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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 16:15 GMT
Anger over school shooting range
A rifle range user
Air and .22 calibre rifles will be used on the range
Plans to build a rifle range at a new 23m education academy in Bristol are at the centre of a row.

The Merchant Venturers is the main sponsor of the new academy, planned for the site of the old Withywood School.

It said the range would be part of a cadet force for out-of-hours activities, and would help discipline.

Dennis Burn, from the Venturers, said: "Parents and young people want an exciting programme of activity outside school hours."

He added: "The cadet force is well placed to do this. We will also be doing lots of other things.

The sport is being blamed for the ills of society. This is wrong
Geoff Doe
National Small-bore Rifle Association

"Being involved in such a rich programme of activities will help these young people to be the sort who do not get involved in gun crime."

The academy is scheduled to replace Withywood School, which had the city's worst GCSE results last year.

It will have more than 900 pupils when it opens in September.

But one parent, spoken to by the BBC near the school, said: "It would be teaching them to use firearms and encouraging them to go around shooting people."

Another added: "It's not a good idea. I don't trust them with guns, especially in this area."

The range is likely to use air and .22 calibre rifles.

Geoff Doe, from the National Small-bore Rifle Association, said there were 4,000 cadet units in the country, many of which were attached to schools including Eton.

"Films, TV and video games all glamorise shooting. By having a person properly introduced to it, taught and controlled, it demystifies the gun.

Building works at the Withywood site
Work on the academy has begun

"The sport is being blamed for the ills of society. This is wrong. It is an Olympic sport."

He also pointed out the then sports minister Richard Caborn backed rifle shooting in schools in May 2007 and said this may have led to a increase in schools taking an interest in shooting.

The Reverend Dawnicia Palmer, from Mothers Against Weapons and Violence, told the BBC: "There are other things the kids could be good at.

"They should put their energies into something more responsible."

Parents' reaction to plans for shooting range

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