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Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Gun laws to be tightened
Shooting a shotgun
Rules could restrict shotgun use
Britain's gun laws are to be tightened, with new limits on shotgun ownership and restrictions on young people, the Home Office has announced.

New gun regulations
Tightening controls on the maximum number of shotguns which could be held on a certificate
Requiring two detailed character references with applications for shotgun certificates
Possibly allowing the sale of air guns only through registered firearms dealers
Introducing a common standard for testing of airguns
Possibly banning the sale of imitation firearms to under-18s
But, despite the recommendations of a report by the Home Affairs Committee on firearms control, the government held back from introducing a total ban on the under-16s using guns.

This is because it would have a serious impact on the UK's ability to compete in future shooting events.

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke said: "If we simply banned young people under the age of 16 from handling guns then we could end up in the position of simply not having sporting activity in this area at all in a few years,"

The decision follows in the wake of British success in Olympic shooting events.

Sporting success

Richard Faulds won a gold medal in the men's shooting double trap, and Ian Peel won a silver in the men's shooting trap.

Home Secretary Jack Straw also announced that pistol shooting events could be held at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 in Manchester and the Commonwealth Shooting Federation in 2001.

The tighter controls on shotguns are arbitrary and without justification, and only serve to penalise law-abiding people, for no real reason

Emilio Roduna
But that decision did not weaken the existing ban on handguns which followed the massacre of schoolchildren in Dunblane by Thomas Hamilton, the home office said.

Despite these concessions, the new measures have been attacked by the pro-shooting lobby.

British Shooting Sports Council secretary Pat Johnson said: "It will make it more difficult for us to produce another Richard Faulds by making it harder for youngsters wanting to take up shooting."

The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association said the regulations were a smokescreen for a government which was not tackling the real problem of the increasing number of criminals gaining access to firearms.

Executive director Emilio Roduna said: "The tighter controls on shotguns are arbitrary and without justification, and only serve to penalise law-abiding people, for no real reason."

'Good reason'

But Mr Clarke said some of the measures unveiled on Wednesday would help curb the development of a "gun culture".

The new rules, when introduced, will require shotgun owners to demonstrate "good reason" for needing such a weapon.

The power to revoke a shotgun licence would also be given to police.

But the home office rejected one of the committee's main recommendations, namely, a licensing system for Britain's four million airguns, on the grounds that it would be too cumbersome, costly and difficult to administer.

The Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales expressed disappointment at the decision.

The president, Chief Superintendent Peter Gammon, said: "They can be lethal weapons. There are some very powerful air weapons not subject to licensing on the market."

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See also:

21 Apr 99 | Education
Dunblane offers expert help
14 May 00 | Scotland
Dunblane mothers join anti-gun march
13 May 00 | Americas
Gun control hits US election agenda
21 Apr 99 | UK
Dunblane victims remembered
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