Compared to the United States the United Kingdom is known for its strict policies on firearms, particularly handguns. On 16 October, 1996, the 23 official recommendations were made that enabled the banning of handguns from private ownership throughout the UK.
This decision was made just after the most deadly shooting in UK history, what is commonly known as the Dunblane massacre. On March 13 earlier that year, a Thomas Hamilton, 43, drove his van to Dunblane Primary School and disabled communications for the school and nearby homes. Toting four legally owned handguns, he marched into the gymnasium and murdered several people–an adult and many children–before moving throughout the school to kill others. He then turned a revolver on himself and ended his own life.
Hamilton was carrying two Smith & Wesson M19 revolvers and two 9mm Browning HPs. He had killed one teacher and 16 children, wounding another 15.
The aftermath of this shooting was, like many of our shootings today, an emotionally devastating time for the entire UK. An inquiry was begun, which ended up in heavy recommendations for tighter gun control in regards to pistols. This was when they started to really consider banning handguns for the everyday person, with the exception of .22 rimfire cartridges (and these would also later be banned under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair in late 1997).
In an interesting contrast to the arguments you often see today, it was the conservative government–under the banner of Prime Minister and leader of the conservative party, John Major–that pushed for the tighter gun control. While this law was not officially established until February of 1997, it was on October 16th, 1996 that the official proposal was made and the wheels had begun to turn toward tighter gun control.
As this anniversary rolls around, we are reminded of the similar discussions we face on a daily basis. The shootings in Las Vegas and Orlando have spurred much talk in regards to tightening existing restrictions on personally owned firearms–though our debate tends to revolve more around assault rifles these days. On one side, you have the belief that Americans have an inherent right to self defense by any means necessary, and an obligation to have the power to hold their government accountable. On the other hand, you have people who just want the killing and mass shootings to stop, even if that means restricting the purchase of (currently) legal firearms. As the debates continue to go back and forth, we’ll see if the United States starts to follow the path of the UK or continue in its freedom in purchasing weapons.
Featured image courtesy of Public Domain Pictures.