The Snowdrop Campaign was founded after the Dunblane Massacre in March 1996 to call for a total ban on the private ownership and use of handguns in the United Kingdom. Founded by friends of the bereaved families and so called because March is snowdrop time in Scotland, according to the Daily Mirror it gained over 50,000 signatures to a petition in 6 weeks.
The ownership of full bore (over .22 rimfire calibre) pistols was banned by the existing conservative government under John Major.
New ban proposal
Following presentation of the petition and a speech by one of the founders, Ann Pearston, to the 1996 Labour Party conference, the new Labour government of Tony Blair introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, which further banned the private ownership of all cartridge ammunition handguns, regardless of calibre, including private ownership of .22 rimfire handguns.
The petition was also one of the first campaigns to make extensive use of the internet for distributing material. Extensive use of the then relatively new medium of email allowed the petition to be rapidly distributed as a Word document widely across the UK. Because of slight differences in the layout of the internet and photocopied forms used, the organisers were able to estimate that between a quarter and a third of all forms had been sent by email at some point.
The illegal use of firearms cannot be compared with the legal possession of firearms. It is estimated that there are 300,000 easily accessed firearms in Britain. The ban on handguns was a successful campaign to ban legal firearms but it was never intended to affect illegal gun grime. Anne Pearston a founder in the Snowdrop Campaign responded to these figures: "This completely misses the point of what we were trying to do. We never thought that there would be any effect on illegal gun crime, because this is a totally separate issue. What we were campaigning for was to make sure that a civilian could not be legally trained to use a handgun. Our legacy is that there should never be another Thomas Hamilton, and that is what the legislation was designed to achieve."