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Parliament Approves Partial Ban on Handguns

November 19, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ The House of Commons rejected an outright ban on handguns Monday, instead approving a partial ban proposed by the government after a gunman killed 16 children and a teacher in a Scottish school in March.

As the vote was announced, cries of ``Shame!″ echoed from the gallery where a group of parents of the victims of the Dunblane massacre watched the deliberations.

Four lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party broke ranks and voted to outlaw all handguns, but the partial ban passed 306-281.

``The majority of the population want a complete ban,″ said David Mellor, one of the rebel Conservative lawmakers.

The British government estimates that 160,000 weapons would be banned under the measure, which outlaws guns above .22 caliber and lets only gun clubs use smaller-caliber weapons.

The opposition Labor Party pressed to outlaw handguns entirely.

``If we were tonight to leave a loophole in the firearms laws big enough for another mass murderer ... to walk through, then we would never be forgiven,″ Labor’s Scottish spokesman, George Robertson, said during the debate.

Thomas Hamilton, 43, who was obsessed by guns and young boys, opened fire on a gym class at the Dunblane Primary School on March 13, killing 16 3- and 4-year-old children.

As a member of a gun club, Hamilton legally owned the two .357-caliber Smith and Wesson revolvers and two 9mm Browning pistols he carried into the school.

The Government hopes the bill will become law by Christmas, after the House of Commons again votes on the entire bill in what is regarded as a formality.

Home Secretary Michael Howard said a partial ban would allow recreational shooting to continue.

Unlike the United States, gun ownership in Britain has not been seen as a major civil rights issue.

Eileen Harrild, a teacher who was wounded at Dunblane, said she was in London to ``shame″ members of parliament ``into doing the right thing.″

``It seems no more than common sense to me to ban all handguns,″ she said.

Gun owners said they were being unfairly punished.

``What we feel is that the blame should be placed on the perpetrator of this crime ... and not on 57,000 legitimate shooters,″ said Graham Downing of the British Shooting Sports Council.

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