Wednesday 13th March 1996 should have been a normal school day for the children of Dunblane Primary School. Tragically it was not.
On that morning unemployed former shopkeeper Thomas Hamilton walked unchallenged into the school armed with two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith and Wesson .357 revolvers and made his way to the gym hall.
He opened fire indiscriminately on a class of 5-6 year olds. Killing 16 children and one teacher before turning the gun on himself. The massacre was one of the darkest days in modern British history and an event which still leaves an emotional imprint on many Scottish people today.
The motives of Thomas Hamilton are not clear, evidently he was insane. He had been involved in boys clubs in the area and after complaints of photographs taken by him of young boys he had been prevented from being involved in the set up of other clubs. Despite police suspicions his firearms licence was not revoked and on the 13th March 1996 the town of Dunblane paid a heavy price for this.
After the massacre the Snowdrop Petition led to the ban of virtually all handguns in the UK.
Authors note: Most people living in central Scotland at the time have personal stories relating to the tragedy, many people knew someone who was involved in some way or other in dealing with the aftermath of this awful day. For my part I was working at the Glasgow Herald newspaper, part of my job there was to help put the news stories online. That morning as information started to come in about what had happened there was a feeling of utter disbelief. I witnessed hard nosed journalists openly crying in corridors and the worst task I have ever had to do came later that day when I had to scan in the class photograph for the newspaper. Days later I spoke to a friend of mine who’s sister was working at a local hospital. When someone asked one of the injured children what had happened he just said ‘A bad man came’.