Horror in a quiet town

Massacre stuns Dunblane residents

March 13, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EST (0140 GMT)

From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie

LONDON (CNN) -- Previously famed for its 13th century cathedral, Dunblane, Scotland, was an ordinary, tranquil town ... until a man with four handguns burst into a school gymnasium Wednesday and began raining bullets on 5- and 6-year-olds.


The massacre left 16 children and a teacher dead. The gunman, Thomas Hamilton, a 43-year-old local resident, also killed himself. Another adult and at least 12 of the 29 children in the kindergarten class were wounded, several seriously.

This town of some 9,000 people is still reeling from shock, unable to believe that one of the worst mass killings in British history happened in its own backyard.

Helen Liddell

"This is a slaughter of the innocents, unlike anything we have ever seen in Scotland, and I think Scotland is going to have to come to terms with it."

-- Scottish member of Parliament Helen Liddell

Violence related to Northern Ireland and other political struggles have claimed more than a thousand lives in Britain, but non-political mass killings are rare.

Hungerford, England, is still haunted by a crazed gunman's rampage through the center of the town nine years ago. Michael Ryan killed 16 people and injured more than a dozen before shooting himself.

Two years ago, a man with a knife killed a schoolgirl and injured several others when he burst into a middle school in northern England.

Such incidents have become national tragedies in a nation where police are traditionally unarmed and firearms are strictly regulated.

In fact, in a population of 50 million people, there were only 75 deaths involving firearms last year in Britain.

The United States, where weapons can be purchased openly, has had its share of tragedies similar to Dunblane.

A 30-year-old woman's rampage through a Winnetka, Illinois, school in 1988 killed one child and wounded six others before she committed suicide.


A year later, five children were slaughtered and 30 others wounded in a California school yard by a gunman who then turned the gun on himself.

Robin Squire

It is not yet clear how the gunman at the Dunblane primary school got his weapons, but the incident adds urgency to the issue of security in Britain's schools.

But Britain's education minister Robin Squire said he thinks that armed guards outside schools would make residents uncomfortable. "The schools are part of the community," he said. "We want people in there."

But authorities say that regardless of what measures are taken, they may be inadequate to stop a determined gunman.

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