News Special: BOND OF GRIEF; Parents of gun-death toddlers Alistair and Andrew meet to share memories and fight for change in law.
THE parents of gun victims Alistair Grimason and Andrew Morton met for the first time last week to share their grief and anger over their toddler sons' deaths.
In normal circumstances Ozlem and David Grimason and Sharon McMillan and Andy Morton would have little in common.
But they have been drawn together by the pain of their boys' separate and tragic deaths caused by guns.
Alistair Grimason, two, was sleeping in his pram in a cafe on a family holiday to Turkey in 2003 when he was killed.
A month ago Andrew Morton, also two, was with his 13-year-old brother Brian outside his Glasgow home when he was struck down'What do I say to them?' asked Ozlem, before the Morton family entered the room.
'What can we say?' said David. 'There's not much people could say to us.'
But as soon as she saw the young mum, Sharon McMillan walked over and hugged Ozlem. And no words were needed.
The couples met in the week Tyler Scott, six, was shot in the head with an airgun pellet as he played outside his home in Edinburgh.
The pellet could have killed him if it had struck a few millimetres lower.
Sickened Sharon said: 'How many more children are going to be killed or injured before action is taken?'
She and Andy were moved by the chance to Sharon McMillan meet the Grimasons. The only contact between the two grieving couples had been a poem the Grimasons sent to Andrew's family.
The handwritten verse began: 'A little child was given, the happiness was brief.
'The joy he brought into our lives was turned to bitter grief.'
And as they came together last week, Sharon and Andy thanked the Grimasons for their support and shared stories of their little boys.
Sharon, 34, admitted: 'I still go into shops and start picking up clothes to buy for Andrew.
'Then I realise he's gone and all the grief comes flooding back.'
Ozlem, 30, a bank worker, nodded, saying: 'We still walk past toy shops and I'll point at something and say, 'Alistair would have loved that'. It gets a little easier but you never truly get over itAndy, 30, and Sharon are about to move from their Easterhouse home to escape painful memories associated with Andrew's death.
David, 33, an engraver, revealed he and Ozlem also felt they had to sell up and move out of East Kilbride.
'At first we wanted to be reminded of him, to sit in his room and to cling on to every last memory,' he said. 'But then it just becomes too painful and you have to move on.' The couples also discussed Andrew's Law - a campaign his parents are fronting to tighten legislation on airguns.
Ozlem and David, who now live in Edinburgh, won a battle for tougher gun laws in Ozlem's home country of Turkey.
Last month, Ozlem received the prestigious Woman of Influence 2005 award from children's charity NCH.
She said: 'My emotions are mixed because, of course, I just wish Alistair was with me.'
A shy person, she was overwhelmed by the public's support.
But the couple revealed they also had to deal with chilling threats on the internet from pro-gun campaigners.
David said: 'We were discussed in chatrooms and had really nasty things said about us. It was mostly from the US. It was amazing to think these people had heard of us, never mind could write such evil and spiteful things against us.' Sharon and Andy hope for similar success in Scotland.
Sharon, 34, said: 'There is no reason for anyone in an inner-city area to possess an airgun.
'We want people who don't need them to be banned from owning one.
'There should be strict licensing laws to ensure only those who use them in a professional sense are entrusted with one.'
The Sunday Mail won a crucial battle to tighten gun laws after the Dunblane tragedy in March 1996. We presented a petition signed by 428,279 readers to then-Prime Minister John Major, demanding a ban on all guns.
On October 1, 1997, it was made illegal to own a handgun in Britain but air weapons were excluded.
In 2003 the misuse of air weapons resulted in 112 people being injured.
Following Alistair's death, David and Ozlem launched a high-profile campaign for tougher gun laws in Turkey.
They compiled a 200,000-signature petition which was instrumental in persuading the authorities to increase sentences for armed violence.
Small-time gangster Daimi Akyzuz, 32, was jailed for 36 years last July for murdering Alistair.
For Andy and Sharon, who have four other children - Cheryl, 17, Brian, 13, Sammy Jo, 10, and Calvin, eight months the fight for justice is just beginning. A 27-year-old man has been charged with Andrew's murder and faces other charges of firing an air weapon at a woman and a firefighter.
First Minister Jack McConnell issued a plea for airgun holders to hand in their weapons as part of an amnesty.
But Andy, a warehouse supervisor, and Sharon say that is not good enough. They plan to take their bid for much stricter controls to the Prime Minister.
David backed their campaign, adding: 'I've heard arguments for members of gun clubs to keep them.
'But why can't they be kept under lock and key inside the club?
'It's only a sport. How important is that compared to the life of a childmailfile Andrew's Law: What the family wants#Licensing of airguns, making it an offence to own one without a good reason.
#Airguns to be classified as lethal weapons. #A requirement to keep airguns locked away, so the owner is liable for prosecution if the weapon is misused by another party.
#Harsher penalties for those in possession of an airgun without a licence. They should not be fined but jailed in every case.
#The family's campaign is being supported by the Gun Control Network, whose members include Dr Mick North, who lost his daughter Sophie in the Dunblane tragedy.
#GCN persuaded the Government to raise minimum gun ownership age from 14 to 17 in January. #Since then it has also been an an offence to possess an airgun in a public place without reasonable excuse. But it does not apply to airguns on private property. The shot that killed Andrew was fired from a flat.
#The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland estimates there are half a million air weapons in Scotland. But campaigners fear there are more. GCN's Linda Mitchell said: 'I don't think the public are aware how many guns are lying around in people's houses
United: David and Ozlem Grimason, whose son Alistair was shot dead in Turkey, meet Sharon McMillan and Andy Morton, whose son Andrew was also shot dead; Needless victims: Alistair, top, and Andrew were shot dead; Tragic: News of Alistair's 2003 death
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Apr 10, 2005|
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