Law and Order: Gun surrender fails to hit target

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More than 142,000 handguns have been surrendered to the police, tens of thousands fewer than had been previously expected, it was announced yesterday.

The firearms were surrendered following the introduction of legislation outlawing high-calibre handguns in the wake of the Dunblane massacre. The police had predicted that 160,000 high-powered handguns were held by shooters in Britain, but the Home Office now believes the total is far lower. So far, 116,000 larger calibre weapons have been surrendered and 26,000 smaller .22 calibre guns have been handed in ahead of legislation going through Parliament to ban them. Home Office officials said yesterday that the police figure was an over-estimate produced in haste for the Cullen inquiry into the Dunblane killings. Thousands of gun owners have chosen to export their weapons rather than surrender them, and Alun Michael, the Home Office minister, acknowledged there could still be some held illegally. Under the ban, which came into force on 1 October, anyone possessing a larger calibre handgun faces up to 10 years in prison.