View of Colorado Theater Shooting A Year After Norway Attacks

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC world service, PRI and WGBH Boston. News of the shooting in a Colorado movie theater has reverberated today all across the globe. The police chief in Aurora, Colorado where the rampage took place held a press conference earlier. He said a total of 71 people were hit by gunfire in the theater, 12 of them fatally. For many in other countries, the shooting is a stinging reminder of their own tragedies. Norway is about to observe the first anniversary of the killings committed by Anders Breivik. It was last summer on July 22nd that Breivik went on a bombing and shooting rampage that left 77 people dead. Frithjof Jacobsen is a journalist with VG Newspaper in Oslo, Norway. He says the Colorado tragedy has been the dominant news story of the day there.

Frithjof Jacobsen: It's been the top story on every news website and on, of course, the broadcasting media all through the day.

Werman: What about the Colorado shootings have really affected Norwegians?

Jacobsen: Well since Columbine, the shooting there, stories like this of course makes quite an impact also here. Both Columbine, Virginia Tech and then we also had similar stories from Germany, from Finland. It's a little special this weekend in Norway because the whole of the country is preparing the one year since July 22nd where Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb in the government office and then went on to Utoya island and killed a lot of kids. The whole of the country has sort of been gearing up this day of remembrance from July 22nd last year, and then this story comes in just as we are about to enter this very special weekend, and of course that makes an impact here.

Werman: Has the Colorado shooting, you think, deepened the sorrow in some way for those people getting ready to commemorate a year since the Breivik shooting?

Jacobsen: There are some similarities here. It's very surprising, it comes sort of out of nowhere as far as we know, it seems to be a young man that has never been involved with the police, and suddenly unleashes this violence that is very surprising, very shocking, on innocent people. I think this reminds people a lot of what the experience here in Norway about a year ago. Also you have this now that in some of these shootings people commit suicide at the end, but he was taken alive, so also some people are thinking well now the people in Colorado will have to go through this with the trial and sort of try to understand, what was it that really happened? That has been quite a difficult process here in Norway, so it's going to be a difficult time for people in Colorado in the time to come I think.

Werman: I'm curious to know before the Breivik explosion and shooting last year, how did Norwegian news consumers view similar incidents in the US, such as Columbine and Virginia Tech, which you mentioned earlier?

Jacobsen: Well Columbine, which I think was as far as I remember the first time that we were fairly shocked about this inexplicable violence a the school. But I think being in Europe, and being in a social democratic states country, we were like, you know, well in the United States they have a lot of guns, and maybe gun control and things like that were an issues. Then we experienced some similar school shootings in Finland in 2007 and then again in 2008, and I think that made the whole thing come closer to us. Still, when July 22nd happened about a year ago, it was quite the shock. We could never imagine that something like that would happen in a safe and small and very harmonic country like we have here.

Werman: So I'm just wondering the reaction today to what happened in Colorado. I mean, after last summer's shooting tragedy in Norway, can Norwegians really still look at the United States and say; oh it's their loose gun control laws and big gun culture there?

Jacobsen: No, I have not seen covers like this. I think after what happened here July 22nd, I think we understand this problem is more complicated, it's deeper, it's harder to grasp. It seems that just that, I talked with some colleagues today and I heard some people comment, that in our modern Western society there seems to be a small group of young men who sort of fall out, isolate themselves, and then they pop up and do these horrible violent acts where they kill people. There might have been some kind of revenge motive on society or something like that, but it's hard to understand.

Werman: If the anniversary activities were designed to help people in Norway heal, how do you think the news from the US is going to affect that healing process?

Jacobsen: I guess this thing that happened in Colorado, the killings there, it reminds us I think that although we live in a very safe world, and also there you can have these horrible acts of violence, they just pop us and shock people.

Werman: Frithjof Jacobsen writes for VG, one of Norway's main newspapers. Frithjof, thank you very much.

Jacobsen: Thank you.