One of the most terrible things about the story out of Norway about one man’s bombing and shooting attacks on defenseless people was how familiar it was. How many times have we read this story? How many times have we seen carnage fill our television screens?

From the rage of psychotic loners to the organized attacks of terrorist conspiracies, we have seen buildings blown up, schools riddled, summer camps turned into slaughterhouses, subways blasted into twisted wreckage and even a member of Congress wounded and a federal judge slain.

The attacks occur where access to guns is easy as well as where firearms are tightly regulated. In Oklahoma City and now Oslo, a commonly available agricultural fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, has been made into a bomb to kill the innocent by the dozens.

Those attempting to find a common thread too often fall into distortions that do damage beyond that of the attacks themselves. A billion and a half Muslims, most of whom live in peace with their neighbors, are feared and sometimes hated because of the carnage done by a small percentage of those who claim to share their faith.

Now a Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, is accused of killing eight people with a bomb in Olso and 68 children at a political party’s youth camp on a quiet, peaceful island.

Because he reportedly claimed to be a Christian on a website, some are now blaming that religion for fomenting his violence, with precisely as little justification as those who slander all Muslims for jihadist terrorism.

Breivik’s writings reflected a hatred of his country’s ruling Labor Party for what he saw as its failure to defend Norway against “multicultural” attacks. In that he appeared to resemble Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Yet, he lifted passages from the writings of environmental extremist Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” substituting his own phrases for Kaczynski’s in some spots.

Breivik has claimed to be a member of a group, but so far he seems to fit the model of the deranged loner.

And let’s note that those who say it could have made a difference if Breivik had not been the only person with a gun on the island when he launched his killing spree make a good point.

In any case, his bloody attacks raise a question that is being asked with more frequency than before: How can free societies defend themselves from those who use their liberties to plot and carry out deadly assaults on innocent people?

Tragically, it is a far easier question to ask than it is to answer — but part of the response has to be that giving up our liberties for safety is the one sure way to let the violent among us win.