Dunblane father attacks Blair for lax attitude on gun control

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A father whose five-year-old daughter was killed in the Dunblane school massacre 10 years ago has criticised the Government for not doing enough to combat the global arms trade.

Mick North says Tony Blair has "failed to show leadership" in efforts to push through an international Arms Trade Treaty aimed at banning the export of guns to countries where they could be used on civilians. Aid agencies say that a man, woman or child dies every minute as a result of armed violence and the lack of controls on the sale of guns.

Mr North is marking the tenth anniversary of his daughter Sophie's death today by helping to start a campaign urging countries to sign up to the Arms Trade Treaty, which will be debated at the United Nations in June.

Writing in The Independent, he says that "removing the scourge of the gun from around the world" would be a fitting tribute to his daughter.

Sophie was among 15 children and their teacher who died when Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996 and began a three-minute shooting spree with a handgun. Mr North's wife, Barbara, had died of cancer two years before the shootings and Sophie was their only child.

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, Mr North, a university lecturer, began campaigning against gun ownership.

In 1997 a law banning the private ownership of handguns was passed, although a promised national firearms register has still not been set up.

Mr North is now backing a campaign for all UN countries to sign up to the Arms Trade Treaty at a conference. So far, 42 out of the 191 member states, including the UK, have agreed to the treaty, but major countries such as the United States have refused to do so.

Mr North writes: "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 misuse of guns.

"But the lax attitudes of our Government and others to the arms trade are contributing to the proliferation of guns around the world, leading to escalating problems of gun violence in those countries least able to deal with the consequences.

"The UK is failing to use its influence at the UN to push for tighter controls on the international arms trade. It has failed to show leadership ... they need to do more."

According to a report by Oxfam, countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin Africa spend a combined total of $22bn (£12.7bn) on arms each year - equivalent to the amount needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on securing primary school education for all children and reducing infant and maternal mortality.

Aid agencies are particularly concerned that the increasing availability of arms has reduced the price of guns, leading to yet more availability.

The Oxfam report found that in 1967, a gun could be bought in Kenya for the equivalent of 60 cattle; by 1986 the price had come down to 15 cattle and in 2001 it was five.

Phil Bloomer, the director of policy at Oxfam, said: "The lack of international controls on the arms trade is making a mockery of national arms laws."