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For Brits, Newtown shooting brings reminders of Dunblane

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But Britain is not without its gun-control debate, albeit a different one than in the US. Britain’s public, politicians, and law enforcement officials traditionally view firearms very differently to their US counterparts. A Washingtonian notion of an armed civilian populace is absent, while a majority of police are opposed to being routinely armed on duty. The debate is not about balancing individual rights versus public safety, but about how to best tackle crime rooted in poor communities. 

“The main problems around gun use here are associated with the development of [black] markets, including the drug market, which require or fall back on some element of violence,” says Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

Noting that "gun crime" offenders and their victims in the UK are likely to be male; disproportionately from African, Caribbean, and Black British backgrounds; and come from economically deprived communities, Dr. Grimshaw's think tank advocates social and economic solutions – rather than criminal justice ones – to this type of illegal use of firearms.

Impact on killing sprees

As for outbreaks of killing sprees such Dunblane and the question of whether gun laws have made repetitions less likely, Grimshaw points out that such incidents are extremely difficult to predict, adding that there are difficulties in drawing conclusions on the basis of a relatively small number of incidents.

Since Dunblane, the most high-profile episode of a similar nature was a 2010 killing spree by a taxi driver who shot dead 12 people over the course of several hours at different locations in Cumbria, a scenic northwestern English county. A report by British policing's most senior firearms-licensing specialist proposed further restrictions on gun ownership and mandatory liaisons between mental health services before the granting of firearms licenses.

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