A national firearms amnesty is to take place in June in the wake of the massacre of the Dunblane children, the Home Secretary announced yesterday.
But while Michael Howard was confident the move would save lives, he accepted it could not prevent a similar tragedy at the hands of a deranged gunman - such as Thomas Hamilton who killed the 16 children and their teacher.
"No one is suggesting a firearms amnesty is a panacea in relation to crime that can be committed with guns. It is not - but it can play a part," he said at the launch of the amnesty in London. "Every gun that is removed out of people's homes and off the streets is one fewer potential threat, one less potential tragedy or one less potential crime."
The amnesty throughout England, Scotland and Wales will allow anyone to hand in any illegally or legally held guns and ammunition to police without fear of prosecution - provided that the weapons have not been used in any crime. Possession of illegal firearms can normally lead to sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines. The amnesty will run from 3 to 30 June. People will also be able to report anyone they suspect of holding illegal weapons. Those found with weapons during the period will still be covered by the amnesty.
During the last weapons amnesty, which followed the 1987 Hungerford massacre, 48,000 weapons were handed in.
Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary, repeated Mr Howard's message north of the border: "The people of Scotland have the most compelling of reasons for participating in this amnesty. Every firearm, no matter how old, which is held in the community is a weapon that could potentially kill."
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