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Sunday, March 1, 1998 Published at 00:41 GMT


'Good' response to gun deadline
image: [ It's thought about 10,000 guns have been handed in ]
It's thought about 10,000 guns have been handed in

The deadline for the Government's nationwide firearms surrender has passed with thousands of weapons being handed in and initial police reports suggesting a good response.

Gun owners across Britain had until midnight on Saturday to surrender their low calibre handguns in the final firearms clampdown following the Dunblane tragedy in Scotland.

The deadline is the end of a four week period in which owners have been told to hand in all guns of .22 calibre and below, or risk a 10-year jail sentence.

[ image: The new legislation followed the killings at Dunblane]
The new legislation followed the killings at Dunblane
The clampdown follows last year's yield of larger weapons in the wake of the shootings in Dunblane in 1996 in which 16 primary schoolchidren and their teacher were killed.

Around 10,000 small calibre weapons are expected to have been handed in during February. Official figures will be released later but police forces reported a generally good response.

Among the weapons surrendered to Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland were an Uzzi 9mm machine gun and a Liberator, a one-shot weapon which was given to French civilians during the war to help the resistance against the German forces.

The Home Office Minister Alun Michael said: "We have now held a successful firearms surrender ... which I believe has put a firm brake on the development of a dangerous gun culture in the UK.

"Today's deadline for surrender of small calibre pistols completes the government's drive to take all handguns out of general civilian circulation."

Mike Yardley of the Sportsman's Association - which was set up to represent shooters after Dunblane - said he expected few problems from gun owners in complying with the new laws.

"The shooting community is made up of law-abiding people. They will obey the law even if they disagree with it," he said.

But despite the new regulations, Mr Yardley said the laws would not help to prevent another tragedy occurring.

"Handguns have been banned - but in the wrong hands a shotgun is a more lethal and dangerous weapon than a .22 pistol.

"To deny Olympic and Commonwealth competitors and others access to .22 calibre handguns at gun clubs is a ludicrous over-reaction," he said.

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