Tragedy has done little to quash appetite for gunplay

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The ban on handguns after the Dunblane massacre has failed to halt either the rise in armed crime or to undermine the British appetite for shooting sports. To the dismay of campaigners, who hoped the tragedy would instill a lasting sense of public revulsion over firearms, guns are again fashionable in Britain.

The ban on handguns after the Dunblane massacre has failed to halt either the rise in armed crime or to undermine the British appetite for shooting sports. To the dismay of campaigners, who hoped the tragedy would instill a lasting sense of public revulsion over firearms, guns are again fashionable in Britain.

Corporate groups are flocking to fire shotguns at clay pigeon targets and unprecedented numbers of people are applying for certificates to shoot rifles at deer.

At the upper end of the game-shooting market, clients are paying up to £2,000 for a day's sport and the order books of specialist gunsmiths are at their healthiest in years. Gun crime has increased by more than 50 per cent since the tragedy, from 2,056 incidents in 1995 to 3,172 last year, with many criminals obtaining weapons from Eastern Europe.

Scotland Yard said last week that guns and replica weapons were now being worn as "fashion accessories" on the streets and in nightclubs.

In spite of tighter firearms laws, many shooting sports are flourishing. In Tayside, the number of visitors wanting temporary permits to shoot rose by nearly 20 per cent to 2,850 last year.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation said a rapid rise in the deer population had led to a doubling in the past decade of the numbers of people involved in deer-stalking with rifles. It said 16,000 stalkers were paying up to £60 for a day's hunting.

Companies are also increasingly taking staff and clients clay pigeon shooting at a cost of between £40 and £200 a head.

However, Gill Marshall-Andrews, who chairs the Gun Control Network, which helped bring about Britain's ban on handguns, said the measure had been a success.

Guns were used in less than 5 per cent of robberies in Britain compared with about 80 per cent in the United States. Wthout the ban, firearmsrelated crime in Britain would become "a great deal worse", she said.

"We are as violent if not more violent than America. The issue is the weapon. The US has this huge homicide rate because so many of their crimes are committed with guns and ours are not. After Dunblane, people said [pro-gun culture] is what's happening to us and an overwhelming number said, 'We don't want this'."

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