The final moments of the men’s final at the All England Club last Sunday were simply spellbinding. Every time Andy Murray made one incredible shot, each time he made the impossible look possible, cheers exploded from Wimbledon to Dunblane, Scotland, Murray’s home town.
Murray took three straight sets from Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 player in a Grand Slam final ending a 77-year drought for British players at the annual tournament.
But there’s another moment in Andy’s life that many may not remember.
In 1996, an 8-year-old Andy Murray survived the mass shooting at Dunblane Primary School which left 17 dead. “At the time you have no idea how tough something like that is,” he told a BBC reporter. “As you start to get older, you realize… It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to research it. I didn’t really want to know.”
Andy’s mother, Judy, told the BBC that her family knew the shooter, Thomas Hamilton, who shot himself after the killings. “Andy’s class [was] on their way to the gym, his class were the next ones in the gym,” she said. “His class was stopped when somebody went up, when they heard the noise and discovered what had happened. … I was one of hundreds of mums that were queuing up at the school gates waiting to find out what had happened, not knowing if your children were alive or not.”
Understandably, Murray has not spoken much about that horrific day, and who could blame him.
However, on the same Sunday that Murray won the men’s final at Wimbledon, the New York Yankees honored residents of Newtown, Connecticut where “the national anthem [was] sung by Newtown Youth Voices choir, and the names of the 26 victims of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School were scrolled on the scoreboard in center field…”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “The families and the people in that town have been through so much. As we get away from the time of the event, there are still a lot of struggles,” he said. “We do whatever we can to give them hope, be there for them. It’s something that has scarred their lives forever and we can’t forget that, we need to reach out.”
While Newtown residents have seen many tributes honoring their strength and resilience since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, what they have not seen are some of the actions in the U.S. that England has since taken.
“A highly successful public campaign,” CNN reported (Jan. 30), “in the months after Dunblane against gun ownership culminated in a petition being handed to the government with almost 750,000 signatures, according to British media reports.
“In the wake of the 1987 Hungerford massacre, in which one lone gunman killed 16 people, Britain introduced new legislation – the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 – making registration mandatory for owning shotguns and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.
“Within a year and a half of the Dunblane massacre, UK lawmakers had passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns in mainland Britain, giving the country some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world. After both shootings there were firearm amnesties across the UK, resulting in the surrender of thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition.
” ‘It was one of the most shocking things that has ever happened in this country and it united the country in a feeling that we had to do something,’ Gill Marshall Andrews, of the Gun Control Network, told CNN. ‘And I don’t think that it would have been possible to make the kind of progress that we have made without that tragedy.’ ”
What effect did the ban have on crime?
“According to bare statistics,” CNN reports, “the ban initially appeared to have little impact, as the number of crimes involving guns in England and Wales rose heavily during the late 1990s to peak at 24,094 offenses in 2003/04. “Since then, the number has fallen in each year. In 2010/11 there were 11,227 offenses, 53% below the peak number, according to the official crime figures. Crimes involving handguns also fell 44% — from 5,549 in 2002/03 to 3,105 — in 2010/11.”
While Dunblane continues to recover from their lost children, the town has rallied around Murray and his Wimbledon victory. “Andy’s exorcised a ghost in Dunblane,” one resident said.
“It is no longer the town of Thomas Hamilton,” writes Washington Post reporter Cindy Boren. “Dunblane is Andy Murray’s town, and he has helped its people get their town back. Of all his achievements, this may be his greatest.”