Letter: Muskets and self-defence pose no threat

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read Andrew Marr's article (18 March) on the problem and possible cure of drug-related armed crime in disbelief. I agree that armed crime is spreading and that more armed police will mean more armed criminals, but to suggest that further restrictions should be imposed on holders of firearm/shotgun certificates is madness.

Mr Marr gives some figures of armed crime increase up to 1991. He then goes on to say that the legislation following the Hungerford massacre has done nothing to help, and then says higher certificate fees to reduce lawful gun ownership will do the trick.

If Mr Marr had taken time to look at the 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act, he would know that since that time, the number of law- abiding citizens holding firearm/shotgun certificates has declined by approximately 20 per cent; that during the same period criminal use of shotguns has increased by approximately 68 per cent, and criminal use of pistols has rocketed by 200 per cent. If this trend continues, in about 15 years' time no law-abiding citizens will own firearms, and armed crime will have reached a far worse position.

The fee for these certificates is already high. Legislation in the UK is among the most restrictive in the world, and it takes up to 1,500 police officers, full-time, to administer the licensing system. The Home Office wants to take the police away from the system and use a civilian body.

Mr Marr should know that in 1988 the Home Secretary banned the weapon least used in crime, a type of rifle, and that Michael Ryan killed at least half of his victims in Hungerford with a pistol. In fact he probably killed all but one with the pistol (something the Home Office seems reluctant to admit). As a result, some 13,000 rifle owners had to hand in their SLRs, which in time of national emergency would equate to 13 battalions of Home Defence Force.

Mr Marr should wake up to the fact that no amount of legislation directed at firearm/shotgun certificate holders will stop the criminal use of guns; if the legal ownership of guns were to be banned tomorrow it would not stop the criminals. The police need to be out there on the ground, the courts need to get tough, but if the police and the courts can't protect honest citizens, then the citizens have the right to protect themselves.

Yours sincerely,

I. WILD

Burnham, Buckinghamshire

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