Clubs may check for firearms with metal detectors

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Nightclub owners were urged by the Home Office yesterday to use metal detectors to search customers for firearms amid growing concerns over gun crime.

The call follows a series of fatal shootings in city nightclubs and what one government official describes as "the association of firearms with some forms of music".

There has been a series of shootings at shows featuring the chart-topping garage collective So Solid Crew and last week a member of the group, Ashley Walters, 19, was told by a judge that he faced a lengthy jail sentence after he admitted possession of a revolver.

A Home Office source said: "Gun crime is a very serious issue. Increasingly we are seeing guns taken into clubs and they are associated with drugs and some forms of music."

He said guns were a problem for "all major urban areas", notably London, Nottingham, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester.

While the Government accepted that not all clubs would be able to afford airport-style security arches, door staff would be expected to have hand-held metal detectors.

The call was made as part of the launch yesterday of a Home Office Safer Clubbing guide, aimed at nightclub owners and licensing authorities.

The gun warning will add to public concerns over levels of violent crime and drug agencies will worry that it will overshadow the Government's wider attempts to reduce drug-related health risks in Britain's nightclubs.

The Safer Clubbing guide, in which the Government acknowledged it was unable to fully prevent drugs use in clubs, called on venues to provide amnesty boxes for clubbers so that they dispose of illicit substances without repercussions.

Use of these "drop boxes'' in London has helped to recover £18,000-worth of drugs in the past six months and has revealed that clubbers have recently been sold two highly toxic compounds marketed as ecstasy.

Dr John Ramsey, head of the toxicology unit at St George's Hospital, London, who advised the Government on the Safer Clubbing guide, said that one of the compounds, 4MTA, had been developed in America as an antidepressant but had only been tested on monkeys.

He said rogue 4MTA pills had been produced in Holland and were linked to four deaths in the UK. Dr Ramsey said 4MTA and a second ecstasy-type recipe, downloaded from the internet and called 2C27, were outlawed last month.

The toxicologist pointed out that ecstasy deaths were not caused by batches of "killer-pills" as some clubbers believed, but by the body overheating due to the combined effects of ecstasy and the conditions inside a club.

The Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said: "We have to recognise that some clubbers will continue to ignore the risks and carry on taking dangerous drugs. If we cannot stop them from taking drugs then we must be prepared to take steps to reduce the harm that they may cause themselves."