As horrific as some of the mass murders have been in the US over the past 20 years or so, all of them pale in comparison to the carnage that took place in Norway last summer. For example, while there was a total of 49 casualties (dead and wounded) during the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 or 70 casualties during the Aurora mass shooting last month, 77 were killed and hundreds were injured in the attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik.
On Friday, Breivik was sentenced for his crimes. Unlike in the US where the majority of people would consider it a travesty of justice for him not to receive the death penalty, Norwegians appear satisfied that Breivik received an open-ended 21 year sentence. I refer to the sentence as open-ended because, as long as authorities believe Breivik poses a danger to society, he will remained locked up. Basically, he received a life sentence.
But there is something else remarkable about the Norwegian reaction to Breivik's heinous crimes: Many have called for increased emphasis on multiculturalism. This was the motivating factor for the killer's shooting spree. He opposes the embracing of multiculturalism and yet this is what so many of the survivors want the nation to encourage.
In the US, people rarely want to focus on any policy issues that are motivating factors for mass murder. Try to suggest that guns are too accessible, video games and other types of entertainment media promote too much violence or that racism is a plague in our society and far too many people don't want to talk about these issues. They simply chalk up each incident as a separate and isolated case of some crazed individual.
In Norway, their sentencing is more humane and they have set about to address one of the underlying factors. In the US, our sentencing tends to be more harsh and we steadfastly refuse to take a serious look at the underlying factors.
And which of these two nations faces the specter of many more mass shootings in its future?