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Mass shootings and gun control


Multiple shootings are extremely rare in the UK and most incidents involving two or more deaths have been related to organised crime, such as feuds between drug dealers or gangs.

The Cumbria incident is the third mass-shooting incident in the UK in which a lone gunman has roamed around seeking out victims. Each of the previous incidents led to greater restrictions on firearms.

Hungerford: 19 August 1987

image captionMichael Ryan: Owned semi-automatic weapons

This quiet Berkshire town became the scene of a massive emergency when 27-year-old Michael Ryan shot and killed 16 people. He seriously wounded a further 15.

Ryan was dressed in combat-style camouflage clothing and roamed the area armed with a semi-automatic rifle and pistol. The rifle was so powerful it could accurately hit targets from 300 metres. He apparently chose his victims at random.

His first victim was a woman who was enjoying a picnic with her children. Emergency services were later called to an address where they found the body of Ryan's mother.

By late lunchtime, Ryan had moved into Hungerford's shopping centre and was firing indiscriminately at anyone who came into view. He shot one police officer who tried to tackle him.

Armed officers were brought in to surround the area, using helicopters to try to track the gunman down. He managed to evade them for much of the afternoon until he was found hiding in a school on the edge of the town. Negotiators arrived to try to get Ryan to surrender, but he turned the gun on himself.

Local people who knew Ryan described him as a loner and gun fanatic.

In the aftermath of the incident, Parliament introduced tighter restrictions on gun ownership with the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.

The Act banned the ownership of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles, weapons which fire explosive ammunition, short shotguns with magazines and elevated pump-action and self-loading rifles.

Anyone who wanted to own a shotgun, such as farmers, was told they would need to be registered and would be required to keep it locked in secure storage.

Registration was also made mandatory for shotguns.

The killings also led to a rethink and modernisation of police communications and preparedness for such incidents. The local police were simply not trained to deal with such a dangerous situation - and the team manning the 999 emergency phone line were not able to deal with the volume of calls coming in.

Dunblane: 13 March 1996

image captionDunblane: Teacher died trying to protect children

The worst shooting in the UK happened in 1996 when Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and their teacher when he attacked a school in Dunblane. He injured 13 other children and three teachers before killing himself.

The attack and killing happened very quickly. Hamilton, a 43-year-old walked into the school and began firing in all directions as the Year One pupils - children aged five and six - were beginning an exercise class with their teacher, Gwen Mayor. She died trying to protect the children as Hamilton began firing.

Hamilton walked out of the gymnasium and attacked another classroom and staff but then returned to the gym where he shot himself.

The killing stunned the UK and a subsequent public inquiry revealed that police had investigated Hamilton after complaints about his behaviour around young boys.

He had licences for six guns and police had not asked him why he needed so many firearms. But the inquiry concluded that nobody could have predicted his actions.

The deaths led to a nationwide campaign for even greater gun controls. The campaign succeeded in making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun, something which had been excluded from the legislation passed after Hungerford.