Is second attack on French police officer an act of terrorism?

In the wake of the bloody attack on the Parisian weekly Charlie Hebdo, France may be in the midst of a terrorist campaign targeting the symbols of French authority.

At 7:15 a.m. local time, a French police officer in southern Paris was attacked by at least one gunman dressed in black and wearing a bulletproof vest. The officer had stopped to investigate a traffic incident when she was shot and killed, according to French authorities. A street sweeper was also injured in the attack.

CBS News further reported the details of the attack:

“There was an officer in front of a white car and a man running away who shot,” said Ahmed Sassi, who saw the shooting from his home nearby.

He said the shooter wore dark clothes but no mask. “It didn’t look like a big gun because he held it with one hand,” Sassi said.

Witnesses reported hearing at least five gunshots, but officials did not immediately clarify early reports that two suspects could have been involved in the Montrouge incident. There were no confirmed arrests.

The shooting has not been directly linked to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and it quite possibly could be the work of a copycat. The similarities between these two attacks are, however, hard to ignore.

Retaliatory violence against French Muslims may also be materializing, according to reports. On Thursday, an explosion tore through a kebab shop near a Mosque in the town of Villefranche-sur-Saone. There were no casualties resulting from that attack. An unidentified shooter fired gunshots at a prayer room of another mosque in southern France and a third Mosque in Le Mans was attacked with grenades.

With the violence failing to ebb in the wake of Wednesday’s terrorist attack, and while the prime suspects in that assault still at large, French authorities are preparing to restore order. “Heavily armored police are gearing up for an operation, outlets reported,” read a New York Daily News report. “Seven people have been arrested overnight as police hunt for the killers, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.”

The death of a third French officer in the space of 24 hours, in combination with reports that the first responders, who might have been able to confront Charlie Hebdo’s attackers, were forced to flee in the face of superior firepower, might give rise to a debate over restoring firearms to local police forces in Europe. When the perpetrators are in custody and a necessary period of mourning has passed, it will be time to ask whether Parisians, Londoners, Berliners, or any other European for that matter, is truly safer because firearms are out of the hands of European patrolmen and women.

The counterargument seems rather unconvincing. “Some call for an extreme use of force to respond to Pairs attacks,” wrote New York Times Beijing Bureau Chief Edward Wong in a now deleted tweet, “but school shootings in US have killed more and US leaders do nothing.”

That this struck Wong as a rational and compelling counterargument speaks to the vacuity of those who continue to oppose giving trained police officers access to firearms. Inviting violence and death in defense of a principle, and a dubious one at that, is not good public policy.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023