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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Should gun control be tightened in Europe?
France may reconsider its gun laws in the wake of a mass shooting by a gunman that left eight dead and a further 19 injured.

Richard Durn gunned down eight council members after sitting through a six-hour meeting in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre.

He had managed to obtain a weapons license despite a history of psychological illness.

It's only a few months ago that Europe witnessed a strikingly similar case of mass murder, when a gunman shot and killed fourteen people in the local parliament of the Swiss town of Zug.

Private gun ownership remains widespread in Europe, although it is virtually outlawed in the UK after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland.

Do we need tighter gun controls across Europe? How should the law be changed?

The BBC World Service programme Europe Today brought together British criminologist Peter Squires from Brighton university and the Austrian criminology professor Franz Csaszar, who also heads the interest group 'Liberal Gun Laws' for this week's Europewide debate.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The problem is people not enforcing the regulations

Dave Allum, Notts, UK
After Dunblane, it was vowed that all pistols should be banned and independent research has shown there to be a significantly higher use of guns in crime since the ban. Controls exist and these are enough. The problem is people not enforcing the regulations. Banning guns is not the answer. Tougher enforcement and penalties for those who break the law is what is required.
Dave Allum, Notts, UK

Tightening gun laws in Europe will not have the desired effect as it does not address the root problem of the use of firearms in crime. Restricting access to firearms only affects law abiding citizens. Criminals will continue to obtain and use firearms, especially if the remainder of the public is disarmed. Relying on the police for your own safety is a fantasy.
Brent, USA

Seven years ago, the crime rate in Switzerland was 40% lower than that of Germany. The rate of gun ownership in Switzerland is 3 times higher than that of Germany. Across the United states, there are so many demographics represented, who live under an extremely varied set of firearm restrictions, that it is impossible to point to the U.S. for a single usable crime vs. gun ownership figure. The fact is, that in areas where we have less restrictive gun laws, we also have a significantly lower crime rate.

It was said that the only place for a gun is in a history book. Take time to read history. See how people have been oppressed throughout time by governments who have disarmed them. History shows that victim disarmament laws do not benefit anyone except the criminal, whether the criminal is an individual or a government. Is not the desire to disarm victims one of the defining traits of a criminal?
Jerry Beard, U.S.A.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Vigilance is useless without the ability and power to remedy that which causes a loss of freedom. The power and danger of an individual with a gun is far less than the power and danger of a despotic government without the check of a well armed populace. I know to an extent this sounds paranoid. However, we cannot take the current situation of relatively benign government as an indication that it will be so forever.
Marshall, USA,

Prohibiting firearms held legally by responsible sportsmen and sportswomen has a negligible effect on gun-related crime.

John Wheeler, Britain
As a sporting shooter who has felt the effect of gun control in the UK, I have the following comments: prohibiting firearms held legally by responsible sportsmen and sportswomen has a negligible effect on gun-related crime.
Nearly all firearms used by criminals come from illegal sources. The significant increase in gun crime in the UK AFTER handguns were banned makes a mockery of the Government's arguments.
However I would stop short of wanting Europe to adopt a US-style gun culture. Firearms should not be trivial to acquire, and thorough background and mental health checks should be carried out on those wishing to own firearms for sporting purposes.
John Wheeler, Britain

Guns are devices which only serve to kill somebody or something; and since handguns hardly can be used for hunting, nobody should need them in a 21. century society...
Anders Jørgensen, Denmark

Even if people are trained to use a gun they are not trained to deal with duress situations. When such a situation does occur, pulling out a gun will sharply increase your chances of getting shot and maybe killed.
Jeroen, USA/Netherlands

Some Americans are touting their tried and tested 'guns don't kill people' approach. In the USA last year 18,000 murders occurred in a country of 270 million. In the EU, only 5,000 occurred in an area of 400 million. Get the picture?
Lar, USA

The only way I would support a broad gun control measure is if one day every government, policeman and criminal lays down their guns.
Peter, USA

The emphasis should be on those that gave this criminal the permit and the criminal himself

Josh, USA
Why should the actions of one horrible criminal extinguish the existing freedom of the general public? The emphasis should be on those that gave this criminal the permit and the criminal himself. Emphasis should not be on guns as a plausible scapegoat to avoid the real problems.
Josh, USA

Does a gun ever act alone? Of course not, that's why we need to hold the person(s) using the gun responsible and stop screaming that it's the gun's fault.
Paul West, UK

I rather think we need to hold individuals accountable - not firearms.
Nigel Barrington, Wales

Europeans are using guns as a scapegoat rather than admit to a more serious underlying problem: moral decay. I don't own a gun, never used one, but I don't hold guns accountable - it is the person not the gun.
Axel von Bormann, Germany

Europeans, like the American media, seem all too eager to blame guns rather than the individual who fired the weapon.
T. Heltman, USA

I think the biggest problem is on people heads and the way our society is taken. And many people prefer to have guns only because police doesn't make then feel safe. So I think that people having guns or not having wouldn't change much.
David, Portugal

Guns don't kill, people do! Any nut with access to fertiliser, nails and high school chemistry equipment can build a bomb. Are you going to ban gardening and DIY too?
Nils, South Africa

Europe has no need for armed civilians/ citizens

Michael, Dublin, Ireland
Strictly speaking firearms should only be the business of the police, the military and farmers. Europe has no need for armed civilians/ citizens. Europe does not have a firearms culture quite like the US, and it does not need one.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

Sporting shooters here in Australia have had their sport much more strictly controlled that it used to be in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. While the sporting public has been disadvantaged and made a political scapegoat, the criminal elements buy their firearms at the pub, just like they used to. Although probably not directly related to the new firearm legislation, the incidence of violent crime has increased in the years since tighter gun control was brought in.
Bernard Jones, Australia

To consider the legal possession of guns as signs of freedom, liberty or security shows considerable confusion regarding cause and effect. Of course sane people do not mess around with (their) guns. But who tells who is sane? Banning guns will not save society, but it will save lots of lives.
Thomas Schulze, Germany

In Italy if you have a big bank account you are almost sure to get a gun license and defend yourself. But if you are a nobody, it's just too bad.
A. Guandalini, Italy

The only hope for reducing the increase in gun violence, not only in domestic situations, but also in rebel movements and terrorist organisations, is for the manufacture of weapons to be strictly controlled, with guns on sale only to police forces and armies, and all weapons marked for tracking. This will not prevent gun crime, given large numbers of weapons already out there, but it can only have positive effects in the future
Sandy, Bermuda (former UK)

A cheap ploy for votes

Peter, USA
The gun control debate is too often used as a cheap ploy for votes. But denying sane citizens the right to defend themselves will do nothing to stop the violent actions of a few madmen, only the vigilance of a competent police will do that. Need we remind ourselves that the murder of thousands in my own heavily-armed country was arranged by a few men with only knives and box cutters?
Peter, USA

The problem is beyond legislation because it really does not involve guns. The true problem is that more and more people are suffering from feelings of extreme frustration and alienation.
Ben W, Canada

We have seen the ensuing crime wave in the UK in the aftermath of outright bans on gun ownership. Why bring that same torturous fate to the rest of Europe?
Scott Kaley, USA

Why do the actions of the few bring about punishment for the many?
Tony, USA

I agree with Denis. I think crime would be worse in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) if gun laws were weakened. Tightening gun laws across Europe will mean lives saved.
Ben, England

The only place for a gun is in a history book.
Denis, Belgium

Europe Today: Gun Control Debate
Listen to both sides of the debate
See also:

29 Mar 02 | Europe
France may reconsider gun laws
25 Mar 02 | Health
Call for air gun controls
27 Sep 01 | Europe
Swiss mourn gun rampage victims
27 Sep 01 | Europe
Gunman kills 14 in Swiss assembly
30 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Gun register by 2002

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