Leading article: Cumbria shootings are beyond understanding

Share
Related Topics

Every time there is a national tragedy such as Derrick Bird's gun rampage in Cumbria there is a natural tendency to search for specific reasons and urgent lessons. Both are hard to find in this case.

There may have been lapses in the gun-licencing procedures which allowed the 52-year-old taxi driver to possess both a shot gun and a rifle. But one should be cautious, as the Prime Minister argued yesterday, about drawing hasty conclusions on the need for a fundamental overhaul of the gun laws. They are already among the tightest and most cumbersome in the world. Mr Bird had owned these guns for some 20 years and never given any indication that he might use them in this way. The guns were neither unusual nor particularly difficult to obtain. Numerous people possess them in any district, particulary in the countryside.

Nor, despite the outpouring of psychological interpretations in the last couple of days and the efforts to put this massacre down to this cause or that, can there be an easy answer as to why Bird should have exploded in anger in this particular way. What drives an individual to go on a shooting rampage may always remain a mystery and an unpredictable one. In the aftermath you may be able to point to warning signs. But the rarity of these events make them virtually impossible to prevent. They can happen anywhere and at any time, the material for novelists rather than social reformers. "You can't," as David Cameron said yesterday, "legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone's head and for this dreadful sort of action to take place."

We know now that Bird had quarrelled with his brother over money and wills. But that is hardly uncommon and does not usually drive a man to draw up lists of victims to be slaughtered let alone to go on to kill innocent bystanders along the road. We also know now that he had argued with his work colleagues on the taxi rank. But that too is hardly unusual. It may explain the object of his anger but not the root of his actions.

This does not lessen the tragedy or the pain of those involved. The shooting took place in a small rural community, all the less prepared for this kind of savagery for its distance from the city. To the victims, their families and friends, one can only offer condolences. And to the services, the doctors and the police, one must offer respect for the speed and sensitivity with which they responded to this massacre.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone