‘Really Shocking’: Shooting in Northern England

By Brian Braiker

Jun 2, 2010 9:38pm

Whitehaven, England

For four terrifying hours, Derrick Bird, a taxi driver known to friends as 'Birdie', drove from quiet village to quiet village in Cumbria, northern England leaving behind a trail of blood.

"The guy came running out of the house and said there's a madman running around shooting people," said one eyewitness. "And he turned around and that’s when I saw he has this massive sniper rifle. And I looked it and he stared at me."

Carrying a rifle and a shotgun, he criss-crossed the countryside silently choosing his victims. Some he knew, including his own twin brother according to new reports tonight. Others, he chose randomly: a man on a bike, a woman shopping, a farmer.

"It's something that doesn't happen round here, you know, it's really shocking," a resident said.

It is an anomaly both locally and nationally. Shooting homicides are extremely rare in the UK, even rarer in a quiet rural area like this.

There were just 39 in Britain in the last year compared with more than 12,000 in the US.

One reason is that when the UK experiences a shooting like this, tougher gun laws follow almost immediately.

When gun enthusiast Michael Ryan killed 16 people in the English town of Hungerford, the government banned semi-automatic weapons. After Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and a teacher at a kindergarten in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996, handguns were outlawed.

It's not clear what new changes, if any, will follow today's shooting. Bird used a rifle and a shotgun, both of which can be owned legally with the right permits.

"It’s only really just beginning to dawn on us just how dreadful it is," said one resident. "And what the dreadful cost of this day has been."

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