15 March 1996
Mick Hume questions some reactions to the tragic killing of 16 children
and their teacher in Dunblane.
The tragedy in Dunblane has led to calls for more surveillance in schools,
more controls on guns, more security everywhere. These responses are predictable
enough in the circumstances. But they also betray a loss of perspective.
Nothing like the school gym shooting has ever happened in Britain before.
There is nothing to suggest that it will happen again. It is precisely the
uniqueness of the event that has made it so shocking. So why should we allow
this extraordinary incident to set the standards for the degree of security,
surveillance and controls we are prepared to accept in our society?
Even in their own terms, the demands for more regulation make little sense.
You cannot legislate against the one-off actions of a mentally disturbed
gunman. As one of the school governors themselves said, the only thing that
surveillance cameras in the school would have achieved was to capture the
children's deaths on film. And exactly who would benefit from that?
The implications of the current preoccupation with personal security are
more worrying than the minimal threat of Dunblane happening again. Do we
really want to live in a society where life is organised and policed on
the assumption that any one of us could be a homicidal maniac? If we were
to allow ourselves to become obsessed with personal safety at any price,
fearing to do anything without the protection and support of a surveillance
camera or a counsellor, life surely would not be worth living.
One other aspect of the intrusive media circus in Dunblane sticks in the
throat. Why do we have to listen to everybody from Major and Blair to the
archbishops and the Queen holding forth on the tragedy in righteous tones?
The politicians and other dignitaries have sought to prey upon the collective
horror we all feel, and exploit it to recreate a sense of moral and national
unity which they have failed to engender themselves. The end result is that,
as after every local tragedy of recent years, the whole of British society
is in danger of being paralysed by mourning sickness, as a morbid preoccupation
with the past and a permanent sense of loss prevent us looking to the future.
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