"Arming teachers will not save lives" - Dunblane campaigner

"Arming teachers will not save lives" - Dunblane campaigner
By Catherine Hardy
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The father of a five-year-old girl who died in the UK's school shooting in Scotland in 1996 warns Donald Trump's suggestion to arm teachers in the wake of the Florida shooting will not save lives.


Donald Trump's suggestion to arm some teachers will not stop people dying in school shootings in the United States.

The warning comes from the father of a five-year-old girl who died in the 1996 Dunblane School shootings in Scotland.

Sophie North was in the primary school gym when gunman Thomas Hamilton burst in. She died, along with 15 of her classmates and their teacher.

Her father Mick has told Euronews it would have made no difference had the teacher been armed.

"In the Dunblane situation, three teachers looking after a class in a gymnasium, if any of them had been armed, they would not have had time, they were surprised. And that is what these attackers always have, the element of surprise."

 "They are not going to be standing guard on the door. Teachers are there to teach. They are not going to be able to get any weapon out. It is also a horrible thought that children are growing up and being educated in fortress-like situations."

Dunblane led to a complete ban on handguns in the UK. The country also has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

Campaigners say this came about as a direct result of the public demand for a concrete change.

There has been no mass school shooting in the UK since then. What can campaigners in the US do?

"Keep on reminding, particularly those who make the laws, the politicians, that they have a responsibility, not just to the NRA, in fact they should have no responsibility to the NRA, they should have it to their fellow citizens and try and protect them by trying to reduce the number of guns in circulation."

Mick North spoke to Euronews in the wake of another mass shooting in the United States.

At least 17 people were killed at a high school campus in Parkland, Florida. It is the deadliest school shooting since 26 people were killed at Connecticut school Sandy Hook in 2012.

The attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the sixth school shooting incident this year so far that has either wounded or killed students.

Last year, an attack on a concert in Las Vegas left 58 dead, the worst mass shooting in the US, and again raised questions about gun ownership and whether there should be tougher controls.

Gun culture - how it differs betwen the UK and the US

In 2017, the GCN says in the UK there were:

  • 23 gun homicides in the UK

(they are defined as including murder and manslaughter)

While in the US there were:

  • 15, 595 homicides

  • 732 of the victims were children under 11

  • 3,234 were aged between 12 and 17

  • 346 were in "mass shooting events"

(Figures quoted by the GCN, using information from the Gun Violence Archive )


What about Trump's idea to arm teachers?

The US president raised the idea on Wednesday during an emotional discussion with people affected by the shooting.

At an hour-long meeting on school safety with 10 state and local officials, Donald Trump said armed teachers with an aptitude for guns would deter would-be shooters.

"A gun-free zone to a killer, or somebody that wants to be a killer, that's like going in for the ice cream," Trump said. "They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns."

“Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn’t understand teachers and doesn’t understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union.

The idea of arming teachers has been raised by some politicians in the past but dismissed by critics as fraught with danger.


What about background checks on buyers?

Trump has reiterated his support for tightening background checks for gun buyers. The emphasisi should be on mental health, experts say, and the age limit to buy some kinds of guns be lifted.

He has also said he would push for an end to the sale of bump stocks. They allow rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute, as in Las Vegas last year in which 58 people died.

The White House says Trump does not want to ban sales of an entire class of firearms, despite mounting pressure to put assault weapons such as the one used in the Florida shooting out of civilian reach,

While gun laws vary widely by state, most federal gun control measures would require Congress to act.

A 19-year-old former student at Stoneman Douglas, Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with carrying out the Parkland shooting. Authorities say he was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault-style rifle that he had purchased legally last year.


What is the Gun Control Network?

It was established as a small, non-profit making organisation in July 1996 in the aftermath of the Dunblane shootings. The founders included lawyers, academics and the parents of victims killed at Dunblane and Hungerford.

It was the first gun control organisation in the UK. The aim is to campaign for progressively tighter controls on guns in the UK.

Find out more about it here

Has it achieved its aims?

Partly, organisers say, although they stress that their work continues.

There is a complete ban on handguns in the UK. The country also has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.


The GCN organisers say this came about as a direct result of the public demand for a concrete change in the wake of the 1996 Dunblane shootings.

After Dunblane, the Conservative government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. This:

  • confined the use of handguns to clubs

  • prohibited larger calibre handguns

The subsequent Labour government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act 1997 which banned the civilian ownership of handguns almost completely (muzzle-loadng guns and starting pistols being significant exceptions)

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