Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shooting rampage shatters bucolic corner of rural Britain

A 52-year-old taxi driver went on a shooting spree in England's Lake District yesterday, killing 12 and wounding 25. Read John Burns' report in the New York Times here.

I'm struck by two ways in which rurality is related to this story, as reported. First, these events occurred in a bucolic--even idyllic--corner of rural England, on the Scottish border. The New York Times described it as "one of the country's most celebrated beauty spots." Second, as Britain's gun laws have been described, they primarily accommodate rural needs and interests: farming and hunting. Here is an excerpt from Burns' story:

Britain claims to have the strongest gun control laws of any country in Europe, adopted after two other mass killings in the past 25 years.

But the Home Office, which maintains a registry of licensed weapons, said Wednesday that there were about 1.8 million legal weapons in private hands, including about 1.4 million shotguns and about 400,000 rifles and air guns. Most of the shotguns are owned by farmers and other rural people, and used for hunting.

We don't know much yet about the circumstances of Bird's gun ownership, only that he used several in his shooting spree.

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