After Dunblane: the silence, the mourning, the questions

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PEOPLE who want to own guns must show why they should have them, rather than compelling the police to prove why they should not, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, George Robertson, said yesterday.

The Cullen Inquiry into the Dunblane massacre should have this radical switch of gun control policy "at the top of its agenda", he said.

Mr Robertson, who lives in Dunblane, questioned the anomaly that requires police to "show good cause" why somebody should not have a gun licence, "whereas in other cases - like the licensing of a vehicle recovery business - it is the other way round".

Meanwhile, police are expected to launch a nationwide guns amnesty in the wake of the massacre, with an announcement likely this week from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Jim Sharples, the Acpo president, discussed the issue with Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, on Thursday and it is understood that the Home Office and chief constables are nearing an agreement to allow unwanted and illegal firearms to be handed over at police stations.

The Labour leadership is known to favour tougher laws on gun ownership but is avoiding public statements in the immediate aftermath of the Dunblane killings. However, Mr Robertson yesterday reaffirmed his personal view that it should be harder to acquire guns. His attitude is supported by a mounting postbag, and even while he was being interviewed yesterday local people were calling at his house to urge a harder line.

The MP, who took his own son out of a boys' club run by Hamilton because it was run "like the Hitler youth", conceded that legislation was not a panacea.

"This was a guy deranged, crazed, out of control ... There is no gun law, or any law in the world, that would stand in the way of that. But we should certainly make it more difficult."

Further reports, page 3

Inside Story, page17-19