On March 13 1996, Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, armed with handguns. The gunman murdered 16 children and a teacher, before putting one of his own firearms into his mouth and pulling the trigger.
I was a journalist at the time and, though I wasn’t directly involved in reporting on this most terrible incident, my best pal at the time was stationed as an agency writer in Scotland and was sent to the scene.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget her telling me about that dreadful feeling of waiting outside the school, surrounded by parents who had no idea whether their small child was alive or dead.
Dunblane sent shockwaves across the UK. The entire nation was in mourning, with all the ripple effects in full swing – disbelief, horror, dismay, anguish, pain, frustration, anger… the whole gamut of emotions.
Of course, gun laws came into question and, though it took campaigning and didn’t happen overnight, we did make changes to our gun laws.
Until that time, gun control legislation in the UK had been influenced by the 1987 Hungerford Massacre, during which 16 people were killed. After that, Parliament passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988, which banned the ownership of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles, weapons that fire explosive ammunition, short shotguns with magazines, and elevated pump-action and self-loading rifles.
In the wake of Dunblane, an inquiry into the tragedy culminated in a successful campaign to outlaw the purchase and possession of handguns, via the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.
The UK has not experienced another school shooting since.
Let me say that again. The people campaigned, the police, politicians and government took action and our children have remained safe from crazed gun toting mass-murderers ever since.
Now, I’m not American, and I admit I’m not that well versed in US politics, but I *am* a human being. Last I checked, I had a heart and brain and blood pumping through my veins like the rest of you. What’s more, having been very up close and personal with guns, including those legal and licensed, I do know it’s the people holding the steel that are to blame, rather than the instrument.
I get it. I really do. Wanting to ban guns, or at least bring in more controls to stop anyone with too many issues and a happy trigger finger from accessing them is as ridiculous as wanting to ban cars, isn’t it? I mean, they take lives too, don’t they? What about hammers? Baseball bats?
Cars, hammers and baseball bats weren’t designed to take lives.
Sorry guys, I call bullshit on that argument! In fact, I call far more than BS, but this is largely a family-friendly platform, and one mild curse word is as far as I dare push that envelope. Let me stick with ‘safe’ words then: I call arrogance; I call ignorance; I call total blind stupidity; I call selfishness; I call accessory to murder. Yes, I really did just say that.
There has to be a way to stop this, America. There has to be a way to at least create a safer world for our children, doesn’t there? And no… arming teachers with guns of their own is NOT the answer.
Did our UK gun regulations wipe out all mass shootings in these fair lands? No.
Just for the record, to be absolutely clear before you start arguing the toss and splitting hairs, in 2010, 52-year-old Derrick Bird shot and killed 12 people and injured 11 more during a shooting spree in Cumbria before killing himself. I had to search for that.
Let me say it again, though: there have been no mass shootings in UK schools since we pulled our heads out of our backsides and did something sensible to safeguard our kids.
We still have gun sports over here. You can still legally own certain firearms. You just can’t wake up one day, decide to buy an instrument specifically designed to bring about wounding and death, then wade into a school and start shooting up the kids. Crazy, huh?
Y’know, there’s a meme doing the rounds on the internet – I’ll include a copy of it with this column – it carries a black and white image of those children, along with the following text: “20 years ago a man walked into Dunblane primary school and murdered 16 children and their teacher. Soon after, the UK banned the ownership of all handguns. There have been no school shootings in the UK since.”
When I was researching for this article, that very meme popped up on Snopes. If you don’t already know, that’s a fact-checking website, where people can submit news they suspect to be fake to have it verified or dismissed. Just think about that for a second… days after another school massacre in the US, someone puts out an image designed to bring about some common sense when it comes to gun laws, and people immediately try to disprove it.
Why would anyone do that? What? You’re disappointed the UK took positive action to stop our children being fired at in the classroom? You wanted to prove that little fact wrong? Does it make all you proud, pro-firearms-for-all lobbyists feel a little bit uncomfortable. Does it?
GOOD! I hope so!
You need to pull your heads out of your asses and do something far more positive. You need to stop just sitting in prayer and hoping for a celestial solution. Because, you know what? If you’re waiting for ‘God’ to whisper the answers while you’re sleeping, he already gave them to you. He gave you a brain and a conscience. You’re just choosing not to use them.
There’s a time and a place for guns. Our armed forces. Our law enforcers. Those responsible for animal and wildlife control in some areas. Legitimate, licensed sporting activities. There are probably more sensible additions to this list.
But if you’re still digging in your heels, proudly driving around with your guns-for-all bumper stickers, citing freedom and wanting the availability of metal murder sticks to be easy as picking up your cereal and dry-cleaning, you have blood on your hands. Worse: you have children’s blood on your hands.