Knife attack in France raises serious questions

Knife attack in France raises serious questions
(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Mass shootings are described as “uniquely American” by many, though they’re anything but. We see them all over the globe, though the media rarely devotes much attention to them if they’re outside of the US.


Yet a recent attack in France raises some very interesting questions.

You see, while it wasn’t a mass shooting, it very well could have been something absolutely horrific.

Four toddlers and two pensioners were stabbed in a knife attack in the tranquil French mountain town of Annecy on Thursday and the government said the suspected assailant was a Syrian refugee.

A video of the attack, taken by a bystander and verified by Reuters, showed the assailant jump a low wall into a children’s playground and repeatedly lunge at a child in a stroller, pushing aside a woman who tries to fend him off.

Two of the wounded children and one adult were in hospital in a life-threatening condition, while the other victims were less seriously hurt.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the suspected attacker, who was in police custody, was a 31-year old Syrian national who was granted asylum in Sweden 10 years ago. He had entered France legally, she said, and was carrying Swedish identity documents and a Swedish driving licence.

As it stands, everyone injured has survived, at least for now.


However, let’s take a look at this attack for a moment and frame it just a bit so people understand a few things.

Were this with a gun and inside the United States, Gun Violence Archive would have categorized this as a mass shooting. The media would have treated it as if it were a mass shooting as well, again despite the loss of life.

Yet because this happened in France and involved a knife, it will likely evaporate in the American mind soon enough.

The problem with that is that it indicates that the underlying problem, the desire to kill as many people as possible, doesn’t disappear with gun control. After all, France has it. Some will undoubtedly credit those laws with this not being worse, that the bad guy’s lack of access to a gun saved lives.

I’m not convinced. After all, we can’t know how things would have gone down differently in such a situation. After all, a gun is noticeable and people react to the sight of one, thus changing how things happen.

Yet despite France’s extensive gun control laws, a potential mass murderer was still able to walk around and hurt innocent people–children, for crying out loud–and very well could have. We’ve seen it before, after all. It’s not exactly unlikely to happen again, either.


The problem with mass murder–either mass stabbings or mass shootings or vehicular attacks like we’ve seen happen in the past–is that the underlying psychology isn’t well understood, at least not by most people. We don’t seem to grok that we need to focus on the people if we want to stop these kinds of attacks, be they a potential terrorist attack like this or someone just looking to kill as many people as possible as in Uvalde.

What happened in France should serve as a wake-up call for us.

Too bad that it won’t for most.

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