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Mass Shooting In San Bernardino Raises Unanswered Questions


Paul Barrett is the author of "Glock: The Rise Of America's Gun." He is an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, and he joins us from our bureau in New York City. Good morning.

PAUL BARRETT: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: First of all, let me ask you about this event as you've studied a lot of the gun events that have taken place in the United States in the last few years. When you look at this one, what strikes you?

BARRETT: It strikes me that this is an idiosyncratic event, hard to fit into the categories that we normally rely on. This is not the 20-year-old young man, who, through a combination of suicidal and rageful impulses, goes out and shoots up a school or a church. By the same token, it's not obvious anyway that it's a flat-out terrorism incident. It's quite unusual that you have what is reported to be a man and a woman who were romantically involved. It's unusual to see a woman involved in an event like this. And it's also...

WERTHEIMER: Have we had any events like this in the United States where there has been a woman?

BARRETT: Yeah. I mean, it happens from time to time where you get sort of an outlaw couple. But this doesn't seem like the typical sort of outlaw couple. This man, according...

WERTHEIMER: This is not Bonnie and Clyde. This is some sort of a message...

BARRETT: Exactly. There's...

WERTHEIMER: ...Which we can't read.

BARRETT: That's exactly right. There's some connection between the male shooter, Farook, and the place of employment here. He was a health inspector of some sort, according to the early reports, and he had attended this holiday party as a regular guest before he left, and then apparently returned to shoot the place up. So we need a lot more explanation, and this is not a situation where we can jump to a quick conclusion as to what's going on here - at least I can't.

WERTHEIMER: One of the things that I thought was interesting was that these two people didn't blow themselves up. They didn't run at the police as...


WERTHEIMER: ...If to commit suicide-by-cop, I think the phrase is. They tried to escape. They seemed to have a plan to escape.

BARRETT: That's right.

WERTHEIMER: What do you make of that?

BARRETT: Well, that is another facet of this that makes it somewhat unusual. This is not, for example, similar to the situation we just had in Paris, where it was clear that at least some of the participants were willing to immediately be killed as part of their terrorism plot. Here you had people who drove up in a vehicle and then jumped back into the vehicle and drove away presumably thinking they could get away, although that's not very realistic. So I can't tell you what I make of it beyond the fact that these insane, evil-seeming events often have facets to them that are hard to categorize.

WERTHEIMER: One of the things that I wondered about when somebody we talked to earlier suggested was that they may have had somewhere else to go.

BARRETT: Well, they may have had somewhere else to go. God forbid there may have been some plan for further violence that was interrupted by law enforcement. But again, I think until the timeline is broken down and we figure out what these people were doing in the time leading up to this horrendous shooting and we know more about their backgrounds, whether any kind of ideological or religious theme helped motivate them - I mean, we don't know any of those things right now. And it's I think a little reckless to speculate too much until law enforcement begins to put the pieces together.


In just about 20 seconds, how common is it in mass shooting incidents in the past that the attackers knew their victims? This was a man who appeared to be a coworker of people at the holiday party.

BARRETT: Yeah - no, we've had a number of incidents where you have, you know, rageful employees who go back to a place of employment and shoot the place up - you know, going postal, that grim...


BARRETT: ...Cliche, you know, maybe an element in this event, but we're not sure.

INSKEEP: OK, well, Mr. Barrett, thanks very much.

BARRETT: You bet.

WERTHEIMER: Paul Barrett is the author of "Glock: The Rise Of America's Gun." He is an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.