The events in Newtown, USA on Friday December 14, 2012, will have a far reaching effect. The fact that a semi sleepy little town, a peaceful oasis in a sea of cities, could experience such a shooting spree must shatter any illusions about gun ownership. The fact of the matter is that when civilians have guns in their possession there is always the risk of harm.
In America lax gun controls have led to many male suicides and killing sprees. You can argue about where the responisibilty lies for such actions but ultimately if the gun was not available in 9 out of 10 cases the tragedies would have been less frequent and less damaging.
The UK experienced mass killings at a school in Scotland in 1996. Fifteen children aged between 5 and 6 died in a classroom along with their teacher. Eleven children and three adults sustained physical injuries and were taken to hospital. One of the children was pronounced dead on arrival. The shooter let his weapons rip around the school before killing himself with a bullet. If it had not been for other staff managing to hide children before he got to them the death toll would have been much higher.
As in the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut there were many stories of brave action, most in an attempt to protect the children.
44-year-old Thomas Hamilton the killer in Dunblane was armed to the teeth with legally held weapons. Wikipedia carries some information which may explain how this misguided, suspect and strange man came to vent his wrath on small children. Some documents relating to the case were put under a closure order. The reasons given were that it was to protect the children but many people believe it was a cover-up. There were widespread reports that Hamilton had been accused of abusing children but that these were never followed through by police.
The UK has sadly experienced mass killings since, recently in the case of Derrick Bird who went on a shooting spree in Cumbria. They have been rare occurrences. Bird too legally held weapons. Lessons have been learned in the UK about regulations regarding gun control.
After Dunblane there were petitions and an inquiry which made recommendations about gun ownership. These were followed through.
That does not mean it could not happen again in the UK but hopefully it will not. The chances are slim. Reading again about Dunblane it is easy to feel that the children and their families were let down by the law of the land.
Lessons have been learned regarding our gun laws. Yes some people will still illegally access them via the Internet or criminal actions, but weapons are not a regular feature in ordinary people's homes.
Can people in the USA say that?