What a truly horrendous day it's been. I'm usually able to retain a sense of distance when I hear about tragedies on the news, but as with Dunblane fourteen years ago, this sort of incident seems different somehow. It brings home once again the devastating capacity of a gun to snuff out multiple lives in a matter of minutes or seconds, in a way that few other weapons can match. Not for the first time, the oft-heard line of defence that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' rings sickeningly hollow tonight. Derrick Bird simply would not have succeeded in killing as many people with a lower grade of weapon, no matter how murderous his intent. As a poster on a Dunfermline Athletic forum rather pointedly put it -
"Not to persecute anyone, but I have never heard of any spree-killings carried out with anything other than a gun or guns. I'd love to hear about any pool cue massacres that went unreported."
Of course it remains to be seen how Bird obtained his weapons, but there does seem to be one clear pattern in the limited number of these massacres we've seen in the UK - they tend to be carried out by 'ordinary' people, in other words not the sort who would be likely to have easy access to illegal stockpiles of guns. The idea that gun control laws have no impact at all on the likelihood of these incidents occurring is therefore very difficult to sustain. It's far too early to judge whether a further tightening of the law would have made a difference in this case, but the notion that more legal gun ownership would have helped matters I just find utterly incomprehensible. It may seem bizarre to us in the UK that anyone would advance such an argument, but as I discovered last year, it's a frighteningly common attitude beyond these shores.