British libs got what their American counterparts can only dream about, a complete handgun ban and confiscation of existing guns and look at what the results were.
Americans are determined that massacres such as happened in Newtown, Conn., never happen again. But how? Many advocate more effective treatment of mentally-ill people or armed protection in so-called gun-free zones. Many others demand stricter control of firearms.
We aren’t alone in facing this problem. Great Britain and Australia, for example, suffered mass shootings in the 1980s and 1990s. Both countries had very stringent gun laws when they occurred. Nevertheless, both decided that even stricter control of guns was the answer. Their experiences can be instructive.
In 1987, Michael Ryan went on a shooting spree in his small town of Hungerford, England, killing 16 people (including his mother) and wounding another 14 before shooting himself. Since the public was unarmed – as were the police – Ryan wandered the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone with a firearm was able to come to the rescue.
Nine years later, in March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a man known to be mentally unstable, walked into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot 16 young children and their teacher. He wounded 10 other children and three other teachers before taking his own life.
After Hungerford, the British government banned semiautomatic rifles and brought shotguns – the last type of firearm that could be purchased with a simple show of fitness – under controls similar to those in place for pistols and rifles. Magazines were limited to two shells with a third in the chamber.
Dunblane had a more dramatic impact. Hamilton had a firearm certificate, although according to the rules he should not have been granted one. A media frenzy coupled with an emotional campaign by parents of Dunblane resulted in the Firearms Act of 1998, which instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns. Owners of pistols were required to turn them in. The penalty for illegal possession of a pistol is up to 10 years in prison.
The results have not been what proponents of the act wanted. Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.