DUNBLANE affects us all. There are no exceptions. And in the early aftermath of the appalling tragedy in that hitherto most civilised of Scottish cities, everyone will surely look at their children and grandchildren in a new light.

To say goodbye to one's precious five-year-old at the gates of his or her primary school, safe in the knowledge that just a few hours later they would be charging out, happy and excited, with their latest art offering, was something which millions of mums - and sometimes dads - did every school day. Not any more.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Dunblane it is this: any nutter with a grudge against society in general can exact a terrible revenge. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing that anyone can do about it.

But life has to go on. That is no disrespect to the parents of 16 children slaughtered by Thomas Hamilton.

The fact that he had access to guns made him a walking timebomb. But he could have been a sword or knife fanatic and done the same, or similar damage before being stopped.

The stark truth is that he was a man who crossed the threshold of rational behaviour and selected a random group of helpless little children to attack. Would our horror have been any less had he walked into a supermarket and emptied his guns into a crowd of shoppers? I don't think so, though the enormity of the crime is that it was committed against the most vulnerable section of our society.

There are around two millions known hand guns in the UK. Calls to have them permanently lodged at registered shooting clubs or with the police will have the backing of the majority of people and, in view of what happened in Dunblane, anything to restrict the chances of that happening again has to be supported.

But short of placing armed police or special security guards at every school in the country, what else can we do?

The Thomas Hamiltons of the world will somehow find a way to get their message across. And you can guarantee it will be written in blood. That, my friends, is THE most chilling sequel to this dreadful chapter in our history. THE vast majority of the people of Tockholes have had enough. They have seen huge swathes of green belt near their lovely village sacrificed on the altar of the Great God Motorway. The whiff of property development was enough to anger even the most rational among them.

But when Blackburn planning officer Peter Kuit turned up at a public meeting to allay their fears, he met a hostile reception of catcalls and feet-stamping. Mr Kuit was not surprisingly put out and let it be known he would rather have been at home, having his tea.

I don't really blame him. Public officials get well paid to take flak but this sort of childish behaviour reflects badly on villagers and does nothing to boost their cause.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.