ACADEMICS at Leicester University are warning that the Government may be jumping the gun on firearms legislation.
While the House of Lords is considering amendments to gun laws in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, researchers at the university's Scarman centre for the study of public order are studying how best to prevent a trigger-happy society.
They will spend the next two years looking at gun laws in different European Union countries to evaluate what is effective and to what extent liberal laws promote firearms incidents.
The Leverhulme Trust has given Pounds 52,000 to the study which will compare policies in different countries, looking at statistics for the number of deaths by guns and at how different approaches influence the scale of black market activities.
Kate Broadhurst, the research officer jointly coordinating the project, said the impetus for the work had been the Dunblane tragedy.
Centre director John Benyon added: "We are interested to see if there is a relationship between liberal regimes and deaths by guns. There seems to be in comparisons between the United Kingdom and the United States. Now we will be looking for Europe."
With initial results not due for 12 months, the Leicester University team knows its findings will not influence the current debate but it believes it will influence future policy.
Ms Broadhurst said: "At the moment this is a very emotive debate. People want to see change very quickly. Hopefully they are not making a rash decision. If you make change very quickly, it is not necessarily the right thing to do."
Professor Benyon added that he thought current legislation very positive.
"But I don't think it goes far enough," he said. "This is the immediate and understandable result of Dunblane and the Cullen inquiry. But this is by no means the end of the story. There will be continuing demands for further controls.
"Our research may well be of interest for future debates," he added.
"This will not be the end of the matter given that 0.22 guns have been left out of current legislation. Britain is extremely wise to control guns as much as possible."