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Last Updated: Monday, 12 November 2007, 07:34 GMT
EU may 'fast track' gun control
By Chris Summers
BBC News

The Finnish school killer
Last week's school massacre in Finland is a "wake up call"
A British MEP is hoping to "fast track" a new EU deal on gun control and says last week's school massacre in Finland should act as a wake up call.

Last week, the BBC reported that police in Britain, faced with a flood of easily convertible replica guns, want changes to European laws.

Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, who chairs a key committee, said a new deal could be in place by the end of the year.

The new directive would make it harder to buy guns across the EU.

Echoes of Dunblane

Eight people, including five teenage boys, the headmistress, a female nurse and a single mother, died when 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen ran amok with a gun in the school in the small town of Jokela last Wednesday.

My objective is to cut the supply of these guns, banned in the UK and smuggled in from Lithuania and Germany and currently being used to kill young people on our streets
name here

Ms McCarthy, who represents the North West Region, said: "In the wake of the Dunblane tragedy the UK toughened its gun law and we banned all handguns.

"The shooting in Finland is yet another tragedy that shows the carnage and destruction which weapons in the wrong hand can wreak.

"It is a tragedy that an unstable vulnerable young man was able to have access to a handgun.

'Wake up call'

"In Finland any adult may own a gun provided it is registered with a shooting club and 1.8 million guns are owned in a population of 5.3 million people. The incident is a wake up call."

While the EU cannot intervene in a sovereign countries' own gun laws, Ms McCarthy's committee on the internal market is hoping to push through a new directive - replacing Directive 477 which was passed in 1991 - which would set a series of basic standards which all EU member states would have to abide by.

She told the BBC: "We are still negotiating but we are down to the nitty gritty and I hope to get it signed off soon. I am trying to get it fast tracked by the end of the year."

The directive would include background checks would have to be carried out before people can purchase guns, new measures would be brought in to ensure guns are registered and can be traced back to their owners; new controls on convertible weapons and control of internet trade in firearms.

"I am pleased that member states are supporting my amendments to include 'convertible weapons' in the review of EU law.

Deadly imports

She has been working closely with Greater Manchester Police, who highlighted the problem to her after busting two separate gangs who were importing imitation guns from Lithuania and Germany.

One gang converted them before bringing them into the country while the other imported them and then paid a corrupt engineer to carry out the conversion work in Manchester.

The police eventually caught the gang - who were jailed for up to 19 years in November last year - but many of the guns remain in circulation.

One of the guns fell into the hands of 17-year-old Kasha Peniston who tragically killed his sister Kamilah, 12, while playing around with it at their home in Gorton, Greater Manchester.

Ms McCarthy said: "My objective is to cut the supply of these guns, banned in the UK and smuggled in from Lithuania and Germany and currently being used to kill young people on our streets."

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