The wave of mass casualty events across Europe and the U.S. raises serious questions about the cornerstones of liberal democracies, which are not only anchored in the concept of ‘freedom to,’ but in the concept of ‘freedom from.’ In this case, ‘freedom to’ congregate in public places, attend school, ride a train, enjoy a concert or travel in safety are all in the crosshairs of an increasingly violent world, where terrorism and other mass casualty events have honed in on so called soft targets. The solace and public solidarity following each one of these tragedies must soon give way to lasting solutions and political will for enhancing physical security and public safety. For these solutions to take hold, however, a series of political, societal and business tradeoffs must be made.
Freedom from mass violence
In the U.S. for example, where 301,797 lives were claimed by gun violence from 2005 to 2015, people cannot become inured to these events1. Becoming desensitized to mass violence, whatever the cause, stymies the very political will that is needed to drive change. While the frequency of U.S. mass casualty events is sure to make these tragedies feel ‘normal,’ they should be treated as aberrations in an orderly, peaceable society and something for which sacrifices must be made to bring these events to a halt. The right to bear arms can no longer trump the right to life and ‘freedom of’ movement.
At least two mass-casualty events in Europe, the axe attack on a passenger train in Germany and the more recent attack on a passenger train in Switzerland, while appalling in their violence, the comparative difficulty in obtaining firearms surely led to a lower overall casualty count. While the difficulty in obtaining firearms in Europe has triggered the use of alternative weapons of mass violence, such as the truck used in Nice during Bastille Day celebrations or other crude instruments, there is no question public safety is enhanced due to gun control measures. When active shooter events, which will be difficult but not impossible to contain, no longer trigger a gun buying spree, the U.S. will be on the right track.