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American COP June Digital Edition - Page 33
tember of 2010. He had heard the Czech Republic had some of the most relaxed gun laws in Europe. He hollowed out the back of his Hyundai Atos in preparation for the haul he intended to bring back home. However, he returned empty-handed. In the final turn of events, he would purchase his weaponry in Norway, all done entirely legally. He applied for and obtained a legal permit for a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic carbine. His cover story? It was for hunting deer — an unremarkable pursuit in Norway where hunting is commonplace and widespread. He duly completed a 30-hour, 9-session course, and had no difficulty in getting through the state regulated multiple choice examination which included questions on firearm theory, training, wildlife and the environment. In fact, it was his application for a Glock 17 pistol that proved more problematic, since it obliged him to demonstrate regular attendance at a sports shooting club, at which point he accordingly enrolled and completed 15 training sessions at the Oslo Pistol Club. With not even a whiff of suspicion aroused, his application for the Glock was also approved. He then purchased 10, 30-round magazines from a US supplier. The stage was now set for his bloody massacre — one so terrible it would make the death tolls of those that took place previously in Hungerford in England, Dunblane in Scotland and the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres all seem relatively small by comparison. In fact, Breivik’s appalling death toll is approximately the same as those four incidents together. All in the name of what? For his twisted view that Norway in particular, and Europe in general, was being taken over by Muslims, and the whole of western civilization was thus under threat. Breivik hatched this bizarre plan to “fight back.” It was, in his distorted state of mind — Breivik to the rescue. His remedy? To massacre innocent youngsters. The ironic thing is the fact his victims were all Christians for the most part. The attack itself is too complicated to detail here. Suffice to say, the students had little way to fight back against a heavily armed, motivated madman. The result was his almost casual stroll around the island as he gunned down the youths. He was finally apprehended when the police arrived on the island. And what happened that day, has left an indelible mark on Norway and it’s people. Keystone Kops As Norway begins to embark on the journey of healing and understanding, it was nevertheless inevitable questions would be asked as to whether or not the police response was adequate. The truth was: it was not. There were transport problems, including a lack of helicopters and a boat that sank, which meant it took well over an hour to apprehend Breivik after the attack had gotten underway. A decision was taken to wait for a special armed unit from Oslo. Still, as the minutes ticked away, all the time children were being slaughtered. Andrew Silke, director of terrorism studies at the University of East London, dubbed the police response “a bit like the Keystone Kops” because Norway’s police were “just not used to dealing with something like this, so the system was swamped.” To get an idea of what young people thought about this incident, I reached out to two young people, both survivors of the attack on the island. He might only be 23 years old, but Norwegian student, Fredrik Hoel, brings a note of wisdom and maturity to those who are quick to point the finger of blame. “Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing,” he reminds us. “But the truth is our gun laws are already pretty tight. Okay, maybe we could do a better job in terms of enforcement, background checks and the like. And I agree with those who say the police response could have been more effective. There were clearly opportunities to act more speedily — opportunities that were missed. That is a matter of regret. But Norway is not a society that has lived on the edge of terror. So it’s hardly surprising that we didn’t have armed response units standing by. “The most important point to me now in the aftermath is we should maintain the open and tolerant nature of Norwegian society. That cannot be allowed to change — no way. In fact, I think if there is to be any change at all we should become still more open, more tolerant and more accepting. This is what I have already seen in Norway and that is what I feel most strongly. We have to send a message out there to the bigots and racists of this world that we are going to stick together. Which means we should in turn put still more emphasis on our values of tolerance and openness. Here in Norway, we cannot and will not allow them to be undermined by the appalling acts of single madman.” Elisabeth Magnor, 22, is a student whose view would appear to be representative of many. “The whole thing was unbelievable,” she recalls. “But the thing to remember here is you are not dealing with a normal person. It was one man, a racist, a bigot and an Islamophobe, who planned it for 10 years. He operated alone. We will obviously have to look at our security, tighten things up at government buildings and so on, but you can’t change the very nature of your society because of one nutcase. Here in Norway, we are just not going to let that happen.” Meanwhile, supporters and critics of the government, supporters and critics of the police, supporters and critics of Norway’s gun laws would be unlikely to take issue with a common thread of thought today. The island of Utoya in particular, and the Kingdom of Norway in general, are but at the beginning of a long and painful process of healing. Norway’s 9/11 took place just a short time ago, and there is much still to be done. Police are changing response tactics, changing and upgrading equipment and improving training and communications. Still, as King Harald told his subjects in an emotional memorial service to Breivik’s victims: “Freedom is stronger than fear, and I am confident that Norway will surmount its pain.” The Future For Norway Changes To Society? * is not a society that has lived on the "Norway edge of terror. So it’s hardly surprising that we didn’t have armed response units standing by. " WWW.AMERICANCOPMAGAZINE.COM Fredrik Hoel Elisabeth Magnor 33