The Dunblane Massacre is often referenced in discussions of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States and around the world. In 1996, the tragic mass shooting at a primary school in Scotland rocked the UK and caused significant changes in gun ownership laws.
After a murderer claimed 16 lives in one morning, public outcry and activism pushed new legislation into effect, essentially banning handguns in the UK. More than 20 years later, the horrible violence in Dunblane continues to influence the discussion of gun control in the UK as well as many other countries.
Scottish tennis player and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was a student at Dunblane who was walking into the gymnasium when the shooter opened fire. He took cover in a classroom and survived. Though he initially refused to talk about that traumatic day, Murray's experiences have greatly shaped his views on gun control legislation. Since 2013, he has been an outspoken advocate against guns and has used his platform to publicly speak out in the US, urging lawmakers to create stronger gun control laws in the aftermath of continued mass shootings.
The Shooter Entered The Primary School And Killed 16 People
On March 13, 1996, a shooter entered the Dunblane Primary School and opened fire on a class of students preparing for a PE class. In merely three minutes, the shooter fired 105 bullets, killing 17 people, including 16 students between the ages of five and six along with their teacher. He then shot himself, leaving a wake of carnage which included, in addition to the dead, 15 injured people.
The Dunblane massacre remains the worst mass shooting in British history.
The Shooter Had Previously Been Suspected Of Inappropriate Behavior With Children
The Dunblane shooter had a questionable past before the massacre. Thomas Hamilton was a 43-year-old former Scout Master who had been fired from the position over allegations that he'd been inappropriately photographing underage boys. When the police questioned him about inappropriate behavior toward the boys in his care, he denied it, although he had reportedly also forced boys to sleep in his own quarters during expeditions.
He held a grudge against the Scouts and his community, and a local shooting club had also rejected his membership, calling him "sleazy." Despite his history, however, he had a handgun permit.
After The Shooting, Public Outcry Demanded New Gun Legislation
News of the mass shooting at Dunblane shocked the British kingdom. Many residents of Dunblane wondered how someone with the shooter's history was able to legally own guns.
The violence at Dunblane sparked a public outcry for new gun control legislation. Families of the victims started the Snowdrop Petition, calling for a ban on private gun ownership. The petition was handed to the government with more than 700,000 signatures.
Firearms Had Already Been Restricted After A Previous Mass Shooting
Dunblane was not the first time a mass shooting had influenced gun legislation in the UK. In 1987, an unemployed laborer went on a shooting spree for six hours in Hungerford, England, killing 16 people and injuring 15 more. Similar to Dunblane, this shooter had ended the shooting by turning the gun on himself. The shooter used two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun.
After this mass shooting, the UK government passed gun legislation in 1988, banning all semi-automatic rifles. However, handguns were still legal, which became the focus of debate after Dunblane.