Shooters to fight for more cash: AFTER CULLEN

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Firearm owners and the Home Office yesterday continued to dispute the cost of compensation for the banning of more than 160,000 handguns.

Shooting associations predict the outlawing of 80 per cent of all handguns will cost owners, clubs and dealers up to pounds 1bn in loss of business and equipment. The Home Office has put aside pounds 24m.

Gun owners are consulting lawyers in an attempt to force the Government to pay compensation for more than just the firearms.

The Home Office is proposing to pay a flat fee for the estimated 160,000 hand guns expected to be banned when the law comes into operation in the New Year. Owners will be allowed to obtain independent valuation if they believe the amount offered is too low. Alternatively they can sell their weapons to dealers for sale abroad, although only a limited number of shops are expected to be interested. "The Government is not going to become an international guns dealer," stressed a Home Office spokeswoman.

All gun owners and dealers will have to get rid of their weapons or risk breaking the law and facing up to 10 years in jail. Guns will be collected by the police and destroyed. All owners and dealers must prove they have disposed of their guns. This will be monitored via the gun certificates which will be altered or confiscated by the police.

The Home Office does not plan to compensate the 2,100 gun clubs in Britain or owners for the loss of business or for weapon accessories.

It is still considering whether dealers should be compensated, but argues that only a fifth of Britain's 2,500 dealers actually specialise in handguns.

The shooting lobby is furious at the proposals and argues that the compensation only represents a tiny proportion of their true losses.

Guy Savage, spokesman for the Shooters Rights Association, which represents 5,000 shooters and dealers, said the European Convention of Human Rights guaranteed citizens and businesses "full and generous compensation" for loss of property. The Association calculates that the costs of the gun ban will exceed pounds 1bn. "It will further destroy over 2,000 businesses relegating 10,000 highly skilled, law abiding people to the position no better than a reformed criminal," he said.