According to Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” But in London on November 29th a bad guy with a knife was stopped by a good guy with a narwhal whale tusk. And another with a fire extinguisher. And a few more with just their bare hands. The incident reveals much about the difference between the cultures on either side of the pond.
First, the attacker used a knife. He managed to kill two people and seriously injure three others before he was subdued. But here in America he would undoubtedly have been armed with a gun or military assault weapon, like the 369 mass shooters so far this year. That is why the death toll from domestic terrorism is so much greater in this country. As has been pointed out many times, every country in the world has mentally ill people and people who become consumed with hate, but only in America do these people have easy access to military grade weapons. If the London attacker had used an assault weapon he would have been able to kill far more people in Fishmongers’ Hall and on London Bridge. And it would have been close to impossible to subdue him before police arrived on the scene.
Knife violence is a serious problem in London with 100 killings so far this year, but the death toll cannot compare to that of gun violence in America. Statistics from the Home Office show that 79% of violent attacks in England and Wales in the year ending March 2018 involved no weapon at all. Only 6% involved use of a knife or other stabbing implement. They don’t even have a category for guns! The report states that most violence “is caused by people hitting, kicking, shoving or slapping someone, sometimes during a fight and often when they’re drunk.” Here in America many if not most of those people would have a gun conveniently to hand. According to the Gun Violence Archive guns have killed 35,832 Americans so far this year.
Second, because they faced a knife and not a gun, bystanders were able to use good old British ingenuity to subdue the attacker. One man in the Fishmongers’ Hall plucked a narwhal whale tusk from the wall where it was on display and used it to chase the attacker outside to the bridge. Another man grabbed a fire extinguisher. They can both be seen in the photo above using their improvised weapons. Other unarmed men piled on the attacker pinning him to the ground until the police arrived. They doubtless saved lives at the risk of their own. They are heroes. Of course there are many potential heroes like this in America. They just face much worse odds. A narwhal tusk wouldn’t be much use against an AK-47. Even if you just happened to have one handy.