Letter: Guns: if the mental safety catch fails

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The Independent Online
Sir: Tony Benn ("The answer to the Irish Question is British Withdrawal" 9 October) and Harry Barnes (Letters, 14 October) seem to agree on only one thing: that Britain stays in Northern Ireland because of the threat of a pogrom against Catholics if we withdraw.

This is the exact opposite of what we are normally told by politicians, that "Britain will not give in to violence or threats of violence".

The obvious solution is that we should withdraw, but before doing so we should take steps to prevent a massacre of the Catholics. The threat comes not from the relatively small number of arms held illegally by Protestant terrorists, but from the 100,000 firearms legally owned by Protestants.

If we are going to ban privately owned handguns because of 16 deaths at Dunblane, then surely the thousands of dead in Northern Ireland, and the even greater number who might otherwise be killed following a withdrawal, must justify a complete ban on all privately held firearms in Northern Ireland.

R A McCARTNEY

Farnborough, Hampshire

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