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British Lawmakers Vote To Outlaw All Handguns

Thu., June 12, 1997, midnight

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night to pass a bill outlawing all handguns, apparently signaling the end of pistol ownership in Britain.

The Firearms (Amendment) Bill, drawn up after a lone gunman armed with four handguns massacred 16 schoolchildren and their teacher in the Scottish town of Dunblane in March 1996, passed the key second stage in the House of Commons by a vote of 384-181.

Thanks to the new Labor government’s solid 179-seat majority, the bill’s passage through two more stages in the House of Commons appears assured.

“It will in general no longer be possible to practice handgun sports in the mainland of Britain,” although the country will occasionally play host to international shooting events, Home Secretary Jack Straw said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the Labor Party to victory in May 1 national elections, has thrown his support behind the bill.

“I think we do owe a moral responsibility to the victims of Dunblane and their families. That is the reason why we have sought to bring forward this legislation,” Blair told Parliament in answer to a lawmaker’s question earlier Wednesday.

Once through the House of Commons, the bill will be debated by the House of Lords, Parliament’s unelected upper chamber. If approved there, the legislation will be presented to Queen Elizabeth II to be signed into law.

The bill extends the more modest ban that the Conservative government of former Prime Minister John Major passed through Parliament in November. That bill did not outlaw .22-caliber handguns, though it said they could only be kept at gun clubs.

Members of the main opposition Conservative Party and some Labor lawmakers attacked the proposed law.

“The proposals in this bill are unnecessary, unfair and expensive,” said Conservative home affairs spokesman Michael Howard.


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