If anyone understands the pain suffered in Newtown, it’s the people of Dunblane, Scotland. Unbelievably, the intense horror we witnessed at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday was the same violent end a class of five and six year olds met nearly 17 years ago.
On March 13, 1996, Thomas Hamilton (born Thomas Watt, Jr.) went to Dunblane Primary School, cut the telephone wire, and shot and killed 16 children and one adult, wounding 17 others, before committing suicide.
The 43 year old fired two 9 mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers, all legally held, according to BBC News. Hamilton was carrying 743 cartridges and fired his weapons 109 times.
Some people in the U.S. think we can better protect our children by arming teachers, by adding more guns. The United Kingdom thought differently.
After the Dunblane slaughter, the U.K. worked swiftly to honor the memory of the innocents by passing bold gun reform, which was widely supported by the people.
Thankfully, the U.K. had already banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles through the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988, following the massacre of 16 people in Hungerford, according to the BBC. The Act also made shotgun registration mandatory and required owners to store shotguns securely.
Nine years passed; then, the violent bloodshed in Dunblane prompted more action. To try to restrain future massacres, the British Parliament responded by banning all handguns above a .22 caliber, known as the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997. Later that same year, another amendment outlawed .22 caliber handguns, effectively banning private ownership of all cartridge ammunition handguns.
Certain handguns still allowed are antique and muzzle-loading black powder guns, guns of historic interest, air pistols, and some others not typically regarded as handguns. Certain hunting rifles are also allowed.
People who oppose gun control point to data that says gun crime in the U.K. actually increased after the handgun ban. Some conservative American bloggers are already playing defense after the Newtown tragedy, holding up this statistic as proof that gun reform doesn’t work.
However, if you dig into the data, you see that rising gun crime in Britain is mostly armed burglaries. Gun deaths are, in fact, very rare in the U.K., which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- On a per-capita basis, people are 99 times more likely to be killed with a gun in the United States than in the United Kingdom.
- People are 32 times more likely to kill themselves with a gun in the U.S. vs. the U.K.
- People in the U.S. are 27 times more likely to die in a gun accident compared with the U.K.
So, do you think gun control worked for the U.K. – or was it at least better than doing nothing?
While gun control had no positive impact on burglaries, U.K. residents clearly are less likely to get shot – meaning they are clearly safer – than people living in America, where all types of guns are widely available.We are then left with the question: Is it our possessions or our lives – and our children’s lives – that are more valuable to us?
The safety of American’s children was a central point of President Obama’s remarks at the Newtown prayer vigil on Sunday evening. He said:
Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm?…I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is ‘no.’ We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change…We can’t accept events like this as routine…Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
Unfortunately, we can’t eradicate all violent crime. After 14 years with no mass shootings in the U.K., gunman Derrick Bird went on a rampage in 2010 that left 12 people dead in Cumbria. But, as Obama said Sunday, being unable to prevent every senseless act of violence shouldn’t “be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”
Obviously, a span of 14 years between mass shootings in the U.K. is much better than the 5 months that have elapsed in the U.S. since the July massacre at a Colorado movie theater.
What is wrong with America??
Covering this issue is the only way I know how to cope. Here is more of my recent gun control coverage: