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Lib Dems follow call for total handgun ban

The Government faces defeat on its plans to limit the ban on handguns after Liberal Democrat MPs last night decided to support a total ban.

Jim Wallace, MP for Orkney and Shetland, and leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said in a statement: "Colleagues have now had an opportunity to consider the proposals as well as receiving representations from constituents. The overwhelming view of the parliamentary party this evening was that we should support an outright ban on handguns."

The MPs held a special meeting to discuss today's Queen Speech, which will include a Gun Control Bill, after growing restiveness about the party's support for the Government.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has proposed a complete ban on holding guns at home, and wants small-calibre pistols to be kept at licensed gun clubs "under conditions of most stringent security".

Mr Howard hoped that his measures, which went further than those recommended by Lord Cullen in his report on the killing of schoolchildren in Dunblane in March, would satisfy public demand for an emphatic response to the tragedy.

Pressure for a total ban is thought to have come from Scottish Liberal Democrats, re- sponding to demands from the Dunblane parents, and Nick Harvey, MP for North Devon.

Charles Kennedy, MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, said yesterday: "After Hungerford, we rushed that legislation and got it wrong. I make no apology that we are taking our time in getting it right this time."