The Duke of Edinburgh came under attack from MPs and anti-gun campaigners last night after he criticised proposed handgun legislation, saying gun club members were no more dangerous than golfers or tennis players.
In a BBC interview, Prince Philip said the legislation, designed to stop another Dunblane-type tragedy, would not stop weapons getting into criminals' hands. "I sympathise desperately with the people who are bereaved at Dunblane, but I'm not altogether convinced that it's the best system to somehow shift the blame onto a very large and peaceable part of the community," he said.
He added: "I mean if ... look, if somebody ... if a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat which he could do very easily, I mean are you going to ban cricket bats?" There was "no evidence" that people who used weapons for sport were any more dangerous than people who used golf clubs, tennis racquets or cricket bats. Prince Philip said in an interview for an Inside Edge programme to be broadcast this evening that he believed that transferring the blame for Thomas Hamilton's murder of 16 children and their teacher on to "sport shooters" was "a little unreasonable".
Calling for MPs and campaigners to pause and think before the measure finally became law, he continued: "I think one's got to make a difference between what the weapons can do and what the people can do."
MPs from all parties last night criticised the Duke for his "crass" and "insensitive" remarks. Ann Pearston, one of the Dunblane Snowdrop petition organisers, called the prince's comments "a disgrace".
"To think of the Queen coming up here and laying a wreath at our school and then hearing her husband say something like this sickens me - it is the Royal Family giving with one hand and taking away from the other," she said.
"I certainly cannot remember the last time a tennis player walked into a primary school and massacred 16 children and their teacher." Alison Crozier, 37, whose five-year-old daughter Emma died, called the remarks "very insensitive".
But the pro-shooting lobby welcomed the Duke's remarks. Michael Yardley, spokesman for the Sportsman's Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, said: "I'm delighted that the Duke of Edinburgh has had the courage to make this statement."
Donald Macintyre, page 17
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