Dunblane 25th anniversary: Victim's siblings now campaigning to change US gun laws

12 March 2021, 08:04

By Corrie Martin

Twenty five years since the Dunblane massacre, one victim's family has told LBC they will never stop fighting to keep others safe from gun violence.

It remains the worst mass shooting in British history.

Sixteen Primary 1 pupils and their teacher were killed during a PE lesson on the 13th of March 1996, when Thomas Hamilton walked in to the gym of Dunblane Primary and opened fire.

More than a dozen others were wounded, only surviving because their teachers managed to get them inside a storage cupboard.

The atrocity left a scar on the small town near Stirling, but led to the transformation of UK firearms legislation, largely thanks to campaigning by bereaved relatives.

The Dunblane Memorial Garden pictured in 1998
The Dunblane Memorial Garden pictured in 1998. Picture: PA

The Snowdrop Campaign, which took its name from the only spring flower in bloom at the time of the shootings, succeeded in changing the law to ban private handguns in the UK and making our controls some of the tightest in the world.

The parents of 5 year old victim, Emma Crozier, were among those who fought to overhaul gun control rules.

Now, their younger children, Jack and Ellie, are continuing their legacy by joining forces with US campaigners to focus on the country’s gun violence problem, which claimed 41,000 lives last year.

Ellie told LBC they'll honour Emma and her classmates through action: "Me and Jack have always been very vocal, and that is because of who our parents are and the work they did, and what happened to our family and our town.

"It's become more of a need as a human to do what's right...we get a platform, of course we should use it."

A memorial plaque at the entrance to the Garden of Remembrance at Dunblane Cemetery
A memorial plaque at the entrance to the Garden of Remembrance at Dunblane Cemetery. Picture: PA

In 2018, LBC took Jack and his mum Alison to Parkland in Florida to meet people impacted by another school shooting.

17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Valentine's Day 2018 - the same number who died at Dunblane.

That prompted the Dunblane families to release a video message to the survivors and bereaved in Parkland, pledging their support with the message 'Never Again'.

Since that trip, Jack and Ellie have forged strong bonds with some of the US families, including the father of 17 year old victim Joaquin Oliver.

Manny Oliver and his wife Patricia set up non-profit organisation, Change The Ref, to fight for stricter gun control laws in America in Joaquin's memory.

Jack told LBC turning their attention to supporting efforts in the United States is as much about the past as the future. He said, "25 years - it's nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

"We need to remember, and everyone that wasn't alive at that time or didn't experience that at the time needs to appreciate that we went through that here.

"And it could happen again if it wasn't for the legislation and the fight brought about by the parents of Dunblane and the other campaigners that supported them."

Manny says their focus and energy gives him hope: "Jack and Ellie are perfect examples that there is no such thing as a line where we stop fighting.

"I think that there's a line that you can start fighting for others.

"I would love to - if you ask me 22 years from today - to be advising and warning others because I was able to solve the problem that I was going through."

Manny says with a new president comes new possibility, and he's watching Joe Biden's first 100 days in the White House closely.

He's met President Biden a number of times, including introducing him at a rally in Florida, and says they talked about his campaign pledges.

"He promised me that he will do something - he was going to go after the gun manufacturers and he was going to go after the gun lobby, so I can't wait to see what happens.

"He's a nice person, he knows what losing a loved one feels like and he respects our pain and he respects our fight.

"He's a good guy - I have faith that he's going to do a great job."

Jack shares his belief in people power, saying, "Joe Biden is the most hopeful I've been of a president.

"His track record on gun violence prevention's amazing...he was involved with the assault weapons ban back in the early '90s, and he's always been on the side of gun violence prevention.

"He's only got to that place because of all the grassroots movements that have supported him, who have made gun control top of the agenda.

"Although it's slipped down with Covid now, it needs to get put back to the top of that agenda as soon as we can get out of the pandemic.

"They need to be held accountable. So it's all good making these promises, it's all good saying he's the gun violence prevention president, but it means nothing unless he makes meaningful change."

Neither the Croziers nor the Olivers are expecting miracles. They're expecting a long, hard slog - a lifetime commitment, in fact.

Manny said: "The difference between a politician or a member of the gun industry and me is that I'm going to do this forever.

"I'm not going to look for another job, I cannot retire, and no-one's going to fire me. And more important, no-one's going to vote me out.

"I am Joaquin's father until the day that I die...but until that day arrives I have many reasons to be alive and to save lives."

Jack was just 2 years old when Emma was murdered, while Ellie hadn’t been born. She said campaigning keeps her big sister close.

"The best way to honour Emma's memory, in my opinion, is to keep fighting.

"Emma isn't here anymore, there's nothing we can do to save her, but we can't let other people die the same way she did - it's not fair.

"I don't think I'll ever stop because I'm quite mouthy - I feel like there's always going to be something for me to shout about.

"But I hope there is a time where I do feel like we can say 'Look, Emma. Look what we've done. We've done it.'"