Government defeat in Lords on handguns

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The Independent Online
The Government was hit by a double defeat in the Lords last night over plans to introduce a total ban on handguns.

Peers voted first by 119 to 101, a majority of 18, to exempt the disabled from the pistol ban, to be brought in under the Government's Firearms (Amendment) Bill. Later, a move to allow international competition shooting to continue at specially approved and secure national centres was backed by 90 votes to 77, a majority of 13. Both defeats are certain to be overturned when the Bill returns to the Commons, where Labour can mobilise its majority.

Both the amendments to the Bill, which was introduced after last year's massacre of schoolchildren at Dunblane, drew cross-party support. They came within 48 hours of the Lords returning after the long summer recess and 11 days before MPs are due to report back to Westminster.

The move to exempt disabled people from the ban was spearheaded by the former Labour sports minister Lord Howell. He said that he had campaigned for much of his life for the rights of disabled sportsmen and women and this took precedence over his party loyalty.

"Shooting is one of the very few sports which can be enjoyed by both disabled and able-bodied competitors," he said.

"Many of us with the knowledge of handicapped games, who have seen the tremendous pleasure these ... seriously disabled persons have obtained in participating in these sports from their wheelchairs, would want a great deal of convincing that the same participants in these wheelchairs would pose a problem to safety."

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