March 13, 1996: The Dunblane massacre takes place at Dunblane Primary School. The killing spree remains the deadliest single targeted mass murder in the United Kingdom. A lone gunman entered the school armed with two 9 mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers. He also brought 743 rounds of ammunition. His Browning was loaded with full metal jacket and hollow point bullets in an alternating pattern. Full metal ammo allows for a higher muzzle velocity while hollow points are used to cause more damage on penetration of the target.
The lone gunman was 43-year-old Thomas Watt Hamilton, an unemployed shopkeeper and a former Scout leader (1973). He entered the school shortly after 9:30 AM. He went to the gym where he opened fire on the class of five- and six-year-olds there. He killed or wounded all but one child. He left through the emergency exit and shot at a mobile classroom. The teacher there had heard all the noise and ordered the students to hide under their tables. No one was injured. He next fired on a group in the hall and injured the teacher who was with several students. Hamilton returned to the gym and fired the last of his 109 shots. He committed suicide.
The entire event lasted just three minutes. Fifteen children and one teacher were killed immediately. Another eleven children and three adults were taken to the hospital where another child died of his injuries. The Queen sent a message of sympathy and Prime Minister John Major also sent condolences (he was in Egypt). William Wilson, chief constable of central Scotland, said officers were called at 9:38 and arrived to find the carnage and the dead gunman.
Hamilton’s motives remain unclear. He had been investigated for inappropriate behaviors with young boys. He had taken pictures of semi-naked boys without parental consent, with more than one complaint of this nature filed. The Scout Association had fired him and refused to reinstate him to his post. He claimed accusations of pedophilia had led to the collapse of his business. George Robertson and Hamilton had argued at Robertson’s house. Their relationship caused speculation and Robertson sued and won a case of libel. The “why” remains unanswered. The gym was torn down in April of 1996 and within the next two years, the entire school was refurbished.
The tragedy of life is not that man loses but that he almost wins. – Heywood Broun
The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. – Albert Schweitzer
A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. – Joseph Stalin
Our tragedy is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it… the basest of all things is to be afraid. – William Faulkner
Also on this day:
The Talkies – In 1923, Lee de Forest demonstrated his process to record voices synchronized with film.
Microsoft IPO – In 1986, Microsoft had its Initial Public Offering.
Ballinglass Incident – In 1846, three hundred tenant farmers were evicted.