on weeping for the children

I can still remember where I was at 2pm on Wednesday 13th March 1996. I was working as a counsellor and was returning from supervision before preparing to head off to collect my children from school. As the news came on the radio, it said that there had been a shooting in a primary school. I’m not sure if the report did not immediately name the school, or I was too shocked to hear it. Living as we did then on the outskirts of London, violence was not as remote to us as it was in some areas. I had to pull the car in while I calmed my breathing and found out the full story. I wept for the children who had died in Dunblane, and for those who were traumatised – my profession at the time making me highly sensitive to the long-term impacts. I wept for the parents, friends, teachers. And yes, I wept for Thomas Hamilton, whose life for whatever reasons had become fatally twisted long before he took up a gun and ended so many lives, ruining countless others. To be honest, if it had been my children’s school, I’m not sure he would have been included in my tears. Mercy is easier to offer from a distance. Like many parents, I hugged my children more tightly that evening.


The result of this terrible massacre was the enquiry which led to the Cullen Reports. Over subsequent years and governments, the laws on firearms were tightened considerably. I wish I could say there are never shooting incidents as a result, but they have perhaps at least been fewer than they might.


I am no expert on American politics, but it is clear that the gun lobby have enormous influence on formulating policy. Often the argument which is quoted is the importance of individual freedom. Yet freedom is meaningless without both boundaries and the exercising of personal responsibilities. The fact that an 18-year-old, for motives as yet unclear, was able with relative ease to buy a gun meant the loss of both the freedom and the lives of 21 others. As our own history makes clear, tighter laws will not end all gun-related violence but it will undoubtedly stop some.


So for me this morning, amid the horror and heartbreak, this question remains - how many more children must we weep for until this costly love affair with guns ends?



Picture from Pixabay




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