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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 12:58 GMT
Dunblane father's anti-gun effort
By Dr Mick North
Father of Dunblane victim

Mick North
Dr North is involved in campaigning on firearms reduction
Monday 13 March is the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Dunblane Primary School when my daughter Sophie, 15 of her classmates and their teacher were killed by a gunman who entered the gymnasium and opened fire on the class.

Many other children and three more teachers were injured.

It took him just three minutes, firing over 100 rounds of ammunition from a single handgun, to create this horrific scale of death and injury.

Such is the destructive power of guns, implements designed to kill which can destroy so many lives in such a short space of time.

On Thursday 16 March I will be taking part in the launch of a campaign to mark the One Hundred Day countdown to a UN Conference being held in June in New York.

At this vital conference member states will be discussing whether to agree to stronger controls on the global small arms trade.

Without some success in curbing the arms trade, every year hundreds of thousands of people will continue to lose their lives to guns, many more will find their lives blighted irreversibly.

Dangerous weapons

Immediately after Sophie's death, I knew that I wanted to do something to reduce the risk of any other person coming to harm through the misuse of guns.

My reaction to the shootings in Dunblane was much the same as that of many others, including the families of the other victims and the majority of the British people.

If guns were less easily available they would be less likely to be misused, and so everything possible should be done to limit access to such dangerous weapons.

We campaigned to change the law in Great Britain so that it wouldn't be possible for another person such as Thomas Hamilton to accumulate an arsenal of handguns, legally, because he wanted to pursue a so-called sport, target shooting.

Through two Acts of Parliament passed in 1997, the private ownership of handguns was banned.

I've continued to campaign with the Gun Control Network to ensure that the tight gun laws we have in this country are maintained.

During my work on domestic gun control issues I got to meet groups of people who could tell me about the scale of the problems caused by guns around the world.

Sophie North
Since Sophie and her classmates died, another three to four million people have fallen victim to gun violence
Dr Mick North

Across the planet 1,000 people are killed every day.

The majority of the victims are not soldiers but civilians, many of them women and children.

The world is awash with guns - as many as one gun for every 10 people.

In 2001, I had the opportunity to see for myself how just one small part of the world has been afflicted by a recent influx of guns.

I travelled to two different areas in northern Uganda with Oxfam.

In the Kitgum region, as in neighbouring regions, the local population is being terrorised by the Lords Resistance Army, an armed group that kidnaps children and inductes the boys as child soldiers.

This terror would be impossible were the Lords Resistance Army not armed with guns.

The guns come mostly from southern Sudan, scene of a protracted civil war, and were traded for cattle and other basic commodities.

The guns do not originate in east Africa.

They have been shipped there by arms dealers who appear to care little for the human cost of their trade.

Great benefits

An appropriate international agreement in the form of an Arms Trade Treaty would go some way to ensuring that no one - no government, no company or individual would be allowed to export guns where they might be used to kill and injure innocent civilians.

Until such a treaty is signed, the trade will continue, largely unabated.

In June there will be a key opportunity for countries to stand together on this issue and begin the process that will lead to a treaty.

The 100 Day Countdown will be a time when every effort should be made to convince governments of the great benefits that strict control of the arms trade would bring to the world.

Most of my thoughts at this moment are focused on Sophie.

But I will also spend some time reflecting on the fact that in the 10 years since she and her classmates died, another three to four million people have fallen victim to gun violence.

But I hope that as a result of what we do during the next 100 days it will be possible to look back in 10 years time and view the coming decade as the time when something was eventually done to remove the scourge of the gun from around the world.

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