Straw demands firearms register

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Indy Politics
A national register of firearms should be set up in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, the Labour Party proposed yesterday as part of its anti-guns initiative. Labour also confirmed that it would like the law changed to ban anyone aged 18 or younger from owning or using a firearm.

In its evidence to Lord Cullen's inquiry into the Dunblane killings, the party went on to call for sweeping powers for chief constables to refuse the granting of firearms certificates. Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, believes the current system in which individual police forces keep details of gun owners, rather than a central register is "ludicrous". The party suggests in its submission the establishment of a national database, run by a Firearms Control Board.

At the weekend Mr Straw called for the outlawing of all pistols and rifles higher than .22 calibre. Apart from a few exemptions it would take an estimated 200,000 weapons out of circulation. He also wants stricter controls on the 2 million shotguns currently held in United Kingdom. Publishing details of the party's full evidence Mr Straw said that the public would be astonished that currently teenagers as young as 14 could legally own a gun.

The Labour submission also calls for a drastic overhaul of the way firearms licences are issued. It argues that under present system "the dice are heavily loaded in favour of the applicant", with the onus on the police to establish a "good reason" for turning down an applicant who can then appeal to the courts. In 1994, of 11,700 people who made an application only 1120 were refused.

Labour wants chief constables to have the absolute discretion to refuse any licence application without having to give reasons for doing so. There would be no right of appeal, save possibly where an applicant's livelihood depends upon the issuing of a certificate.

"In our judgement the public are increasingly of the view that the risks to the community from the misuse of firearms far outweigh any 'civil liberty' in favour of the holding of firearms, save in the most limited of circumstances," it said.

Labour's proposals have been sharply criticised by the shooting lobby which claims they will unnecessarily penalise thousands of law-abiding gun owners.