U.K. Got Tough On Guns After 1996 Scotland School Attack; There Hasn't Been One Since

Effective gun control "probably isn’t possible in America unless there are some dramatic changes,” said a Scottish dad who lost his 5-year-old daughter in the shooting.

Shattered parents and gun control advocates went into action in 1996 after a former Scout master fatally shot 16 children and their teacher at an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland. After they battled to effectively ban handguns for civilians in the U.K. (automatic weapons were outlawed after a previous mass killing), there hasn’t been another mass school shooting in the U.K. since.

Now, Mick North, father of 5-year-old Sophie, who was killed in the Dunblane attack, and one of the founders of the Gun Control Network, is stunned Americans can’t get it together to protect their children.

His immediate reaction after learning that 19 children and two teachers had been killed in Uvalde, Texas, in yet another American school shooting was: “Oh, no, not again,” he told National Public Radio Friday.

“But it doesn’t come as a surprise any longer because it just happens too often,” North added. “I thought as soon as people know what happened in Britain, and what changes were brought about as a result of our children dying, that there’d be a rush not necessarily to enact the same kind of legislation but at least to try to fight for gun laws. But it’s just never happened.”

Dunblane was a “game-changer for guns in the U.K.,” Peter Squires, a professor of criminology and public policy at Brighton University, told The Independent in 2017. “If the deaths of children will not tweak a nation’s conscience, nothing will.”

British Queen Elizabeth II (C) arrives on March 17, 1996 with Princess Ann and a member of the Scottish Office to lay a wreath et the entrance of Dunblane Primary School, where a gunman shot 16 children and a teacher on March 13, 1996. / AFP / GERRY PENNY
British Queen Elizabeth II (C) arrives on March 17, 1996 with Princess Ann and a member of the Scottish Office to lay a wreath et the entrance of Dunblane Primary School, where a gunman shot 16 children and a teacher on March 13, 1996. / AFP / GERRY PENNY
GERRY PENNY via Getty Images

One formidable opponent in the fight after the Scotland shooting was the late Prince Philip, who facetiously asked the BBC at the time that if someone battered people to death with a cricket bat, would cricket bats be banned?

Obviously, that was “nonsense,” North told NPR. Such statements fail to acknowledge the appalling devastation of guns, particularly automatic weapons, he noted. “It is too easy for somebody to pick up something like a gun and cause havoc within seconds and certainly within minutes,” North said.

But North is losing faith that Americans are capable of gun control and saving lives lost to bullets.

“I’ve come to believe that it probably isn’t possible in America unless there are some dramatic changes,” he pointed out.

“Those of us who have been in contact with gun control groups and other Americans have been putting statistics down on paper for them to look at. And the comparisons between the U.S. and Britain now should make shocking reading to anyone in America,” North said.

So far this year, gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in the U.K. stands at 0.23. In the U.S. it’s 12.21.

North acknowledged a gun “culture” and “frontier mentality” in the U.S. that appear to make cracking down on firearms more difficult. But similar nations with similar “frontier” views — like Canada and Australia — have managed to enact effective gun control measures, North noted.

Gun industry supporters like Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) are again advocating that more Americans be armed, including teachers, in a bid to fortify schools that trained (armed) police have been unable to protect.

Trump, speaking at the National Rifle Association convention in Texas on Friday, called gun control efforts “grotesque.”

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