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UK Politics

Theresa May accused of delaying overhaul of gun laws


Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was accused last night of resisting calls to tighten gun laws following the shooting spree of Derrick Bird in which 12 people were murdered.

A report by MPs more than seven months ago denounced the legislation in England and Wales as a "complex and confused" mess and condemned the loopholes that allowed convicted criminals to acquire firearms legally.

Ms May is yet to respond to demand for action by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, prompting charges by gun law campaigners that she is dragging her feet on an urgent issue.

The MPs called for one licensing system to cover all guns, replacing the 34 pieces of legislation currently governing possession of firearms and said the ban on ownership should be extended to cover people with a suspended jail sentence.

They also backed an overhaul of the age limits on gun use and suggested police should be required to consult licence applicants' partners before deciding whether they should be granted.

Their recommendations followed the disclosures that Bird, a taxi driver from Cumbria, had been allowed to keep his shogun certificate despite having two criminal convictions and an arrest over claims he "demanded payment with menaces" after a customer made off from his cab without paying.

A spokeswoman for Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, confirmed he was concerned by the lack of a response from the Home Office and said he was "chasing" the department.

Chrissie Hall, spokesman for the Infer Trust, a charity that aims to raise awareness about gun violence, said: "I don't know why they aren't making an announcement; it's been a long time. I imagine it's because it's a very contentious subject."

Gill Marshall-Andrews, the chairwoman of the Gun Control Network, also said she was dismayed at the delay and added: "We would like to see the Home Office take some action."

At the time of the report, the department said this country's gun laws were among the toughest in the world but said it was prepared to tighten them further if necessary. Since then the department has failed to respond and has even asked the committee for more time to reply to the report.

In March. Ms May said she had responded to incidents such as the Cumbria shootings "not with gimmicky initiatives, as would the last government, but by respecting the operational independence of the police".

The shadow Home Office minister, Shabana Mahmood, described the delay as "tardy and unacceptable".

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are carefully considering the recommendations made by the home affairs select committee and will report back shortly."