Gunman used high-powered Magnums

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The Independent Online
JASON BENNETTO/DONALD MACINTYRE

The guns that Hamilton used in the school massacre were high-powered firearms - including two Magnum revolvers - that police had given him permission to own only last year.

Hamilton, who used one of the handguns to kill himself, was a firearms fanatic who just nine days ago offered members of a gun club the use of two of the weapons used in the massacre, it was revealed yesterday.

As details emerged of guns' terrible power and the ease with which Hamilton obtained them, there were calls for stricter controls. Police also backed moves for a nationwide amnesty in an attempt to encourage owners to hand in illicitly held or unwanted weapons.

Four handguns were recovered from the body of Hamilton in the school gym. Two were semi-automatic Browning 9mm pistols, often used by terrorists for close assassinations. The guns were also popular with American police officers, but they stopped using them because the bullets would often go straight through a target and hit an innocent person in the line of fire. The other two guns were .357 Magnum revolvers, capable of firing extremely destructive bullets.

Last year, Central Scotland Police gave Hamilton a firearms certificate for a 9mm pistol and a .375 revolver, and at the same time, authorised him to buy two more similar weapons. He was a member of the Stirling Rifle and Pistol Club, and had no criminal record or any known mental health problems, so police felt he was a safe person to own firearms.

Hamilton's fascination with guns started in 1977 when he obtained his first firearms certificate for a .22 target pistol and joined his first gun club. In 1986, he was allowed to buy a .223 semi-automatic rifle, but after the Hungerford massacre these weapons were outlawed and he was forced to surrender it.

He also has certificates for a 7.62mm rifle - a standard target rifle - and a .22 target rifle, but police have not found these weapons.

Robert Bell, owner of the shop where Hamilton obtained some of his weapons, said yesterday: "He was always reasonable and correct. He obviously knew a lot about guns - he always knew exactly what he wanted. His expertise was considerable."

Shortly before the school killing - on 28 February - he tried to join the nearby Callander Rifle and Pistol Club, but was rejected after failing to provide a reference.

John Moffat, the membership secretary, remembers Hamilton showing him the two Browning pistols used at the school. "Those guns can kill someone a mile away," he said. "If you shot someone from 25 yards it would shatter bone and can go straight through a body; they act like a buzz-saw."

He returned a week later and offered to let other club members try them out.

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