Thomas Hamilton
Thomas Hamilton Reuters

Just days after a gunman killed two people at a shopping mall in Oregon, a gunman on the East Coast has allegedly killed up to 27 people -- including children -- at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Latest media reports suggest that at least 18 of the shooting victims were kids who attended the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, just east of Danbury.

The gunman reportedly killed himself, however this has not been verified. Local media in Hartford earlier reported that there were two gunmen.

In any case, the horrific mass murder of schoolchildren brings to mind the tragedy that occurred in Dunblane, Scotland, in March 1996.

A gunman walked into the school gym at the Dunblane Primary School in the morning and sprayed bullets from four weapons at random, killing 16 children and their teacher. One of the 12 other children who were wounded later died in hospital.

One student who survived the carnage later told UK media: "We heard these gunshots from the gym and looked round and thought he must be firing at a target or something then he came out through a fire exit and started firing at our huts and we were all petrified."

Most of the child victims were only 5 or 6 years old.

The mass killings sparked revulsion across Britain and around the world, prompting outrage from Queen Elizabeth and then Prime Minister John Major, who called it a "sick and evil act".

I find it difficult to express the feelings I know will be felt throughout Dunblane," said the Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, who represented Dunblane.

"This is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else and the impact of this horrible tragedy will be felt in every household."

The killer, a 43-year-old former scoutmaster and unemployed shopkeeper named Thomas Hamilton, later turned his gun on himself. Why he committed this unspeakable act violence has never been determined.

The subsequent public inquiry revealed that Hamilton had licenses for six guns and had previously been investigated by local police for inappropriate behavior around young boys.

Among other transgressions, while serving as a scout leader, Hamilton reportedly took photos of semi-naked boys without their parents' permission.

The massacre prompted an outcry for tighter gun controls in Britain, leading to changes in the law the following year which essentially made it a crime to buy or possess a handgun.

School security was also upgraded across the UK in response to the Dunblane horror.