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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
French PM vows tougher gun law
Lionel Jospin
Mr Jospin has been accused of being soft on crime
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has promised tougher gun laws after a road rage shooting in which one police officer died.

The incident occurred in the town of Vannes, in Brittany, when a man carrying a Kalashnikov rifle burst into a police station in pursuit of three youths after his vehicle collided with their car.

He sprayed the front desk of the police station with bullets before he was overpowered.

Both the leading candidates in France's presidential election, were quick to pay tribute to the dead man, Regis Ryckebusch.

Red light

Mr Jospin expressed his "sadness, solidarity and compassion with the officer's family" and despatched Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant to the scene.

His rival, incumbent President Jacques Chirac, who has accused Mr Jospin of being soft on crime, said Mr Ryckebusch had saved the lives of the three youths.

What is a violent individual like this doing with a weapon of war?

Joaquim Masanet, police union spokesman
In an interview with the RMC-Info radio station Mr Jospin blamed conservatives for blocking an earlier attempt to tighten gun laws.

He added: "As far as I am concerned, I am totally ready for this legislation to be tougher and harder still."

The gunman, a 48-year-old horse breeder, Jean-Charles Denis, reportedly caused the road accident by driving through a red light.

The youths fled to the police station after he pulled a gun on them and started shooting.

Liberation Front

He was shot in the shoulder by a police officer, and taken into custody.

Poster showing the councillors who were killed
Eight councillors were killed in Nanterre
Police said he was a member of the Brittany Liberation Front with a record of violent behaviour. He was said to be carrying a pistol and a knife, as well as the Kalashnikov rifle.

Mr Ryckebusch is the eighth French police officer to have been killed in service since January.

A spokesman for the UNSA police union, Joaquim Masanet, also called for new laws on gun possession.

The attack comes two weeks after the killing of eight councillors by a deranged gunman in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

French law requries applicants for gun licences to submit medical records and undergo police checks, but lapses occur.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Europe
Crime and the French voter
28 Mar 02 | Europe
Paris gunman commits suicide
27 Mar 02 | Europe
Witnesses describe calm killer
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: France
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