Britons will know where they where when they heard of the Dunblane
massacre on the 13th March 1996. I was sitting at my office desk
in Basingstoke when a colleague came and told me the solemn news
that sixteen primary school kids and their teacher had been gunned
to death by the madman Thomas Hamilton.
the nation curled up into a season of introspection and questioning
as a mixed sense of shock and emotion charged the debate over
why such a thing had happened in Scotland. Why, indeed? Such a
thing had never been seen in Scotland.
having Hamilton alive to exact retribution upon left the desire
for action very much gnawing at the nation's conscience. Who would
be the sacrificial lamb to expiate this sin? The answer came in
the form of others who were symbolically laid to rest as gun owners
as 1997 brought in legislation to ban all handguns above .22 calibre
and restrict smaller weapons to gun clubs. This ban has since
the nation was appeased and the scapegoat wandered off into a
legislative wilderness. The campaign of various newspapers and
pressure groups such as the Snowdrop campaign had paid off and
we could all feel that the problem had been solved. All in all,
a time of emotional hysteria but not much reasonable debate.
for a look at the current facts and not the emotional bluster
report has just been published by the Centre for Defence Studies
in London, which shows that criminal use of handguns increased
by 40% in the two years immediately after the 1997 ban on handguns.
In the years 1997-1998, 2,648 crimes involving handguns were reported.
In 1999-2000, that number had increased to 3,685. This is not
far off the peak of seven years previous, which reported 4,273
if we didn't know already, illegal use of firearms has little
to do with legal possession of firearms. It is now believed there
are over 300,000 firearms in Britain which are readily accessible
to anyone with murder on their minds. That is why the ban on handguns
was a triumph of democracy but not for morality and reason.
Anne Pearston, the prime mover in the Snowdrop Campaign, was presented
with these figures, she was reported to have said these dismissive
completely misses the point of what we were trying to do. We never
thought that there would be any effect on illegal gun crime, because
this is a totally separate issue.
we were campaigning for was to make sure that a civilian could
not be legally trained to use a handgun. Our legacy is that there
should never be another Thomas Hamilton, and that is what the
legislation was designed to achieve.
is what I would call a busybody or a self-appointed solution looking
for a problem. Not content with having played a part in banning
handguns, she now wants the possession of airguns to be banned
as well. Methinks she has too much time on her hands. No doubt
she will move onto kitchen knives after that.
should note her carefully constructed words. She does not say
that they campaigned to make sure a civilian could never possess
a firearm, but only that they may never be legally trained to
use one. In other words, she knows there is nothing on earth
anyone can do to stop anyone else acquiring a gun.
previous gun massacre of fourteen people in Hungerford in 1987
plainly proves that. Michael Ryan was in possession of two machine
guns, which had been banned, in previous legislation. He even
had his gun license revoked, but the police did not bother to
seize all his weapons (Thomas Hamilton was given a renewed license
despite a warning from some police about his paedophilic personality
definition of "illegal gun crime" is rather forced as well, for
was not Hamilton's use of guns an illegal gun crime? We must assume
that Hamilton's actions were not of such a class because Ms. Pearston
insists that the campaign did not address the issue of illegal
I said, the ban was a good example of democracy in action. By
that I mean popular opinion was mobilised against gun ownership.
Imagine a campaign had been started to ban all cars from side
streets because cars kill far, far more children than guns. In
a truly hypocritical manner, popular opinion would have baulked
at the prospect of being denied access to side streets. The death
of hundreds of innocent children a year is acceptable so long
as it is smoothed out over the year and not in the short, sharp
shock of a high profile gun massacre.
we had had as many gun owners as car owners in Britain, this ban
would have never seen the light of day. If we had had as many
gun owners as car owners in Britain, it is doubtful whether Thomas
Hamilton would have got as near as he could have to those unfortunate
children. When the majority judge themselves to be not inconvenienced
by a matter then the rights of the minority can take a walk.
hope that another massacre will not come along to prove all this
dictatorial nonsense unwise. People have to change and not what
they have in their possession. The State is presiding over and
forming a society increasingly predisposed to violent crime and
banning various weapons merely papers over the cracks of a problem
they are powerless to change. Ultimately, that problem can only
be solved by the love and respect we should have for one another
and which no state diktat can cultivate.