Gun paranoia on the rise again?

Michael Howard looks like he’s in trouble, because he told the parents of a toddler who died after being shot with an air gun that he opposes banning them. Now, I really do want Howard to fall flat on his face this May (assuming that this is when they hold the election), but I really do not like this emotion which rises every time there’s a gun-related death.

I’ve used air guns myself - we actually had a shooting range at Kesgrave Hall, and the biology teacher brought in his air pistol and rifle for us to shoot the paper targets with. Air guns are not assault rifles or even revolvers. They are single-shot weapons, and with these guns you had to load them one pellet at a time. In this country the highest calibre air gun is a .22 - our fiddly little pellets were less than that. While they could obviously kill you if someone shot a pellet straight into your head, they are (or at least were) legal to own without a firearms licence, due to their low power and inefficiency as weapons. Even us troubled / maladjusted teenagers got to use them.

Howard is quoted as saying that airguns should not be banned, and that the anti-gun laws brought in (by the Tories) after the 1996 Dunblane massacre (in which a known weirdo with a gun obsession walked into a school assembly and killed several children and a teacher) had gone too far. As a result of the Dunblane massacre, the Michael Moore attitude to weapons prevailed, and arguing against banning guns made you very unpopular. (By the way, owning weapons for self-defence has been illegal in this country for decades. People who owned guns used them for sport.)

It seems like every time there is even an accident, never mind a murder, arising from gun misuse, everyone starts talking about tightening up gun laws, even though they are more than tight enough anyway. You can’t even carry a sharpened comb in this country to defend yourself with. And it’s never the normal shootings which cause this hysteria, but the tragedies like the New Year murders near Birmingham and the accidental shooting of this toddler. These laws will only spoil things for the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners, and result in more convictions and harsher sentences (because the talk is of mandatory minimum sentences) for people who walked out with a knife in their bag by mistake. As with the Dangerous Dogs Act, people will realise how ridiculously excessive they are only when it’s too late.

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