Police Say Gunman Kills 12 In Britain A gunman in Britain has killed at least 12 people and injured 25 others before killing himself. Police say they found a shotgun next to the body of the suspect, Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi driver. The shootings, in Britain's quiet and scenic Lake District, have shocked the country, which has some of the tightest gun controls in the world.

Police Say Gunman Kills 12 In Britain

Police Say Gunman Kills 12 In Britain

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A gunman in Britain has killed at least 12 people and injured 25 others before killing himself. Police say they found a shotgun next to the body of the suspect, Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi driver. The shootings, in Britain's quiet and scenic Lake District, have shocked the country, which has some of the tightest gun controls in the world.

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A man went on a shooting spree in Northwest England today, killing 12 people, injuring several others, then killing himself. Three of the injured are in critical condition. The killings took place this morning in a part of rural Britain better known for its beautiful countryside than its violent crime.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports.

ROB GIFFORD: Cumbria seems an unlikely place for a crime of such magnitude. The county, near the Scottish border, is home to the famous tourist attraction known as the Lake District and has one of the lowest crime rates in Britain. But at 10:30 this morning, shots were heard in a street in the small, coastal town of Whitehaven.

Local resident Gary Bound(ph) was just going into a barbershop with his 11-year-old son.

Mr. GARY BOUND: We just heard two large bangs, and we both jumped. And, I mean, we were laughing at the time because we thought it was a backfiring of a van. But then when we actually got into the hairdresser's, somebody had come in and basically said somebody had been shot in the face. And when we come out, he was just basically lying dead on the taxi lane. Everyone was just in shock. They couldn't believe it had happened.

GIFFORD: The man who police believe was to blame was a 52-year-old local taxi driver called Derrick Bird, a divorced father of two who was well-known in the town and described by many as a friendly, likeable man. It appears his first two victims were fellow taxi drivers. He then took off in his car along local roads and into local villages, and witnesses spoke of the apparently random nature of some of the killings that followed.

For instance, a man trimming a hedge in a field was shot from the window of Bird's car. For three hours, the police ordered local people to stay in their homes, as it was unclear where Bird had gone and where he might shoot next. He ended up in the town of Boot, 20 miles from where the shooting began.

Later in the afternoon, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde spoke to the assembled news media.

Mr. STUART HYDE (Deputy Chief Constable, Cumbria Police): The body of Derrick Bird was located in a wooded area near Boot at approximately 1:40 today. And at this time, we believe he took his own life. No shots were fired by police officers. We can, however, confirm that from our current indications, that 12 people have lost their lives, plus Derrick Bird.

GIFFORD: Attention is now turning to why Derrick Bird would go on such a rampage. Few people own guns in Britain, and gun crime is rare compared with the United States - though there have been two major incidents in the last 25 years: 16 people killed by a lone gunman in the southern town of Hungerford, and 16 children and their teacher killed in the Scottish town of Dunblane.

Professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, David Wilson, says laws enacted after those tragedies have helped prevent similar incidents.

Professor DAVID WILSON (Criminology, Birmingham City University): Hungerford was in 1987; Dunblane was in 1996; and Cumbria was in 2010. What happened after Hungerford is that we introduced some of the toughest gun laws - against semiautomatic weapons - in the world, which means that thankfully, the type of events that are taking place today don't take place very regularly in our culture.

GIFFORD: That will be small consolation to the people of West Cumbria who've lost loved ones today. Prime Minister David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth were among those who expressed their shock and sent their condolences to the community, united in grief.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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