Letter: Guns: if the mental safety catch fails

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your editorial ("Ban all handguns now. There's nothing to lose", 17 October) stretches historical fact somewhat. Most previous legislation was not to ban ownership of guns generally, but to restrict easy access to the "right" people so that in the event of insurrection the supporters of the Establishment would be the ones with access.

In Victorian times, the sale of pocket pistols and guns for personal and home protection was probably at its highest, and Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson seem to have had no problems of purchase or retention. Prior to that Mr Manton was selling his superbly designed and manufactured duelling pistols, now to be banned for target shooting, and officers in the forces were expected to supply their own.

The 1926 Act was rushed through by a government fearful of a Bolshevik revolution, and again was intended to disarm the "common people". When the threat of invasion came with the Second World War, we had to run to the United States with a begging bowl to arm the Home Defence Forces.

After the war, many of these guns, given by individuals to help fight for democracy, were scrapped by a government once again apparently fearful of its own population's responsibility.

We do not have a "gun culture" here - no one may carry or use a pistol for personal protection or home defence, and if drug dealers and other criminals are becoming more attracted to firearms, this has no bearing on legal owners.

PETER GILLETT

Farnborough, Hampshire

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