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 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 13:20 GMT
New Year gun amnesty planned
Handgun
Police chiefs are keen to see another amnesty
A firearms amnesty is being planned for early in the New Year to try to reduce levels of gun crime.

Tougher new laws and a national database of guns will also be introduced in a bid to reduce levels of gun-related crime.

Figures due out next month are expected to reveal that record numbers of offences are being committed using guns.

Police forces want to launch a three-month amnesty early in 2003, similar to those which followed the Dunblane tragedy and Hungerford shooting.

National database

Many of the crimes committed involve replica guns which have been converted and which are used to settle disputes between rival drug dealers.

A ban on ownership of handguns was introduced in 1997 as a result of the Dunblane massacre, when Thomas Hamilton opened fire at a primary school leaving 16 children and their teacher dead.

But even since the ban, gun-related crimes have soured, with one study suggesting handgun usage had gone up by as much as 40% two years after the ban.

So serious is the situation in many of Britain's cities that chief constables want a three month amnesty early next year similar to those which followed the Hungerford shootings in 1987 and the Dunblane massacre.

After Dunblane more than 60,000 weapons were handed in.

The Home Office is considering a minimum five year sentence for anyone caught possessing a gun and setting up a national database and a new agency to trace illegally held weapons.

See also:

16 Dec 02 | England
02 Oct 02 | UK
13 Nov 02 | England
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