British lawmakers vote for total handgun ban
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June 12, 1997
Web posted at: 8:51 p.m. EDT (2051 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- Parents of children slain by a crazed gunman
in last year's Dunblane, Scotland, massacre were among those
Thursday who welcomed Britain's tough new gun law.
The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly late Wednesday to
impose a total ban on handguns of all calibers, giving the
country some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the
Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government argued that
including even small-bore weapons was the only way to prevent
a mass murder like Dunblane, where Thomas Hamilton killed 16
school children and their teacher in March 1996 before
"It is cold comfort, but at least it's just some way to
ensuring that it doesn't happen again," said Alison Crozier,
whose 5-year-old daughter Emma was shot dead by Hamilton.
Other parents agreed.
Critic: Law won't work
But Michael Yardley, spokesman for Britain's Sportsmans'
Society, said the gun ban was "simplistic and will not work;
it will not prevent future tragedy. You can't legislate
Britain's previous Conservative government had already voted
a ban on all larger handguns. The new ban will also affect
small-bore pistols, including the .22 caliber, and rifles
used by target shooters.
"Shooting sports have been offered up as a pagan sacrifice to
appease the gods of political correctness," says Yardley. (192 K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"It will no longer be possible to practice handgun sports on
the mainland of Britain," although the country will still
host some international shooting events, Home Secretary Jack
Dunblane changed everything
Laws restricting the possession of guns in Britain -- where
shootings and armed robberies are rare and the bobby on the
beat does not carry a handgun -- date back to 1820.
Existing penalties for anyone found in possession of illegal
firearms are stiff, including heavy fines and prison terms of
up to 10 years.
Britain, a nation that often treats sidearms as an
uncivilized relic of the American west, has not been
preoccupied by random violence.
That changed with Dunblane.
"We should never forget the context of this debate," said
Anne McGuire, a member of Parliament who voted in favor of
the total handgun ban. "We are criticized for bringing an
emotional element to the gun debate, but it's the emotional
element which makes us different from other species."
Gun owners to be compensated
Thanks to the new Labour government's solid 179-seat
majority, the bill's passage through two more stages in the
House of Commons appears assured.
It's estimated that the new law will call for more than $200
million in compensation to owners of Britain's 175,000
The problem, as some critics point out, is the unknown number
of illegal guns that will remain.
London Bureau Chief Charles Hoff contributed to this report.
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