More people packing heat means cooler heads

CanWest News Service
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In Tokyo's Akihabara district, a 25-year-old man went berserk this week. At the end of Tomohiro Kato's alleged rampage, seven people were dead and another 10 injured. The fatalities ranged in age from 19 to 74. Six were men; one was a 21-year-old woman.
Kato reportedly stated after his arrest that he was tired of living. Apparently running amok in Tokyo's electronic shopping district seemed to him a good way to end it. He was mistaken, for he's still alive. It's seven other people whose lives have ended.
The escapade attributed to Kato was the worst in terms of casualties, but not the first this year in Japan. A 16-year-old boy attacked five people in January, injuring two, while a March attack at the Tsuchiura railway station resulted in one dead, seven injured. And, whether by coincidence or design, this week's attack in Electric City came on seventh anniversary of the Ikeda school tragedy in Osaka, where a man with a history of mental illness killed eight children and injured another 15.
Apart from being committed by apparently unstable individuals, these murderous attacks have another thing in common. The weapon of choice in each case has been a knife. Whether this was because firearms weren't available to the killers or because they preferred to be close and personal with their victims is anybody's guess.
Someone is sure to suggest at this point that choosing a knife to commit mass murder is a cultural phenomenon, peculiar to the region. I don't think so. St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga where bullying led to a knife attack in September, 2007, isn't exactly a Far East location. Neither is the corner of Broadview and Danforth in Toronto, where Nicole MacDonald, 26, was stabbed last month in a random attack while waiting for a city bus. (She survived.)
The man police say attacked MacDonald is one Samad Dabiri, 47. In 2003 he stabbed a 65-year-old man sitting on a bench at the Dufferin Mall. Dabiri was found not criminally responsible and committed to a mental health centre. He was released in 2006.
In England, gang members do the stabbing. In 2007 a boy named Paul Erhahon died at the age of 14 after being stabbed in East London where, according to Scotland Yard, the "culture" is dominated by some of the 169 gangs and their 5,000 members who inhabit the greater London area.
The gang culture's weapon of choice is the knife, according to Victims of Crimes Trust director Norman Brennan, who is quoted as saying: "Knife homicides outnumber gun homicides by three to one."
Brennan's answer to the problem would be to penalize packing a knife as heavily as the law penalizes packing a pistol. Currently a concealed knife puts you in the pokey up to four years in Britain, while a concealed gun can send you up the river for 10 years.
The trouble with Brennan's suggestion is that jiggling penalties between tools of criminal trade changes nothing. If packing a knife was as heavily penalized as packing a pistol, gang members would revert to packing pistols again.
Soon, gun homicides would outnumber knife homicides three to one, with no change in the overall homicide rate.
The short-term answer isn't fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, but more. The only thing that could have reduced the number of Kato's victims in Tokyo this week - other than a police officer on patrol who costs money - would have been an armed citizen who costs nothing.

George Jonas writes for CanWest News Service

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Recent comments

  • CJ
    January 18, 2010 - 10:55

    That's absolute madness.
    People will still try to kill with a fork and spoon if that's the only weapon available to them. I agree with that but your answer to stop killing is to allow everyone to carry a handgun?
    It's like saying rather than teach people not to speed, we should just give everyone tanks so that when the inevitable crash happens, it will be okay.

  • Jason
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    CJ I agree with you, we need tanks to protect ourselves, maybe even giant bullet proof plastic bubbles to get around more easily when you need some chips from the store. The air running out would be a problem though but we wouldn't have to tell the CRAZY people about that then when all the CRAZY people are dead in their bubbles we can push them out to sea!!!