On November 7, 2021, it was my honor to conduct an online interview with Dr. Michael North, author of the book, Dunblane: Never Forget. During the live interview that was conducted via Zoom, Americans Against Gun Violence supporters who logged in to the event had an opportunity to ask questions of Dr. North (who prefers to be addressed by his nickname, "Mick") and to offer comments. The opportunity to speak directly with Mick is now passed, but the one hour video recording of the interview with him is now posted on YouTube and available for online viewing. You can access the video by clicking on this link.
The interview begins with Dr. North reading the title - and the subtitle - of Chapter 4 of Dunblane: Never Forget:
The Thirteenth of March
"Bye Soph, see you this evening."
The subtitle to Chapter 4 memorializes the last words that Mick said to his five year old daughter, Sophie, as he dropped her off at the elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, on the morning of March 13, 1996 - the last words he would ever say to Sophie during her lifetime. Later that morning, Sophie, 15 other students in her class, and their teacher were murdered, and three other teachers and 12 other students were wounded, by a man who legally owned the handguns he used to commit the mass shooting.
In the November 7 interview, Mick recounts the events of March 13, 1996, and he also explains why it was he, and not his wife, Barbara, who dropped their daughter and only child off for school that day. Mick's wife, Barbara, had died of breast cancer less than three years before Sophie was murdered.
Mick also describes in the November 7 interview how he and the other grieving Dunblane parents came to the conclusion that nothing short of a complete ban on civilian ownership of handguns(1) would suffice to prevent future tragedies on the scale of the Dunblane Primary School massacre; the obstacles they faced in getting such a ban adopted - including the British gun lobby, callous politicians, and even insensitive comments by the Queen of England - and how they eventually succeeded in getting the ban passed within less than two years of the Dunblane mass shooting.
In the November 7 interview, Mick also talks about two other matters that the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the four other justices who joined him in the Court's 2008 Heller decision felt to be critically important with regard to gun control laws, but that Mick didn't even mention in Dunblane: Never Forget - namely, the 1689 English Declaration of Rights and English common law. In the 5-4 Heller decision, the Court overturned over two centuries of legal precedent, including four prior Supreme Court opinions, in ruling for the first time in U.S. history that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own guns unrelated to service in "a well regulated militia." The Heller majority based its opinion in large part upon the claim that the Second Amendment codifies a broad individual right to own guns that the Founders of the United States inherited from their British ancestors based upon the 1689 English Declaration of Rights and English Common Law. Mick explains in the interview that he didn't mention either the 1689 Declaration of Rights or English Common law in Dunblane: Never Forget because neither came up during the debate concerning the handgun ban. No one in Britain seriously believed that the 1689 English Declaration of Rights or English common law conferred an individual right to own guns.
In the interview, Mick also discusses events following the publication of Dunblane: Never Forget in the year 2000, including his interactions with "preeminent researchers on gun violence from across [the United States]"(2) when he was invited, along with Rebecca Peters and Philip Alpers of Australia, to participate in a summit convened by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 first grade children were murdered along with the school principal and five other female staff members. Australia had also experienced a tragic mass shooting in 1996, and as Rebecca Peters and Philip Alpers documented in the compendium that came out of the Johns Hopkins summit, it had taken the Australian government just 13 days following the Port Arthur massacre to decide to ban civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic long guns, thereby preventing any further mass shootings for more than two decades.
In the November 7 interview, Mick describes how U.S. researchers treated Rebecca, Philip, and him politely at the Johns Hopkins summit, but how they discounted the relevance of the gun control measures enacted in Britain and Australia to gun control in the United States due to what Mick calls, "the elephant in the room," the Second Amendment. As I point out during the interview, however, it's not the Second Amendment itself that is the obstacle to the adoption of definitive gun control laws in the United States, it's the Supreme Court's rogue 2008 Heller decision. Americans Against Gun Violence remains the only gun violence prevention in the United States that openly advocates overturning the Heller decision and adopting stringent gun control laws in our country comparable to the laws in Great Britain and Australia, including a complete ban on civilian ownership of all handguns and all automatic and semi-automatic long guns.
Americans Against Gun Violence, in conjunction with the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, brought both Rebecca Peters and Philip Alpers to speak at past annual dinners. We would have brought Mick North to speak in person this year had it not been for ongoing Covid-related travel restrictions and concerns about large public gatherings at the time that we would have needed to start planning the dinner. The interview with Mick that was conducted via Zoom was arranged this year in lieu of an in person annual dinner. We still hope to bring Mick to the States to speak in person in 2022.
Our in person annual dinners have been our main fundraisers in past years. We didn't require any payment for people to log in to the live online interview with Mick North on November 7, and of course, there's no payment necessary to view the recorded video on YouTube. We would appreciate it, though, if after viewing the interview, you would become an official paid member of Americans Against Gun Violence, if you haven’t already done so, and if you’d make an additional donation, if you’re able, to support our ongoing work. We’d also appreciate it if you’d invite any friends, family members, and colleagues who are seriously concerned about our country’s epidemic of gun violence to view the interview and to become Americans Against Gun Violence members themselves.
Finally, I'd like to strongly encourage you to read Dunblane: Never Forget, if you haven't already done so. It's one of the most powerful and inspirational books I've ever read. The hard copy of the book is out of print, and existing copies are being sold for over $800, but an electronic version can be downloaded for less than $10. After reading the book and viewing the interview with Mick North, I hope you'll join me in vowing to redouble our efforts to follow Mick's example and to prove through our actions, and not just our words, that we are also a country that loves its children more than its guns.
Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence
1. Great Britain already had a ban on civilian ownership of automatic and semi-automatic long guns, including so-called "assault rifles."
2. The term, "preeminent researchers on gun violence from across the country," was used to describe the individuals invited to participate in the Johns Hopkins summit in the introduction to the compendium that came out of the summit, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis.