On This day - 13th March

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Thomas Hamilton - Dunblane

The 13th of March 1996

Nobody in Britain heard the news about the morning of March 13th 1996 at Dunblane Primary School without being moved. Parents looked at their children and imagined the horror gone through by the families of the sixteen children gunned down that day, and of the teacher who died with them.

Just after 9.30 Gwen Mayor was taking a PE class with her five- and six-year-old pupils in the gym of Dunblane Primary school. A 43-year-old local man, Thomas Hamilton, walked into the building and in three bloody minutes shot dead the teacher and all but one of her class present that day. Another child was murdered beyond the gym as Hamilton shot at a mobile classroom in the playground, and at children and a teacher in a corridor. Children throughout the school, including the then eight-year-old Andrew Murray , were sheltering behind and beneath desks. Hamilton returned to the classroom and shot himself.

Hamilton, a failed shopkeeper and at one-time (very briefly) a scout-master, had four pistols and 743 rounds of ammunition on him, including some hollow-point bullets. He had been able to keep his legally-owned weapons in spite of major misgivings on the part of a police officer in the area who wrote a report suggesting his license should be revoked.

The motive for Hamilton's vile act is not totally clear, but his background tells a story. He had been sacked as a scout-master by the Scout Movement because of his unacceptable behaviour. He was 20 at the time. He repeatedly tried to be re-admitted to the organisation, but was rebuffed, so he set up his own boys' club. Parents became suspicious of him and his photographing of semi-naked boys. Hamilton believed he was being persecuted by the police and other authorities, and that this was also responsible for the failure of his business in 1993, and he was said to have become increasingly bitter. How that bitterness led him to the sick and evil act of March 13th 1996 is beyond comprehension.

Following the massacre the Cullen Report and the national outcry about the horror led to a major backlash against gun ownership, with severe restrictions brought in on the ownership of handguns.

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