Sportsmen say firearms ban is not necessary

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The Independent Online
The British Shooting Sports Council yesterday argued against a complete ban on the possession of firearms. And on the first day of the inquiry into the Dunblane shootings, it urged Lord Cullen not to dismiss the current gun laws out of hand as ineffective.

Speaking about the written evidence it had submitted to the inquiry, Patrick Johnson, secretary of the British Shooting Sports Council, said: "We have made a number of positive proposals to Lord Cullen for increasing public safety - largely through more effective practice of the systems and safeguards which already exist - without putting a complete ban on possession of firearms of one sort of another. The current laws and rules should not be dismissed out of hand as ineffective."

Mr Johnson said that the council planned to put further evidence to Lord Cullen once his hearings had been completed - but not to engage in public debate while he was sitting.

"Lord Cullen has control of the proceedings and his hearings are about to begin," Mr Johnson said. "It would be wrong of anyone to seek to influence the outcome by making public statements about gun control while his inquiry is in progress."

Coinciding with the opening of the Cullen inquiry, a report by head teachers said yesterday that schools should install panic alarms, bright lighting, security barriers and prickly bushes to deter intruders. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will advise its members to review their policies for ensuring that pupils and teachers are safe.

Walls and fences should be low and topped with railings to prevent intruders from hiding behind them, and impenetrable bushes should be planted near them to make access more difficult, the association's annual conference heard yesterday. Visitors should be directed through just one entrance and, if possible, the school office should overlook it so that everyone coming on to the site can be seen. Crisis policies should also cover the possibility of bomb threats, terrorism, natural disasters or a pupil or teacher being taken hostage.

Emergency procedures should be drawn up to include informing parents, bringing in counsellors where necessary and making staff aware of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report says.

When a serious incident does occur, injured pupils and staff should be visited in hospital and, if someone has died, representatives of the school should attend the funeral. In such cases, a school should consider setting up a memorial or holding a special assembly. David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said that more funding was needed to improve school security.

"We can find hundreds of millions [of pounds] to compensate beef farmers, but when it comes to urgent funding for school security the Government doesn't seem willing to act."