After Gun Rampage, UK Seeks Answers in Society

A father of two kills 13, including himself

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A shooting rampage in Britain has left the public searching for explanations and ways to prevent future attacks. The shooter, Derrick Bird, killed 12, starting with his twin brother and some acquaintances before turning to random passers-by and finally taking a thirteenth life--his own.

  • When Did This Type of Attack Become English?  Michael McCarthy, at The Independent, recalls a similar 1987 shooting that ended the old image of the "largely-American phenomenon of the firearms rampage." He seems to view this 1987 incident as the end to a certain illusion: "It was unthinkable then. Not any more of course ... in our relatively quiet and relatively civilised country, some sort of awful psychic boundary was definitely crossed."
  • It's Not English  "Despite occasional flurries of tabloid-fanned fear and in defiance of domestic TV dramas in which multiple shootings have become routine entertainment," reads a Guardian editorial, "Britain is neither a gun-toting society nor one in which order and security are held ransom by a gun lobby like the one whose activities help to allow so much killing in the United States."
  • British Gun Laws Already Tight, protest journalist Harry Mount in the Telegraph and former police commissioner Ian Blair in the Guardian, preemptively--they anticipate calls for reviewing the laws. Though Mount admits he's always found the "guns don't kill people; people kill people" line "pretty fatuous," he points out that "gun nut killings still remain mercifully rare in this country," where "gun laws are already, rightly, very tight." Adds Blair: "The rate of discharge of firearms in London, when I last looked, was one-nineteenth of the rate in Los Angeles." He does "wonder," though, about the possibility of making individual firearm ownership a matter for communities to decide.
  • How Society Helps Low Self-Esteem Turn Deadly  Investigative psychologist Keith Ashcroft talks about the profile of rampage killers, who "often have low self-esteem and tend to be paranoid." Naturally these tragedies raise questions about media violence, he writes, but there are "wider issues too. We define ourselves through jobs, power and money. People are so driven they have no other sense of who they are. They can't go to the doctor or the priest, so they take a gun and kill people."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.