Bill targets guns and binge-drinking

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A big crackdown on gun crime and binge-drinking related disorder is to be outlined today in the Government's new Violent Crime Reduction Bill.

A big crackdown on gun crime and binge-drinking related disorder is to be outlined today in the Government's new Violent Crime Reduction Bill.

The Home Office minister Hazel Blears will propose a catalogue of stringent new laws to Parliament, aimed at curbing attacks with weapons or violence fuelled by alcohol.

She is expected to propose an outright ban on the sale of replica guns - currently easily available in specialist high street stores.

Police believe the look-a-like weapons, many of which can be converted to fire live ammunition, are commonly used in attacks and armed robberies.

The Bill is also set to include measures raising the minimum age for knife purchases from 16 to 18 and to propose offering powers to headteachers to search pupils for knives.

Senior police officers said any Government moves to take replica firearms off the streets would benefit both officers and the public.

Chief Superintendent Paul Robinson, head of Scotland Yard's special firearms operational command unit, said: "It is often almost impossible to tell the difference between a real gun and a replica.

"For someone walking down a street, all they know is someone is waving a firearm at them.

"Police officers face exactly the same situation and have to make split-second decisions on how to act."

Mr Robinson said he believes prohibiting sales of the guns would result in a drop in armed robberies and firearms incidents.

Several forces have called for the law to be changed following cases in which police marksmen have shot suspects carrying replica weapons.

"I can't see any real need for people to have replica guns, which are currently available in sporting shops," he said.

"Our officers have seized them from everyone from armed criminals to those who view them as a fashion accessory."

New powers to regulate the use of air guns are also expected to be included in the Bill and proposals for a new offence of using children or innocent parties to hide or carry knives or guns.

Efforts to tackle anti-social drinking in town centres are likely to offer police the authority to close pubs or clubs for 24 hours if they persistently sell alcohol to minors

New powers to create "alcohol disorder zones", revealed in January, will be in the Bill.

The Home Office said the "last resort" option will allow senior police officers and councils to mark out areas with binge-drinking related problems and levy an extra charge for policing on all licensed premises within the zone.

Leisure industry representatives have already attacked the plan, claiming some drinking venues could face an unfair £100-per-week levy.

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