The mass murder of 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane in 1996 was a crime that shocked Britain into action. Out of a great evil came a great good – some of the strictest gun control laws of any country in the world.
There has been only one mass shooting in the UK since then – in Cumbria in 2010 when 12 people died – with terrorists intent on killing as many people as possible reduced to using vehicles and knives.
In the US, the most minor controls have been opposed by America’s most powerful lobbying group, the National Rifle Association (NRA). Despite tragedy after tragedy, the NRA, which laughably describes itself as “America’s longest-standing civil rights organisation”, has used its wealth and power to essentially bribe, bully and, indeed, persuade elected representatives not to back restrictions on the kinds of guns that can be bought, who can buy them and how long it takes.
The NRA knows it could be in trouble following the latest shootings, including the murders of 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida. “Politicians and the media are blaming you and your freedom for despicable acts of terror and violence. Now, more than ever, NRA needs your help to fight back,” its website says. But the NRA will be confident as it speaks so loudly that common sense has always been drowned out.
So the message taken to Florida by the relatives of the Dunblane shootings – that advocates for gun control need to speak with one voice, just as they had done with the successful Snowdrop Campaign in the UK – could be key.
However Alison Crozier, whose daughter Emma was killed in 1996, said the main thing they wanted to give to US gun control campaigners was hope. John Major, the then Prime Minister, had initially told them that it was “categorically impossible for him to pass a comprehensive handgun ban” before taking that very step.
Many Americans would say the same about attempts to pass significant legislation. And, in truth, the obstacles are much higher. There are militia groups who will not give up their assault rifles, regardless of what the law says. A politician who wanted to make a difference on gun control would fear assassination. But if Dunblane’s example can help in any way then this would be another great good to have come out of that great evil.