Fury over new plans to restrict firearms

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Indy Politics
The firearms lobby reacted with fury yesterday at the disclosure that the Government was pre- paring to consider new restrictions on the use of rifles, shotguns and air weapons.

Shooting enthusiasts announced that they planned to hold a protest rally in London at the end of September.

As The Independent reported yesterday, a fresh review of the firearms laws will be launch-ed next year. The Home Office is likely to back a minimum 18 year age-limit for shotguns and tighter licensing; the banning of most powerful rifles; and a licensing or age restriction for ownership of air guns.

The issue is expected to be reopened after the legislation on handguns has been completed in Parliament and an estimated 200,000 revolvers have been handed in and destroyed.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which has more than 114,000 members, said it would "fight proposals including tighter age restrictions for young people using firearms and a licensing for air weapons".

Bill Harriman, head of fire-arms for the BASC, said: "These proposed restrictions are being justified by using alarmist tactics. The public should be reassured that there are already stringent controls.

"The Government should look at the real, but much more difficult, problem of the criminal use of firearms."

He argued that it was unnecessary to set an age limit on shotgun use - at present there is no age restriction and children as young as 12 use guns - because strict safety checks are already in place. An estimated 1,760 shotgun certificates have been issued to people aged under 17, he added.

"It is in the interest of safety that a young person should be properly taught at a relatively early age," he said.

On the question of restricting rifle use, he argued that it would harm the management of the countryside.

Mike Yardley, spokesman for the Sportsman's Association, which has 40,000 members, said yesterday that his organisation will be organising a protest meeting in London. He said: "We have decided this in the past few days - it appears there's political capital to be made out of further attacks against shooting sports. We want to show our opposition to this."

Since the Dunblane massacre, there has been raised concern about the availability of all firearms and their control. There are 1.4 million licensed shotguns held in England and Wales, 200,000 licensed rifles and an estimated three million air weapons.

In 1995, there were a record 7,549 offences caused with air guns, in which about a fifth resulted in injury. Most of the other cases involved vandalism. There were 943 crimes involving shotguns in 1995, in which 12 per cent caused injury, and 50 offences involving rifles.

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