Anti-gun lobby could field election candidate

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The Independent Online
Anti-gun groups threatened yesterday to turn their campaign for a total ban on handguns into an election issue by fielding their own parliamentary candidates.

The warning came amid signals from ministers that they are ready to ban handguns from private homes but allow gun clubs to retain them under stricter conditions. The announcement, due this week, is expected to coincide with publication of Lord Cullen's report into the Dunblane massacre last March, in which 16 children and a teacher were shot dead. Ministers will receive the report tonight.

Ann Pearston, a member of the Dunblane Snowdrop petition group, said: "If the Government says it is not introducing a complete ban on handguns it will become an election issue and we would seek to be part of that ... fielding a candidate is a consideration."

She said campaigners would prefer to support a mainstream party backing a total ban.Tony Blair has signalled Labour is ready to take a tougher stance. Shadow ministers say it is prepared to ban guns over .22 Olympic sports calibre from clubs and that there is no reason why clubs or individuals should have them.

In an attempt to harden its own position, the Government has said gun clubs might be ordered to take extra security measures before being allowed to store weapons. But victims of previous tragedies said clubs would find it immensely difficult to keep a check on weapons.

Tony Hill, whose daughter was among 16 people killed by Michael Ryan in 1987 in Hungerford, pointed to an incident in 1989 when a man went on the rampage in a club after being told he had two weeks to live. Peter Crack, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, killed an instructor and another man with a .22 pistol before turning it on himself. Mr Hill said both Ryan and Hamilton were members of gun clubs with access to weapons.

The shooting lobby can also see security problems with a partial ban. Pat Johnson, secretary of the British Shooting Sports Council, would not comment in advance of Cullen except to reiterate evidence the council had given to the inquiry.

"We pointed out what the Association of Chief Police Officers said, which was that home storage had proved the most secure option."

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