For Brits, Newtown shooting brings reminders of Dunblane
In 1996, 16 children died at the hands of a lone gunman in Scotland, spurring a radical reform of British gun laws. But Britain's experience may be too different to help a post-Newtown US.
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Impact on killing sprees
As for outbreaks of killing sprees such Dunblane and the question of whether gun laws have made repetitions less likely, Grimshaw points out that such incidents are extremely difficult to predict, adding that there are difficulties in drawing conclusions on the basis of a relatively small number of incidents.Skip to next paragraph
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Since Dunblane, the most high-profile episode of a similar nature was a 2010 killing spree by a taxi driver who shot dead 12 people over the course of several hours at different locations in Cumbria, a scenic northwestern English county. A report by British policing's most senior firearms-licensing specialist proposed further restrictions on gun ownership and mandatory liaisons between mental health services before the granting of firearms licenses.
Dereck Bird, the gunman who carried out the killings using a weapon which he legally owned, bore grudges against colleagues and feared he was about to be imprisoned for tax offenses, but had no diagnosed history of mental health problems. In comparison, warnings that Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane killer, was a danger to children were ignored for many years by the authorities.
Advocates for greater gun control in the UK meanwhile accept that the likelihood of another incident like Dunblane or Cumbria can be never be eliminated, but argue that it is a matter of eliminating the risk where possible.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, chair of the Gun Control Network, says: “If you look at what was happening to this country at the time of Dunblane in 1996, at that time pistol shooting was the fastest growing sport in the UK and we were going down the American road. Since then, gun laws have been tightened and homicides are very, very low.”
Smaller gun lobby
Still, she asserts that much more can be done to limit the likelihood of gun holders carrying out killings, such as introducing annual checks with doctors, spouses, and the police in relation to alcohol or drug abuse, depression, and domestic violence.
Such measures, for now, are not at the top of the mainstream political agenda, although Ms. Marshall-Andrews suggests that events in the US may have an impact on public opinion.
Politically, British proponents of greater gun control face nothing like a powerful political lobbying organization on a par with the National Rifle Association. Still, criticism of gun control measures introduced over recent decades have come from sportspeople and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, a lobbying organization which has 129,000 members.
It organized shooters to lobby MPs when they debated the possibility of tighter firearms laws in the wake of the Cumbria shootings, and last year welcomed the government's rejection of calls for greater gun control such as the centralized storage of firearms and further restrictions on shotgun licensing.