The Norwegian Island of Calm

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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24 Responses

  1. Plinko says:

    Hear, hear.Report

  2. Angela says:

    There were police who gathered evidence, the lawyers and the courts who did their work, and the killer is never going to be a free man again.
    Initially, I had read that the maximum sentence would be 20 years. Are the courts considering extra-Norwegian law for a longer period? I hope he should be imprisoned for his life. I thought there were barriers to that sentence.Report

  3. the massive national tragedy was collectively understood to be off limits as fodder for politics. The event was treated like what it was: an isolated crime.

    Context matters. This article popped up in Google Reader right next to this one:

    The United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries (not deaths per capita) among developed countries. In terms of their Firearm homicide rate (per 100,000 pop), only 8 nations — Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belarus and Barbados — beat the United States, which registers 2.97 gun deaths per 100,000 pop.

    Most other developed nations run a fraction of our gun death rate per capita.
    Switzerland (0.56), Canada (0.54), Germany (0.47), Finland (0.43), Ireland (0.32), Denmark (0.26), England (0.12), Australia, Japan, Korea? WAY WAY BELOW US. Singapore at 0.02 and Hong Kong at 0.01 barely even register. Estimates of gun violence costs in the USA are as high as $100 billion per year (See Phillip J. Cook, Gun Violence: The Real Costs (Studies in Crime and Public Policy) Most of that cost is due to emergency medical care. (National estimates of nonfatal firearm-related injuries).

    It’s fine if you want to argue that we should tolerate these mass casualty events that happen every few years for whatever reason. But make the argument. That would be a great deal more honest than this cynical, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pose, which is an effort to cut off a rational discussion of policy.Report

    • No sir. I do not wish to argue that we should “tolerate” a certain level of crime. Crime is by definition intolerable in any quantity. That’s why it’s called “crime;” it is behavior that falls below the minimum standards of acceptable behavior and is therefore subject to sanction.

      I ask for calm and reason to permeate our political dialogue. This is a different plea, and sadly, a seemingly more ambitious one. I make the request with sincerity, not cynicism. Using the “context” of a recent high-profile crime in Aurora as a launching pad for advocacy of a political position, however, is cynical. Perhaps it is Mr. Ritholtz’s motives you should be questioning, rather than mine.Report

      • Some people favor gun control because they think fewer people will be killed. (You can disagree, of course). When a bunch of people are killed, it is eminently reasonable to say, “this could have been prevented with more sound policy.” This policy argument could be made in a tasteless or counterproductive way, but it’s a reasonable point.

        I wrote that “context matters” because the US is different than Norway in terms of gun deaths. That’s why I included the data from Ritholz.

        As the BBC reports, “…the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded.”

        I certainly can’t help envying that. It’s too bad we lack that confidence and calm in the US. I’m inclined to doubt that we could get away with that approach, though, given our greater violence, & terrorists from elsewhere who have gone to great lengths to attack us.Report

        • I think I agree with most of what you say, or at least the spirit of it. It’s okay to wish that things were different, but it’s also important to acknowledge (and perhaps remedy, if possible?) why things are as they are and what encourages them to remain so.Report

    • George Turner in reply to reflectionephemeral says:

      But the US is only 34th in homicide rate, coming in between Thailand and Latvia, because guns aren’t the only way to kill people. (The Roman Empire had no homicides committed with firearms, but the Tiber was awash in the corpses of murder victims.)

      The US homicide rate is a little more than twice that of Finland, and that means the white homicide rate is probably about the same. Norway’s murder rate is less than a third of Finlands, but so is Switzerland’s, and that’s a country where everyone has a full-auto military rifle in their closet.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Switzerland has its own problems these days. The old days of lederhosen-clad gentlemen blatting away on the Alpenhorn are long gone. Now they’ve got immigrant issues, loads of people behaving in an un-Swiss fashion. Lots of human smuggling and drug muling going on, with attendant violence coming over the border from Italy, especially from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

        Swiss gun policy is changing. The old standard retort about how the Swiss manage this so well is dead on arrival.Report

        • George Turner in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Yikes. They’ve still got a slight edge on Finland, Sweden, and Norway though, all top-10 countries for per capita gun ownership (though we’re #1!).

          The Swiss militia is supposed to return their guns so they can be converted to semi-auto only for household use, and then are given back.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to George Turner says:

        The U.S. homicide rate dropped from 1 in 19,684 in 1960 t0 1 in 20,934 in 2010. (Source.) Does anyone know what the rates for firearm ownership are over that time period?Report

  4. damon says:

    “Would that my own countrymen could behave similarly.” QFT
    As to reflectionephemeral’s comments, context matters. I always get a chuckle of comparisions like this. Nothing like comparing apples to oranges.Report

  5. Michelle says:

    Good post.

    I don’t see a lot of genuine debate about gun control or America’s propensity for gun violence arising out of this incident. To the extent the event is politicized, it will be all about political point-scoring, more noise and fury and nothing else. We’ll then return to our regular programming.Report

  6. I really do wish we could act like the example from Norway. But I’m not sure how to get there other than trying to be the change I want to see. There’s a problem with that strategy, however. If a critical number of people choose not to be that change, then it might, in some circumstances, behoove those that try to be that change to enter the fray, if only to say “let’s keep our heads about this.”Report

  7. NoPublic says:

    No one discussed enhancing criminal penalties for gun crimes, or politically motivated crimes, or streamlining the ability of the police to monitor e-mails or other private activity

    This is manifestly incorrect. You might not have seen those discussions, but they did take place. I work with Norwegians on a nearly daily basis and we certainly discussed it.
    Of course, the starting point of these discussions was the sensible policies they already have, which tends to lead to the endpoint of “There are different policies we could have, but the ones we have are sensible and have an acceptable escape rate comparative to the balance of freedoms”. That discussion in the US has a very different starting point.Report

  8. I think you run into problems with your closing:
    “The event was treated like what it was: an isolated crime.
    Would that my own countrymen could behave similarly.”

    The simple fact is that in America, with a half dozen mass shootings in the past half dozen months, it is NOT an isolated crime. The Norwegian response is muted for the same reason that the American one ought not to be.Report