Horden gun killings bring call for total ban on firearms

David Hines.
David Hines.
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THE founder of a murder victims’ support group today called for a total ban on firearms in the wake of Michael Atherton’s killing spree.

David Hines, who set up the North East Victims’ Association (NEVA) after his 23-year-old daughter Marie was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, spoke out after the taxi driver shot his partner and two other women dead before killing himself.

From left, victims Alison Turnbull, Susan McGoldrick, Tanya Turnbull and gunman Michael Atherton

From left, victims Alison Turnbull, Susan McGoldrick, Tanya Turnbull and gunman Michael Atherton

The 42-year-old, who held six firearms licences, had his guns taken away three years ago after concerns about his mental health.

However, he later got his guns back from the police.

On New Year’s Day, he murdered partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, before turning the gun on himself.

The massacre, in Horden, County Durham, has sparked cross-party calls for an overhaul of gun controls.

Earlier this week, Easington MP Grahame Morris said that Parliament should consider the firearms laws in the wake of the tragedy.

But Prime Minister David Cameron maintained that legislation in Britain was “amongst the toughest in the world” and there were no plans to make changes.

His stance was supported by county sports and shooting groups, including the Countryside Alliance, which promotes the interests of rural areas.

But today Mr Hines, who also takes part in Sunderland’s annual Walk for Justice, which brings together families from across region who have lost loved ones in tragedies, said he would like to see a total ban on guns.

“I really don’t see why firearms should be allowed to be kept in any homes in the UK,” he said. “I don’t see why anybody outside organisations such as the military or police need them. They are designed to kill.

“Sporting clubs may have a case for keeping them on site, even though I’d probably like to see that stopped.

“But they certainly should not be allowed to be kept in any sort of domestic setting on a housing estate.”

In recent years, gun laws have been tightened.

After Michael Ryan’s killing of 16 people in Hungerford in 1987, semi-automatic weapons were banned.

Handguns were also prohibited after the Dunblane massacre.

In 2010, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee said gun users who received suspended prison sentences, like the Cumbia killer Derrick Bird, should lose their licences.

But the Government rejected this proposal, along with another recommendation that anyone receiving a custodial sentence should be banned from owning firearms for life.

The Home Office argued that courts were already able to strip people of their firearms licences if they thought it was necessary.

Mr Hines, from South Tyneside, said the latest tragedy raises crucial questions about the current regulations.

“My sympathies go out to the families affected by this tragedy,” he said. “If at some stage they want to contact me or the group for support, then we will be there to help.

“But what I and many people seem to find so shocking about this incident is that the guns were given back to the owner, even after he had shown signs of mental illness.

“It has raised a red flag about the whole system of regulating firearms. Many questions need to be answered.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho