Gun clubs may get lottery cash

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The Independent Online
Gun clubs threatened with closure by the Government's proposed ban on most handguns could be eligible for money from the National Lottery to help them stay in business.

National officials from shooting organisations are urging clubs to apply for grants from the Sports Council to improve the security of their buildings, which must meet stringent requirements to store .22 calibre pistols and handguns. These are the only handguns to escape the ban announced early this week in the wake of the Cullen report into the Dunblane massacre last March in which 16 children and a teacher were shot dead.

The Sports Council confirmed to The Independent yesterday that such bids would be considered, and could meet the funding guidelines. A spokeswoman for the council said that one aim of the grants was to improve clubhouses. And increasing security was a way of doing that, she said.

Before a moratorium on grants to gun clubs which followed Dunblane, nine organisations had received a total of pounds 263,000 in lottery cash.

Colonel John Hoare, the secretary of the National Smallbore Rifle Association, said: "We believe they will be legitimate claims. The purpose of the grants is to increase the participation of the young and the disabled. We need to broaden the base of the participants if we are to continue to compete in the Olympics."

Jackie Walsh, of the Dunblane-based Snowdrop Campaign which wants to see a ban on all handguns, said: "This is an appalling idea. The Government appears to be taking with one hand but giving back with the other. In some cases clubs will be better off than they were before."

Richard Doubleday, spokes-man for Gally Hill Shooting Club in Surrey, said it won pounds 99,000 lottery money last January and would build a clubhouse to meet the security requirements. Without that, "we could not have survived", he said.

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