Would legislation have stopped killing spree?

Date published: 09 June 2010

Derrick Bird’s horrific murder spree has sparked a debate about Britain’s gun-control laws.

The embittered taxi-driver killed 12 people and injured over 20 more with his legally held rifle.

Now an MP is calling on the Home Secretary to look at legislation to stop people having access to guns, as Derrick Bird did. Chris Williamson, newly elected for Derby North, says Cumbria was far from unique, after Hungerford and Dunblane.

But Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, says Cumbria’s police were dealing with circumstances no one could have foreseen. Janice Barker asked people in Uppermill if tighter gun laws are needed, or if a man like Derrick Bird is simply a one-off, unpredictable killer.

Patricia Wisenden (73), of Delph, agrees with tighter laws, saying: “Guns should be more strictly controlled.

“I’ve seen farmers shooting foxes but there’s no need for most people to have guns.”

John Halliley and his wife, Paula, from Dobcross, had mixed feelings. Paula said: “It is wrong to have a knee-jerk reaction, which ends up in a mishmash of laws. It was a desperate situation which doesn’t happen every day of the week.”

“Shooting for recreation does provide employment, and as a sport is no different from fencing or swimming.”

John said: “I think this man had a gun for about 20 years, so he hasn’t presented a problem before.

“Apart from this, there are other incidents in places like Moss Side, where guns may not be legally held.”

Ruth Lloyd, of Newhey, a former police officer, doubted if tighter laws would help. She said: “I know the checks the police do and I think something like this would still happen.

“It is a very rare occurrence, and I think this is a one-off incident.

“He could have got another weapon, perhaps a knife. There are so many illegal guns around I don’t see how they can be stopped by legislation, because people don’t abide by the law. A lot of guns come in from places like Russia and Albania.”

John Martindale (71), of Delph, said: “What happened to him could happen anywhere, although it’s very unfortunate. I do believe generally the police will weed out potential problems.

“I don’t personally believe tighter gun laws would make any difference. I don’t know a lot about gun laws, but I can’t see a reason to change them, because you can’t legislate for a chap like him.”

Friends Suzanne Cullearn, of Oldham, and Shirley, Rendell-Reynolds (both 67), of Halifax, agreed tighter laws were needed.

Suzanne said: “Where you store guns is a tricky question. You could store guns at a gun club, but that could be raided, too.

“If you have a gun in the house there is always the problem you can reach for it.”

Shirley said: “Ideally, I would like to see them banned totally, but I don’t think that would ever happen.

“If they were held in a secure place, they could be used for sport, but what do you call secure?”

Michael Goodwin (51), from Uppermill, said: “If he (Derrick Bird) was intending to kill, he would still have used something else. It is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people.”

Michael Chadwick (31), of Greenfield, called for tighter laws, but also felt that guns for sports such as clay-pigeon shooting were acceptable. He added: “Farmers need them for vermin, but anybody else should be in a gun club and not have guns at home.”

New mum Tracey Cragg (31) and her mother Jacqueline Haigh (64), from Greenfield, both supported tighter laws. Tracey said: “I don’t like them at all and I don’t see a reason for anyone to have one.

“Unless it is someone like farmers, I don’t see a reason to have one in the house. Too many lives have been lost and it was too easy for him (Derrick Bird) to access a gun.”

Jacqueline said: “We hear them up on the moors shooting pheasants. As long as everything is legal I don’t have an issue with the sport, but it is access which is the issue.”

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