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Survivors of Britain's last school shooting offer solidarity in letter to Parkland students

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Survivors of Britain's last school shooting offer solidarity in letter to Parkland students

Survivors of Britain's last school shooting offer solidarity in letter to Parkland students
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When news broke of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Valentine's Day, one community some 6,700 km away knew the precise devastation their families were going through.

The Scottish town of Dunblane was forced to muster strength resilience in the aftermath of the primary school shooting on March 13, 1996, when a gunman shot and killed 16 children and their teacher before killing himself.

The incident marked the deadliest firearms atrocity in the UK.

In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, Mick North — whose daughter was killed in the Dunblane massacre — wrote a letter of solidarity to the families. He told other Dunblane survivors and families of the victims about the note, and they agreed to publish it on the 22nd anniversary of the shootings.

The letter begins: "On the most poignant day of the year for us we wanted to reach out and offer our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to you and your teachers and to all the families and friends of those who died at your school on 14th February. We have watched and listened with tremendous admiration as you have spoken out for what you believe should happen now, a significant change of attitude towards the availability of guns in your country."

"We want you to know that change can happen. It won’t be easy, but continue to remind everyone of exactly what happened at your school and of the devastation caused by just one person with one legally-owned gun. Never let anyone forget."

It also offered their support for the March for Our Lives, saying they "sincerely hope you achieve success. It can be done. #NeverAgain."

Ten of the signatories also took part in a video, in which they read the letter aloud with a black backdrop.

A show of solidarity in times of remembrance

After the shock of the Dunblane school shooting, Rosemary Hunter and other locals started working on a petition to ban private handguns completely — they named it the Snowdrop campaign, after the only spring flower in bloom in the aftermath of the incident.

Speaking to Euronews from Lewis Island, Scotland, Hunter said she believe the 22nd anniversary of the Dunblane shooting was a good opportunity to show solidarity with the relatives and survivors of the Parkland shooting.

“There are no massive expectations (with the letter) but the families of the Dunblane shooting are trying to show solidarity and optimism to people who are fighting for (tighter gun control) in the US because it’s going to be a massive battle in America to try and change (the legislation),” she said.

“Gun laws in the US were very puzzling to many people in Scotland, we just don’t get the psychology of (gun culture in the US),” she added.

When the Snowdrop petition was handed to Parliament in the summer of 1996, it had more than 700,000 signatures.

In February 1997, the Conservative government passed new legislation on gun control but did not ban all handguns.

But a couple months later, after Labour came into power in the 1997 general elections, they brought in an amendment banning all handguns, which became law in November 1997.

'I should have my big sister'

Ellie Crozier is the younger sister of Emma, who was five years old when she was killed in the Dunblane massacre. Ellie, now a 20-year-old university student, spoke to Euronews about how the courage of the Parkland students leaves her hopeful for gun law reforms in the US.

"I'm really hopeful for gun law reform. After Sandy Hook, I lost a lot of faith in America ever having any gun control reforms. Sandy Hook was very similar to Dunblane and we all really felt that here and when nothing really happened — it was demoralising."

"But with Parkland, I can remember my brother saying: 'Ellie it could be different this time.' And at first I (thought) it'll just be the same like it always is. But the students in Parkland are absolutely amazing, I'm so, so inspired by them. I genuinely think they're going to make a difference."

Ellie was born after the massacre, but like so many siblings and relatives of the victims who were too young, or born after, when the massacre occurred — they were robbed of experiences that never were.

"I should have my big sister. I should have all these experiences, like daft things: I should be able to steal her clothes and argue with her, things like that. Me and my brother are best pals, but I have had that opportunity with my big sister."

Many of those who were directly affected by the Dunblane massacre are planning to attend the March for Our Lives event held in Edinburgh on March 24. Ellie, who will be speaking at the event, will be joining her family in Edinburgh to advocate for US gun law reforms — and for Parkland.

The full letter

The open letter, originally written by the father of victim Sophie North, was co-signed by 80 survivors and family members of the victims of the Dunblane massacre that devastated the Scottish town on March 13, 1996.

Dear Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas School,

On the most poignant day of the year for us we wanted to reach out and offer our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to you and your teachers and to all the families and friends of those who died at your school on 14th February. We have watched and listened with tremendous admiration as you have spoken out for what you believe should happen now, a significant change of attitude towards the availability of guns in your country.

Twenty-two years ago today our own lives were devastated when a gunman walked into Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and shot dead sixteen 5- and 6-year-old children and their teacher and injured many more. The children who were killed or badly injured were our daughters and sons, our grandchildren, our sisters and brothers, our nieces and nephews, our cousins. The teacher was our wife, our sister, our mother. Five of us are survivors. The gunman owned his four handguns legally, and we knew it had been too easy for him to arm himself with lethal weapons. Like you we vowed to do something about it. We persuaded British lawmakers not to be swayed by the vested interests of the gun lobby, we asked them to put public safety first and to heed what the majority of the British people wanted. Most politicians listened and acted. Laws were changed, handguns were banned and the level of gun violence in Britain is now one of the lowest in the world. There have been no more school shootings.

We want you to know that change can happen. It won’t be easy, but continue to remind everyone of exactly what happened at your school and of the devastation caused by just one person with one legally-owned gun. Never let anyone forget. There will be attempts to deflect you, to divide you and doubtless to intimidate you, but you’ve already shown great wisdom and strength. We wish you more of that wisdom and strength for this toughest of tasks, one that will be so important in order to spare more of your fellow Americans from having to suffer the way you have. Wherever you march, whenever you protest, however you campaign for a more sensible approach to gun ownership we will be there with you in spirit.

Tonight we will be lighting 17 candles for those who died in Dunblane and will be remembering the 17 who lost their lives in Parkland. Our thoughts will also be with every other victim of gun violence.

We offer you our total support for the March for Our Lives and sincerely hope you achieve success. It can be done. #NeverAgain.

Aimie Adam — Survivor

Matt Birnie, Bev Birnie, Steve Birnie, Lauren Birnie — Survivor and his family

Alison Crozier, John Crozier, Ellie Crozier, Jack Crozier, Fiona Buchanan, Allan Pollock, Allana Pollock, Morag Pollock, Olivia Pollock, Sophie Pollock – Family of Emma Crozier

Barbara Dunn, Martyn Dunn, Alex Dunn — Family of Charlotte Dunn

Eileen Harrild — Survivor

Allison Irvine, Ian Irvine, Bethany Irvine, Rachael Irvine, Scott Irvine, Andrea Linden, Amanda McNamara, James McNamara, Laurence McNamara, Nicholas McNamara, Katherine Robertshaw, Kevin Robertshaw, Mark Robertshaw — Family of Ross Irvine

Duncan McLennan, Liz McLennan, Gregor McLennan, Rachel McLennan, Lauren Shaw — Family of Abigail McLennan

Rod Mayor, Joan Mayor, Debbie Mayor, Esther Proctor — Family of Gwen Mayor

Jenny Morton — Sister of Emily Morton

Mick North, Nicola Cole, Gail Lockwood, Matthew Lockwood, Matthew North, Vanessa North, Christine Warren, Neil Warren, Peter Warren — Family of Sophie North

Andrew O’Donnell, John O’Donnell, Sheila O’Donnell, Katie O’Donnell, Rhona McInnes, Anne Orr — Survivor and his family

Ellen Petrie, Sandy Petrie — Parents of John Petrie

Kenny Ross, Pam Ross, Alison Ross, Andrew Ross, Carolyn Jones, Gareth Jones, Gavin Jones, Irene Smith — Family of Joanna Ross

Adam Savage, Elaine Savage, Gavin Savage, Kane Savage — Survivor and his family

Amy Scallan — Survivor

David Scott, Karen Scott — Parents of Hannah Scott

Kareen Turner, Willie Turner, Duncan Turner — Family of Megan Turner

Isabel Wilson, Guy Wilson, Catherine Wilson — Family of Mhairi MacBeath