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Scottish town devastated by gun violence has advice for America: Say ‘no more’

For the Scottish town of Dunblane, one deadly shooting massacre was enough. After 16 children and a teacher were murdered in 1996, Britain outlawed hand-gun ownership. After years of watching deadly shootings in the U.S. with little change in American attitudes toward gun control, some in Dunblane feel inspired by students in Parkland, Florida. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now the view from a Scottish town that knows the horror of gun violence firsthand.

    Many in Dunblane, Scotland, have pledged their support to student activists from Florida and beyond. Britain outlawed handgun ownership after a massacre at Dunblane primary school in 1996. Many in the town have become frustrated by American attitudes toward gun control.

    But as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports, for the first time in years, some Scots now see reasons for optimism.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    In Dunblane, a spring flower is in bloom, the snowdrop. It’s especially poignant for Alice Dougherty. She lost 16 of her friends and a teacher in Britain’s deadliest mass shooting.

    Alice, a waitress in her mother’s tea shop, has a tattoo immortalizing the Snowdrop Campaign, a parents movement which led to a nationwide ban on private ownership of handguns.

  • Alice Dougherty:

    Once was enough. It didn’t need to happen again.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    After last week’s massacre in Florida, she wishes America would finally learn the lessons of Dunblane.

  • Alice Dougherty:

    You would rather listen to the sound of guns than the sound of children laughing? Is that what you’re saying, like, their lives are no longer important? It’s all about money? It’s all about people’s right to bear arms? And I don’t think people’s right to bear arms is stronger than the people’s right to have an education and feel safe and their right to have a life.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Alice’s mother, Nora, was a member of the school oversight board. Three of her children were pupils. They all survived.

    Like many in Dunblane, she has become frustrated at the unending cycle of school shootings in America and the lack of action on gun control.

  • Nora Gilfillan:

    Your first reaction is, oh, it’s another one, and that’s ridiculous. And those are two wrong responses you should have to human lives being lost due to guns. But that’s what it’s become.

    The rest of the world is looking at America and thinking why? Why are you allowing Americans to shoot Americans? It doesn’t make sense.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    At Dunblane Cathedral this past weekend, the congregation prayed that America would have a deep and sober reflection on its gun laws and that prayer would move beyond sentiment and words to a deep, growing and active resolve for change.

    That’s a sentiment shared by Mick North, whose only child, Sophie, was killed at Dunblane. He is exasperated by America’s gun laws.

  • Mick North:

    At the moment, they are plainly insane. Anything that is a gun has the support of the NRA for being available to any citizen of the USA. I mean, that is ridiculous. You have kids, teenagers being able to buy military-style weapons and use them with the devastating effect that we saw last week.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Former Dunblane pupil Malcolm Robertson is particularly aggrieved by what he sees as the failure of American politicians to protect children. He’s from a political family. His father, George, was Britain’s defense secretary and later the NATO secretary-general.

    Robertson recalls Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane shooter, arguing with his father over a grievance years before Hamilton’s anger morphed into carnage.

  • Malcolm Robertson:

    I have got three children, three boys. I’m pretty confident that they’re safe. I mean, you can never say never, but I think we have done an awful lot in this country to make our schools much safer places. And I don’t go out the door with the worries that some American parents undoubtedly have today.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Here is a statistic that highlights the difference between Scotland and the United States. Last year, in Scotland, with its population of 5.2 million, there were two people who were shot dead.

    If that crime rate was applied to the United States, with its population of more than 320 million, there would have been 124 gun-related murders. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the number of people shot dead in the United States in 2017 was nearly 16,000.

    That translates to every single person in Dunblane, which has 9,000 residents, plus 7,000 people elsewhere.

    John Carnochan helped to make Scotland safer. A former senior detective, he ran the pioneering Violence Reduction Unit, which eradicated Glasgow’s reputation as Europe’s murder capital by targeting all forms of violent behavior.

  • John Carnochan:

    Start where you are. Do what you can. And that will make a difference. You will start to move towards it then. And if we wait until we have got a great big plan, I suppose, it’s never going to happen. If we wait until we have some leader who rides over the hill and says, we’re going to fix this firearms stuff, you’re going to be waiting a long time. It’s not going to happen.

    And change starts at an individual level. That’s how systems change. That’s how we change it. And that’s what we did here in Scotland. It doesn’t matter where you start. You will make a difference. And in public health terms, don’t make it worse. So, I think by reducing access to children to assault rifles, that’s a start.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    At the Tilly Tearoom, the sense of frustration with America is being replaced by cautious optimism.

  • Nora Gilfillan:

    I feel there is a change in momentum. I watched a wonderful speech by Emma Gonzalez, I think is her name.

  • Emma Gonzalez:

    If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Nora Gilfillan:

    That young person that I heard speak was the most honest, articulate speech I have heard. And I felt really — I feel there’s a chance that America, if they hold on to what she said, and people get behind her, at last they can change the corruption from the NRA and the government.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Sophie North’s bereaved father also feels uplifted by what he sees as the inspirational voices emerging from Florida.

  • Mick North:

    Keep on talking. Keep on using whatever means you have to publicize your feelings on this, social media. I hear marches, even walkouts from school. Make sure it stays in everybody’s mind.

    Tell people how it’s affected you. Don’t let the powers that be divide and rule. Make sure that the average American citizen knows exactly how this impacts on the average American kid.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    In Dunblane, they believe the ballot box is the best way to counter the torrent of political donations and lobbying flowing from the gun industry.

  • John Carnochan:

    You change it by identifying those people that you can trust in power, by electing those people you can trust in power who will make a difference.

    These young people who are starting this need to continue doing it. We need to get behind them. You know that notion that never underestimate that a small group of people can change the world, because that’s usually the way it happens anyway.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Emily Barr plays her song about gun violence in the music room of the Dunblane Center. It’s a playground, a meeting place, a theater, a sports hall.

    But above all, it’s a symbol of Dunblane’s rebirth and determination to live. The victims are memorialized in window engravings. There are snowdrops and other images that represent the children. Sophie North’s motif is her cat. Generous donations from Americans helped to build this place. In return, Dunblane offers its wisdom.

  • Emily Barr:

    My words to the Americans would be to just see where Scotland, see where the U.K. has come from taking those actions, and just moving forward, and just saying no more.

  • Nora Gilfillan:

     And I would like to think that we could support America now in trying to change their gun laws and make America safe.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    The view from the Tearoom is one of tranquility and safety. Alice Dougherty is 27. That’s the age her friends would have been. She has never visited America because of its gun culture.

  • Alice Dougherty:

    We got rid of guns, and there were people who would have liked guns before. But their lives haven’t changed that much. Nobody walks around miserable because they don’t own a gun.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    The people of Dunblane are weary of being defined by tragedy, which is reinforced every time there’s a shooting in America. When, they wonder, will America heed the lesson of the snowdrops?

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Dunblane.

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