Pro-gun media in the U.S. shamelessly used a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway to discredit gun safety laws and push for increased gun ownership despite little evidence that either aids public safety.
On October 13, a 37-year-old Danish citizen killed five people and wounded three more in a bow and arrow attack in Kongsberg, Norway. The suspect, who is in custody, was reportedly known to police, and the incident is being investigated as a potential act of terrorism.
In the immediate aftermath, pro-gun media used the massacre to discredit attempts to curb gun violence in the U.S. and trotted out the tired claim that an “armed citizenry” would have stopped the attack.
- On October 13, the National Rifle Association tweeted about the attack, writing, “Thank God that as Americans we have the Second Amendment right to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Never take it for granted and always stand and fight to protect it.”
- In an October 13 article, Breitbart’s AWR Hawkins reported on Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) tweet, which said, “Norway has some of the strictest gun laws around, yet mass killings still occur.” The article went on to outline some of Norway’s gun laws before ending with Boebert’s statement: “It is not the gun – it is the criminal who commits the act!”
- In an October 14 article for the pro-gun blog Bearing Arms, Tom Knighton used the massacre in Norway to imply guns aren’t part of the problem because Norway has “extensive gun laws. ... Yet five people are dead in a mass murder that didn’t require a single firearm.” He went on to write that “anti-Second Amendment types” in the U.S. need to “recognize that maybe the issue is in stopping the people, not a tool being used.”
- An October 14 article in The Truth About Guns claimed the attack proves “that gun control doesn’t stop people who want to kill others.” The article went on to claim that “an armed citizenry” would have stopped the attack because “disarming the public via gun control leaves individuals vulnerable to the evil and the insane.”
Contrary to the popular “good guy with a gun” myth, there is very little evidence that defensive gun use prevents mass killings or increases public safety. In fact, a 2015 analysis by David Hemenway of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the likelihood of people sustaining an injury during a robbery didn’t change based on whether or not they were armed. The study did find, however, that the chance of sustaining an injury after brandishing a firearm in self-defense was greater than if the victim had run away, hid, or called the police. The Violence Policy Center also found that from 2014-2016, only 1% of victims of an attempted or completed violent crime used a gun in self-defense.
Not only is the presence of a gun unlikely to prevent violence, but also one study found that people in possession of a gun are four times more likely to be shot. In 2018, for example, “for every justifiable homicide with a gun, there were 34 gun homicides, 82 gun suicides, and two unintentional gun deaths.”
Furthermore, while Norway does have much tighter gun safety laws than the United States — including licensing and storage requirements — they have a significantly lower homicide rate as well. In 2018, Norway reported 25 intentional homicides and a homicide rate of .5, whereas the United States reported 16,214 homicides that year and a rate of 5.