Using tactics that never occurred to Travis Bickle, an English taxi driver has gone on an amoklauf on wheels, killing at least five people and wounding around two dozen more at eleven different locations in the northwest town of Whitehaven today before presumably killing himself. Handguns are banned in Britain, but the killer used a shotgun. Based on an American report, the country appears to suffer an amoklauf about once a decade. They happen infrequently enough for today's event to shock people. A local is quoted as saying that such things don't happen in her part of the world, meaning the region rather than the nation, the region supposedly having one of the nation's lowest crime rates. Another local, quoted in this detailed British report, describes the experience as "like watching something from America." Doesn't that make my U.S. readers proud? Meanwhile, here is the news source apparently closest to the killing scene, with a high estimate of fatalities.
The news from Britain follows the latest from China, where a disgruntled security guard invaded a courtroom and sprayed judges with machine gun fire, killing three and wounding three. The killer was one of the exceptional Chinese who had easy access to firearms, given his job. The story shows how easily our protectors can become our killers, a thought that ought to occur more often to those who associate the right of self-defense to the right to gun ownership. Of course, China this year has also proven that the will to kill doesn't need guns to express itself, while today's news from Whitehaven is further warning that the murderous spirit that witnesses identify with America has gone global with our violent pop culture. Everywhere, it seems, there are people who feel entitled to go out in a blaze of glory when they tire of life, taking others with them as they go. We see it in secular and devout countries, liberal states and dictatorships. God, obviously, is not the answer; nor is Communism. Is there an answer? There had better be one, and we had better find it soon.
Update: The death toll is up to twelve people, and investigators think more bodies might be found. Late reports suggest that the trouble started last night with an argument between the killer-to-be and some fellow cabbies. His workplace was one of his first killing stops today. How a beef with coworkers could escalate into a town-spanning massacre remains to be discovered.