Blair to outlaw replica guns

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Tony Blair, the Labour leader, yesterday called for tough new powers to ban replica guns and most ceremonial knives.

Under a Labour government, deactivated guns would be banned, as would many large knives, such as "Rambo"- style weapons.

Mr Blair's comments, designed to outflank the Conservatives on law and order, were made on a visit to the Moss Side area of Manchester. Last week the Labour leader pre-empted the Tories by calling for a ban on shotguns and pistols larger than .22 calibre in evidence to Lord Cullen's inquiry into the Dunblane massacre.

Yesterday Mr Blair went further, saying: "The police keep telling us of their concern about guns. We have put forward a number of proposals to Lord Cullen. This proposal today is part of our determination to smash the drugs, knives and guns culture which is destroying many of our inner cities."

Labour is particularly alarmed about the spread of deactivated guns from abroad that are no longer classed as firearms. They appear very convincing to victims of crime, and in some cases have been restored to working order.

Jack Straw, the shadow home secretary, who was also in Manchester, said: "The open sale of these weapons, which have no practical purpose, feeds the gun and knife culture, and that is why I think they should be banned."

Labour will make the suggestion in a separate submission to Lord Cullen's inquiry, but will stress that genuine toy weapons would not be banned. Mr Straw also called for a wider ban on the carrying of knives.

Under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, the government has powers to proscribe such weapons. Mr Straw said that Labour will draw up a list of weapons that the party would make illegal if it comes to power. It has already called for a ban on the sale of knives to under-16s and an end to mail- order guns and ammunition.

In its evidence to Lord Cullen's inquiry into the Dunblane massacre, the Home Office said that banning imitation firearms, or bringing them under licensing control, would make them less readily available for misuse by criminals.

But it added: "Water pistols and other traditional children's toy guns are perfectly acceptable to most people."

5 Gordon Brown has given a clear warning that a single European currency will not work unless crippling unemployment levels are brought down, writes Paul Routledge.

In an interview with today's Scotland on Sunday, the shadow chancellor is insistent that "you cannot build a successful monetary union by doing nothing about 18 million unemployed in Europe".