Letter: Insane ban on guns

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Institute of Pyschiatry is to be commended for publicising the fact that, contrary to tabloid "boil-in-the-bag" opinion, the mentally ill are most unlikely to commit murder (report, 6 January). Being cited in just 60 homicides a year out of an annual average of 600 to 700, the mentally ill do not deserve to be the subject of a witch-hunt.

What a pity similar standards of objectivity were not applied to an examination of some other Home Office statistics - those relating to gun ownership. While the number of legally owned guns continues its long-term downward trend, the proportion of British homicides committed with guns has remained at about 9 or 10 per cent - the same as the much-vaunted figure for the mentally ill. Furthermore, virtually all the guns used in homicides are not only held illegally, but have never been registered.

If the chances of being murdered by a mentally ill person are very small, then the chance of being killed by the lawful owner of a gun is many, many times smaller still. If the Institute of Psychiatry's findings make the Government pause before instituting new "care in the community" legislation, then how can our law-makers justify their draconian banning of the ownership of handguns by responsible people?

ALASDAIR MITCHELL

Stocksfield, Northumberland

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