There was almost a mass shooting in France on Friday, but two American service members not on duty became heroes when they apprehended a heavily armed gunman who opened fire on a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. No one died, but at least three were injured, including one of the American men who helped stop the attack.
The alleged perpetrator is a 26-year-old man of Moroccan origin. The French government is reluctant to call the attack “terrorism,” but the investigation is being handled by the anti-terrorism unit.
Passengers spoke of hearing gunshots as the train was traveling through the countryside, and of seeing bloodied individuals rolling out into the grass when the train lurched to a stop during the shooting.
France, on high alert after deadly terrorist attacks this year, immediately sent Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to Arras, where he commended the two Americans on the train who helped “neutralize this extremely violent passenger,” praising them for their “great bravery” and saying that “without their sang-froid we could have been confronted with a terrible tragedy.”
Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman in Washington, said that an American military member was on the train and had been injured in the episode. He said Pentagon officials had not yet confirmed the name or rank or service, or whether the second American was also a service member.
Source: New York Times
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While police do seem to know that the gunman has at least Middle Eastern heritage, no one yet knows if the attack was religiously motivated. (No, Americans, not all Middle Eastern people are Muslim and not all Muslims are jihadists.) Over the last five years, just two percent of European Union’s terrorist attacks have been religiously motivated. Most terrorist attacks in Europe have been from white separatists.
Even in the U.S., Islamic terrorist attacks are relatively rare. Just six percent of acts of terror in the U.S. were religiously motivated between 1980 and 2005.
The least surprising thing about Friday’s events in France is the fact that the shooter was stopped by unarmed good samaritans. The idea that the best weapon against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is pure NRA propaganda. According to an investigation by Mother Jones:
Not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped this way. More broadly, attempts by armed civilians to intervene in shooting rampages are rare—and are successful even more rarely. (Two people who tried it in recent years were gravely wounded or killed.) And law enforcement overwhelmingly hates the idea of armed citizens getting involved.
It’s tough to imagine how things might have turned out differently if the two good samaritans were armed on that French train. Multiple guns would have just added to the chaos and potentially to the injury or body count. While police might not necessarily encourage civilians taking taking on armed gunmen themselves, they would certainly agree that these two Americans saved lives.
Featured image via Wikipedia