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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK


Dunblane offers expert help

The Dunblane shootings devastated a community

Education and social services officials who dealt with the aftermath of the Dunblane massacre are offering help to the Colorado town of Littleton following the school shootings there.

Stirling council employees are considered to have expert knowledge in the field of coping with tragedy following the attack on a primary school by a lone gunman in March 1996.

Sixteen young children and their teacher died when Thomas Hamilton walked into the Scottish town's primary school and opened fire.

The Provost of Stirling, John Paterson, said: "We will be writing to the Mayor of Littleton to offer what help and advice we can in the light of the lessons the council has learned from the Dunblane tragedy.

"I was saddened, shocked and appalled at the news, and as the people of Dunblane know only too well, this is going to be the worst of times for everyone in Littleton."

[ image: David Blunkett:
David Blunkett: "We can reduce but never can eliminate the dangers of this sort of thing"
Authorities in other towns hit by tragedy, such as Omagh in Northern Ireland where 29 died last year in a bomb attack, have sent representatives to seek advice from Dunblane officials.

Only last week, the head of Stirling Council, Keith Yates, gave a special presentation to Scottish social workers on disaster management.

He said any community hit by a sudden disaster should prepare itself for "a long haul".

He said: "If there is a single message, it is that if you think it will be over and done with in a couple of weeks, you're wrong. It just goes on forever."

Charlie Clydesdale, whose five-year-old daughter Victoria was killed by Thomas Hamilton, said: "We'll never know why these younsters did this, although they had some sort of grievance, which was similar to what happened in Dunblane.

"There will be more of these incidents to come in America and each time it happens just brings it all back."

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said the risks of an attack on a school could never be eliminated but action had already been taken to reduce the dangers.

"Following the tragedy at Dunblane, action was taken into providing as secure an environment as possible for children, bearing in mind that schools are not fortresses, they are open and accessible and they are part of the community.

"We can reduce but never can eliminate the dangers of this sort of thing, but I think we all learnt a great deal from the tragedy at Dunblane and there is an all-party consensus on the action to be taken."

Gun control

A priest in the Scottish town, the Rev Colin McIntosh, said the thoughts of all the people of Dunblane would be with the families of the dead and injured.

"I think when anything like this happens now, people in Dunblane feel it. I think they would quite understand everything happening and would want to send their deepest sympathy to all those involved."

The Dunblane tragedy led to the UK introducing some of the strictest gun control regulations in the world, including a ban on nearly all types of handguns.

The Defence Secretary, George Robertson, who lives near Dunblane, said he hoped the United States would consider introducing a handgun ban.

"I must say I woke up this morning with a sense of horror that this kind of gun tragedy can take place inside one of the most civilised countries in the world," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I hope that they will look carefully at what this country did in banning handguns after the Dunblane massacre and I hope we never have to wake up to this sort of news again from America."

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