Shooters target Referendum Party

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The Independent Online
Britain's shooting fraternity is preparing to back Sir James Goldsmith's campaign for a European referendum, writes Ian Burrell. Disillusioned with the Government's insistence on introducing new firearms restrictions and Labour's promises of even more swingeing gun laws if it comes to power, the shooters are opting for a protest vote.

The gun lobby has abandoned plans to field parliamentary candidates, and is backing the only party which has not committed itself to a firearms ban. The development is particularly worrying for David Mellor, who called for a total ban on handguns and faces an election battle with Goldsmith for his Putney seat.

Chris Evans, spokesman for the British Shooting Sports Council, said: "A lot of shooters are saying they will vote for the Referendum Party. The party won't ban guns - they don't have a policy on it." The council, an amalgamation of 10 shooting associations, has 500,000 members and could exercise considerable electoral clout.

Michael Yardley, of the newly-formed Sportsmen's Association, which has 50,000 members, said: "There does seem to be considerable support among the membership for the Referendum Party. "It is more a protest vote than anything else although it is true that many sportsmen and women feel strongly on the European issue."