Bobby Turnbull's breakthrough in fight over gun law

Bobby Turnbull has received backing from MPs in his battle to get gun laws changed after his loved ones were killed in the Horden New Year's Day shootings

Bobby Turnbull whose mother, sister and aunt were killed by Michael Atherton
Bobby Turnbull whose mother, sister and aunt were killed by Michael Atherton

Battling Bobby Turnbull will today see if a law will be changed to help prevent other families suffering a gun tragedy.

Mr Turnbull lost his mother, sister and aunt in the Horden New Year’s Day shootings, which he says could have been prevented.

Now, MPs are set to amend a new law that would force police chiefs to almost always turn down licences for people with a history of violent conduct, domestic violence, mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse.

Law makers, including Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, have backed changes which are being debated at the Anti-social Crime and Policing Bill Committee.

Following a trip to Parliament yesterday to discuss his campaign to change Britain’s flawed gun laws, Mr Turnbull, a greenkeeper, of Blackhall, County Durham, said: “I’m over the moon. It’s a breakthrough I wasn’t expecting. If I get the backing off the committee then everything will have been worthwhile.

“This is what I have campaigned for from day one, and if this gets passed then it will be law.

“I lost my mum, sister and aunty, and if changes to the law save one person’s life then we have done enough.”

Following the shootings, he launched a petition which calls for better co-operation between police and health professionals, and asks for individuals with a criminal past, history of mental instability or domestic violence to be identified when they are applying for a gun licence.

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, said: “What happened to Bobby’s family should never be allowed to happen again. People with a history of domestic violence should not be given a gun licence and the whole licensing regime needs to be much tougher.

“The Turnbull family has suffered unbelievable tragedy due to failures in the system and their campaign deserves our support.

“Police forces need to follow best practice and we do need national guidelines, but that is not enough. We need the law to be changed too. That’s why we are putting forward proposals in Parliament to toughen up the law on guns based on Bobby’s campaign.

“Bobby Turnbull and his family deserve our support and we must do everything we can to prevent this happening to other families.”

Following Mr Turnbull’s campaign, the Home Office announced that new guidance will ensure a history of domestic violence will be taken into account when considering a licence application.

Horden triple killer Michael Atherton legally kept guns despite a past which included domestic violence.

Atherton launched his New Year’s Day killing spree after Susan – his partner for 18 years – went out in Peterlee. Susan’s daughter Laura, 19, suffered minor injuries and escaped through a window. Other people in the house at the time survived, including Atherton’s son Michael, 17.

At the inquest into the deaths, coroner Andrew Tweddle called for more “robust, clear and accountable procedures” to be put in place with regards to gun laws.

To sign the petition go online at


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