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De-Activated Weapons

Part of Orders of the Day — Firearms (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:25 pm on 23rd May 1988.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 7:25 pm, 23rd May 1988

That is correct. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has picked up so early in our deliberations this evening an issue to which we shall probably return on more than one occasion. He has raised a matter of concern to those who know about these matters, and it is a concern that I share.

It is probable that the Government will label the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and myself as members of the pro-gun lobby. I admit that I shoot. I do not shoot much, however, because I do not have a lot of time in which to do it after attending this place. If there is an hon. Member who is concerned about the safety of the general public in terms of firearms, it must be me. I have been to the funerals of many who have died as a result of the misuse of firearms. I do not know exactly how many I have represented in the county of Londonderry who have died as a result of terrorism, but I made a rough count some weeks ago and the total came to about 350. No matter what is said in the House or alleged in the media, I hope that I shall not be accused of being unreasonably or madly pro-gun.

I know what I am talking about. I know as much about firearms and their use by terrorists and criminals as any man. I cannot see much good in this part of the Bill and I see very little that is good in the Bill as it has been drafted and presented to the House.

Some of those who considered the Bill in Committee appeared to me to be anti-gun, to put it mildly. They were mainly Opposition hon. Members. Slowly but surely they allowed themselves to be convinced by the force of the arguments that were advanced and to be influenced by the Government's failure adequately to respond to them. They came to understand that what I and others were arguing was based on a solid foundation. If the Government had acknowledged that there was a problem and had agreed that they should return next year with a better organised, better presented and better looking Bill, we should not have the mess of amendments that are set out before us. If the Government had adopted that approach initially, they would not have had to live through such a difficult Second Reading and Committee stage.

The Government must know that this is not a good Bill. Unfortunately, they are committed to it. There is nothing worse than for a Government to proceed with a measure that they know in their heart and mind is inherently bad and will bring no good purpose to the House.