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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 17:07 GMT
Heston's gun claims criticised
Dunblane flowers
Sixteen children were killed at Dunblane Primary School
A mother who campaigned for tighter gun controls after the Dunblane tragedy has hit back at actor Charlton Heston over his attack on the laws she fought for.

Ann Pearston, who founded the Snowdrop Appeal, said the Hollywood star was "detached from reality".

And she stressed there was "no comparison" between the levels of gun-related crime in Britain and America.

She was speaking to BBC News Online Scotland after the Oscar-winner gave a speech to students at Oxford University.

Charlton Heston
Heston is president of the National Rifle Association
Mr Heston, who is also president of the influential National Rifle Association (NRA) in the US, said Labour's anti-gun laws had led to an increase in gun-related crime.

He said the right to carry arms, enshrined in the US constitution, maintained freedom and actually saved lives.

The actor also described the UK's laws as "nothing but cultural cowardice and a subtle form of surrender to the criminals".

But Mrs Pearston responded: "The statistics about American deaths from firearm misuse speak for themselves. There is just no comparison between Britain and America."

Hand gun ban

The Snowdrop Appeal was founded to campaign for tighter gun laws after gunman Thomas Hamilton opened fire at Dunblane Primary School in 1996, killing 16 children and a teacher.

The group was disbanded in 1997 after the Labour government announced measures to ban hand guns.

"That was all we were calling for," said Mrs Pearston.

She said: "After the slaughter of 16 children and a teacher and the numerous other injuries people had after Dunblane, I think what the government did was right.

I don't know how he can be so distorted in his views

Ann Pearston
"It took quite a lot of effort to get there."

The group - which was named after the only flower in bloom on the day of the tragedy - handed over the campaigning torch to the Gun Control Network.

Mrs Pearston said the number of children killed by guns in America in the last 25 years was greater than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam war.

"With those sort of statistics I don't know how he can be so distorted in his views, how detached from the reality on the ground," she said.

Human passion

Mr Heston also said that the UK laws were the result of an unwritten constitution which gave politicians too much power.

He told students: "I have spent my life in service to these two sacred sets of work. The gift of human passion in William Shakespeare and the gift of human freedom enshrined in the American bill of human rights."

But Mrs Pearston replied: "All I can say is that if he has spent all those years studying Shakespeare, he still doesn't understand what the playwright is saying about the frailty of human nature."

And she said his characters had a better chance of surviving a wound inflicted by a sword than one from a firearm.

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15 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Heston attacks British gun laws
15 May 00 | Scotland
Mother's dismay at US gun death toll
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