gun club training over the course of six months. The applicant must use firearms owned by the club or borrowed at the range for this period. After six months, the applicant may apply for weapon ownership. The start license and a written recommendation from the gun club president are brought to the police station, and the competition class is filled out on the application. If approved, it will be returned to the applicant as with the hunter license.

The processes above are quite lengthy to be sure, and I think it’s important to point out that they create what the Democrats in the U.S. have long wanted – a complete firearms registry.

Breivik obtained the Ruger Mini-14 and Glock pistol legally through the hunting and sporting licensing and registration processes. It took months, but that didn’t matter to him.

Further Gun Control Measures

The gun control in Norway doesn’t end with strict licensing and registration, however. Tell me if any of these gun control policies in Norway sound like something you’ve heard proposed lately.

Gun Storage

The law requires that firearms must be securely locked away, which generally means stored unloaded in an approved safe. Forget quick access for self-defense.

Home Inspections

Police are allowed to make home inspections of your safe with only 48 hours notice, to ensure that guns are being stored properly.

Ammunition Sales and Storage

Only 10,000 rounds of ammunition may be stored by an individual.

What We Can Learn

So to review, Norway has a complete registration of all firearms. A lengthy and restrictive licensing process. A limit on what types of firearms you can buy, and how many. A limit on ammunition sales and storage. Home inspections. No loaded firearms in the home. Guns are allowed for hunting and sporting purposes only.

I think it’s safe to say that Norway has very strict gun control laws. Laws that should sound very familiar, because they are being proposed at the Federal level and implemented at the state level here in the U.S.

So what can we learn? Gun control cannot prevent mass shootings. It didn’t work for those 77 people who lost their lives in Norway, and it won’t work for us either.

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5 Responses to Have We Forgotten the Utøya Massacre?

  1. Neil February 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Wow… It’s a shame that so many people will be willfully ignorant of this information because it doesn’t fit their political agenda.

  2. Jake February 20, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    You know, it’s interesting that this isn’t talked about more. Thanks for the great article, I shared with my friends.

  3. Tobias P. February 21, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Interesting to see this from an American perspective: While to an American, this says “see, registration does not help”, for our politicans it translates to “well, then we’ll need to get rid of hunting and sporting permits, too”. Outside of Switzerland, I would not know of a country where self-defense is a legitimate reason to own a gun, so in almost all cases, these are the only reason to have one. So this leads in the direction of a complete ban.

    Side note: Yes, there was not much said about Utoya at all in the news. Quite impressive. As opposed to ineffective restrictions on legal gun ownership, not granting a murderer their 15 minutes of fame seems to be rather effective.

  4. Elliotte February 22, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    What is the point of the home inspections? If you are given 48 hours notice, isn’t that more than enough time to take the guns and put them in the safe if they weren’t there to begin with?

    This guy proved something I’ve long believed, if someone is dedicated enough to commit mass murder, than they’ll find a way to do it, no matter the laws in place.

  5. Tobias P. February 22, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    @elliotte In my country, you don’t get an 48h warning, but you get to say “sorry, no time now, make another appointment”. Why? Because most European countries have something similar to the 4th amendment (“…to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…”), so this makes it look less illegitimate.

    So it is not effective in catching people who have their guns laying around, it does get those that do not own a mandated gun safe, because you probably won’t get one delivered within 48 hours.

    Then again, I had to send in the stats of my safe when requesting my gun permit, making this already known to the authorities. So the point of those inspections is more likely to find mistakes that even a trained gun owner might overlook. The more complicated the gun law, the higher the chance for this to happen. Calling this harassment? Me? Never.