MPs voted last night to ban all handguns in the wake of the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres, in spite of Tory protests that it will infringe the rights of shooters and wipe out their sport.
The decision follows a long campaign by the families of those killed by the gunman Thomas Hamilton, who shot dead 16 children and their teacher at Dunblane Primary school last year.
MPs heard an emotional appeal by Anne McGuire, the Labour MP for Stirling, which includes the school, to extend the ban to .22 weapons. She said the Firearms Act had left a "lethal loophole" through which shooters could legally obtain .22 weapons. "I regret that their liberties will be infringed but not as much as I regret that those 16 children and their teacher were in Dunblane."
Parents of the victims welcomed the ban. Earlier, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had told question time: "I think we do owe a moral responsibility to the victims of Dunblane and their families... we all remember the day of Dunblane and what happened there and we want to do all in our power to make sure that that never happens again."
On a free vote, MPs rejected by 384 votes to 173 - a Government majority of 211 - a Tory amendment saying there was no justification for extending the ban to .22 weapons. The SNP voted with Labour, but Liberal Democrats and six Labour MPs voted with the Tories. The Commons went on to give a second reading to the Government's Firearms (Amendment) Bill with a second free vote by 384 votes to 181 - a Government majority of 203 - to ban all handguns, including Olympic sporting weapons.
The Home Office estimates that an extra pounds 30m will have to be paid in compensation to gun shop keepers and owners who will have to surrender their .22 weapons.
The Bill is certain to face a fierce battle to wreck it in the Lords, where the gun lobby will seek to mobilise hereditary peers. The Government will warn peers not to frustrate the view of the Commons.
Shooters said they would challenge the legislation in the European Court of Justice. The British Shooting Sports Council today will meet the National Pistol Association Fighting Fund and the Firearms Industry Compensation Group to formulate a joint approach.
Ministers assured MPs that it would not stop Manchester staging the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and Britain bidding for the Olympics, both of which have shooting events.
Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said the .22 weapons were just as lethal as the large calibre weapons which were banned under the 1997 Firearms Act. The ban fulfils an election pledge.
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