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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 16:51 GMT
Blair points to airgun crackdown
Air rifle
Incidents involving air weapons are rising
Tony Blair has given a clear hint that legislation for airguns may be included in next week's Queen Speech as part of a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

It follows a campaign by MPs and families of youngsters killed or injured by the weapons who have pressed for a change in the law.


We are looking at the whole issue of the licensing of airguns

Tony Blair
The prime minister told the House of Commons the government had "something to announce" on the issue, "in the next period of time".

As the Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's programme for the year ahead, is on 13 November, it is likely that this will be the occasion where any new legislation was unveiled.

Downing Street has already declared war on anti-social behaviour such as fly posting, dropping chewing gum and graffiti.

'Lethal weapons'

Mr Blair has said these problems were "probably the biggest immediate issue for people in the country".

Labour MP Dari Taylor asked Mr Blair how these potentially "lethal" weapons could be controlled "if not banned".

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield died in an airgun incident
She told how Matthew Taylor, a 14 year old boy in her Stockton South constituency died "as a consequence of an accident with an airgun".

Mr Blair replied: "This is an issue, along with those other issues to do with anti-social behaviour that is right at the top of people's agenda and the worries of MPs.

"That is why we are looking at the whole issue of the licensing of airguns at the moment and we will have something to announce on that in the next period of time."

Teenage ban?

But Mr Blair stressed that a balance needed to be achieved between the "need to take action" and the "need not to over-regulate".

Last month Labour MP Jonathan Shaw presented a bill to the Commons calling for a ban on the unsupervised use of airguns by teenagers under 17.

This is unlikely to become law because of a lack of parliamentary time.

A month earlier, families of relatives killed or injured with airguns, and their MPs, brought their campaign to the House of Commons.

Members of the umbrella group Campaign for Airgun Control want the guns to be registered and a ban placed on the sale, import and manufacture of imitation weapons and their possession in a public place.

In August, the parents of Matthew Taylor, who died after being shot in the head by a friend, handed a letter to Mr Blair calling for tighter controls on air weapons and a ban on their ownership by youngsters.

In a statement read to the gathering, Mark and Wendy Sheffield said: "We find it incomprehensible that use of a fishing rod, the purchase of a new TV and obtaining a driving licence is subject to greater regulation than the purchase and use of a firearm that is capable of causing death."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denise Mahoney
"Anyone over the age of 17 can buy an airgun"
See also:

18 Sep 02 | Politics
09 Sep 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | England
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