Shooting the gun on bans

October 11, 1996

I have been shooting pistols at targets all my adult life; now Dr North and Mr Blair want to stop me (THES, October 4).

Dr North says there might be a danger to society. All of us might, but why should pistol shooters alone be guilty until proved innocent? I have shot without harming anything except my bank balance for 40 years.

I have always found fellow shooters to be mild, courteous un-macho people, careful about safety. He argues that crimes have been committed because guns can be kept at home. From 1992-94 there were 196 gun homicides in England and Wales. The Home Office was able to obtain information on the weapon used in 152 cases. It was found that in 22 cases the gun was legally held and in 130 it was not. Scottish Office figures for 1993 showed three killings with licensed firearms, all domestic and shotguns.

To say that handguns are only used for a pastime, target shooting, but were designed for killing is a half truth. Some pistols were designed for killing, or to prevent their possessors being killed, but most for target practice. It does not matter what the gun was designed for but what it is used for.

Dr North says handguns are the most dangerous. No gun is dangerous until a human being gets hold of it and its capacity for harm will depend on the possessor's purpose. A pistol is little use to a mass killer barricaded at the top of a tower and shooting passers-by.

Mr Blair, on the other hand, wants to ban handguns because "we owe it to the parents of Dunblane". Since this does not purport to be a rational argument, I will not try to rebut it; but Mr Blair, in his entirely proper concern for parents for whom the ban would be imposed, has ignored the people on whom it would be imposed. He wants to penalise me, and 50,000 harmless people like me (and perhaps the British taxpayer - the anti-gun lobby never mentions compensation), in order to make the Labour party feel better.

C. P. COTTIS Campion Road, London, SW15

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