Shooting tragedy sparks new move over gun law

Alison Turnbull,  who was one of four people who were shot dead when her stepbrother Michael Atherton went on a rampage with a legally-owned gun. Alison's son Bobby, 23, has now launched a petition to change gun licensing procedures. Pictured with Bobby.
Alison Turnbull, who was one of four people who were shot dead when her stepbrother Michael Atherton went on a rampage with a legally-owned gun. Alison's son Bobby, 23, has now launched a petition to change gun licensing procedures. Pictured with Bobby.
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A GRIEVING son whose mother, sister and aunt were shot dead by his stepfather has launched a campaign for stricter gun laws.

Bobby Turnbull, 23, lost his mother Alison Turnbull, 44, sister Tanya Turnbull, 24, and his aunt, Susan McGoldrick, 47 in the massacre in Horden, County Durham, on New Year’s Day.

The gunman, Michael Atherton, who was Ms McGoldrick’s partner, also shot and injured her daughter Laura, who suffered minor injuries and escaped by jumping from a window, before turning the gun on himself, after an argument.

Now Mr Turnbull and his family have drawn up a petition in a bid to change gun licensing procedures.

After the shootings, it emerged that Atherton’s weapons were legally held, but they had been removed by Durham Police after concerns over alleged threats he made to harm himself in 2008.

The guns were taken from his house as a precaution, but they were returned after he insisted there had been no threat to harm himself.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating licensing issues surrounding the case.

Mr Turnbull, of Blackhall Colliery, believes Atherton should never have been allowed to keep the guns.

“Every day I still think about what happened that night,” he said.

“It is something I’m never going to forget but it’s something I have to learn to live with.

“I will never forget how those three girls were killed.”

The petition calls for better co-operation between police and health professionals and asks for individuals with a criminal past, history of mental instability or of domestic violence to be identified.

“People knew the type of person he was and he shouldn’t have been granted a shotgun licence,” said Mr Turnbull.

“If there were tighter gun restrictions and clearer guidance on the granting of gun laws then maybe the three girls wouldn’t have been killed.”

Mr Turnbull said he hoped the petition would prove a “lasting legacy” for his lost loved ones.

“We will never know if a change in the law will save people’s lives, but we can always say that we have done something to try,” he said.

“If they were here now, they would be so proud.

“I believe they are looking down on us now and they know what we are doing.”

To sign the petition, visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33913

Twitter: @sunderlandecho