The Dunblane School Massacre That Changed Gun Law in Britain
America, if you want to change gun law, you need to fight now
One event always comes to mind whenever the news carries stories of school shootings. The Dunblane Massacre was Britain's worse mass shooting. This tragedy inspired a nation to lobby hard to change gun laws to keep our babies safe.
The Dunblane Massacre
Dunblane is a small town in Scotland. On 13th March 1996, a gunman walked into the school and shot dead sixteen children aged five and their teacher, leaving more severely injured. He then turned the gun on himself, dying at the crime scene.
Thomas Hamilton was forty-three and lived in the town. On that fateful morning, he got into a van he had hired and drove to the primary school, parking in the school car park at 930. He then made his way to a telegraph pole and cut the wires; thinking he was cutting the phone to the school, he actually cut lines to nearby houses. He then entered the school and walked to the hall.
Reports state that previous to this; he had asked a student what time assembly was; the student had misinformed him, saying 930. When Hamilton found the hall empty, he made his way to the nearby sports hall where a first-grade class were just about to start gym.
He walked into the gym, shooting two handguns he had brought with him. He targeted the three adults first, killing one outright and seriously injuring the other two. He then started shooting children multiple times. The two injured teachers managed to get some of the children into a storeroom, praying he did not find them.
Hamilton left the gym and fired shots at the library cloakroom and mobile classroom. The teacher in the portable classroom instructed her class to lay on the floor. A bullet passing by where they had been sat moments later. With this, Hamilton then walked back to the gym; taking another handgun out of his bag, he shot himself. The attack took less than five minutes but must have seemed a lifetime to everyone there.
Eight-year-old tennis legend Andy Murray was walking to the gym class for his lesson as the group heard gunshots and ran for their life. He has spoken little about that day, only to say that tennis was the sport that got him through the anxiety after.
Andy's class had been on their way to the gym. That's how close he was to what happened. They heard the noise and someone went ahead to investigate. They came back and told all the kids to go to the headmaster's study and the deputy head's study. They were told to sit down below the windows, and they were singing songs. The teachers and dinner ladies did an amazing job, containing all these children, feeding them, and getting them out without them being aware of what had happened. I don't know how they managed it. - Judy Murray
This was the legacy that the massacre left, not just grieving parents but traumatised students who had been spared and a heartbroken community.
The country mourned for these children, much as the American people are now. However, it was time for Britains to demand a change and never allow this to happen again. Started by the parents of the Dunblane children, operation Snowdrop commenced with some fantastic results.
The operation was named Snowdrop after the flower that blooms in Britain at the time of the massacre. Hamilton had killed all those innocent lives with legally owned guns meant something needed to change. Gun laws needed to change so that this tragedy never happened again.
Snowdrop started a petition, which was then supported by a national paper. They received a huge amount of signatures, over seven hundred thousand. It is estimated that one in one hundred people signed it. Still, the government did not listen, so the families collected the petition and took a coach to London. Here at parliament, complete with hundreds of boxes of petition, they demanded that politicians listen to them.
However, the group still did not feel they were doing enough to effect change, so they formed the Gun Control Network, which would work alongside Snowdrop to fight for change. Finally, caving under public pressure, the government announced an official enquiry into the massacre. The Cullen Report stated many necessary changes, one of which was that the current gun laws were insufficient.
Many organisations stood against this movement, demanding they had the right to own guns. The Home Affairs Select Committee were one area that did not see a need for gun reform; this, after all, was a tragic accident that would never happen again.
Finally, after mounting pressure from the British, John Major, Conservative Prime Minister, issued an amendment to gun laws banning the ownership of high calibre handguns; automatic weapons had been banned a few years before this after another mass killing in Hungerford. The problem with this amendment was that Hamilton had killed the children with a 22. calibre weapon; that had not been made illegal. The campaigning continued.
In November 1997, eighteen months after Dunblane, the new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, brought in legislation that banned the ownership of all handguns. It also legislated for much tighter gun control for shotguns and gun clubs. It was one of the areas of reform he quoted in his election promises.
In Britain today, to be able to own a shotgun legally, you have to be police checked, be approved by your doctor and have two witnesses that testify to your good character. In addition, you have to prove you need the gun for hunting or sports purposes. Furthermore, these guns must be secured safely on the property and inspected by the police; no other household member should have access. These legislative steps have reduced gun crime in Britain by up to 50%; there has only been one other mass shooting incident since Dunblane.
The government set up a £150 million buyback scheme to aid the smooth transition to these new laws. This, along with public pressure and feeling, meant that gun owners voluntarily handed in their guns.
Laws were changed, handguns were banned. The level of gun violence in Britain is now one of the lowest in the world. Since 1996 there have been no more school shootings. - The Gun Reform Network
Anyone has the power
Those brave families of Dunblane fought hard to effect change and their results were miraculous. Having lost their children, they made our children's lives much safer. Snowdrop was the most effective grassroots campaign in the UK to date. Everyone has the power to do this again.
Snowdrop used the time to act quickly and start demanding change. It is a sad truth that people forget about tragedy until the next one comes along. I urge American's now is the time to elicit change. Don't wait for the next massacre; demand something is done now.
Britains mourn with America during these times, but we don't understand why it keeps happening. British people fought to change our gun laws to stop innocent children from dying; we can not imagine why this is so hard for Americans. It may not mean making guns illegal, but surely common sense demands adequate checks are made on those who want to own a firearm.
Some will tell me that America is different; the right to bear arms is written in the constitution, but Britain doesn't have that. I understand this, but where does it say in the constitution that an eighteen-year-old with mental health issues can buy two assault rifles three years before he can buy a beer.