Guns and poses

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
In more than 25 years of teaching, my wife and I have known a distressingly high number of young people who have been killed on the roads. About a dozen people a day die on our roads, many by deliberate acts of aggression or malice.

We do not, however, see tabloid headlines screaming "Who needs a car?", nor do people such as Kevin James ("Getting shot of the gun brigade", TES, August 9) demand that cars are stored in a central garage, with isolated ignition keys. The difference is that his car is an important part of his life, and he and his friends are good motorists - quite unlike the few bad motorists who kill and maim, or use their cars for robbery. Thus, encouraged by a police crime prevention officer apparently acting as a security salesman, he feels free to demonise local gun owners of whom he knows nothing. It's not quite up there with allegations of ritual sacrifice, but the thought process of irrational prejudice is recognisably the same.

According to press reports, Thomas Hamilton was refused membership by two gun clubs, rejected by the Scout movement, was the subject of 240 police interviews alleging improper behaviour towards children, and allegedly threatened a mother with a gun. At least one police officer recommended his certificate be withdrawn.

The chief constable's responsibility was to determine if Hamilton was "of intemperate habits or unsound mind, or for any reason unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm". In most police authorities, even a "domestic" incident or a row with the neighbours is sufficient for a certificate to be withdrawn. That Hamilton was granted and continued to keep a firearms certificate allowed an act of unspeakable evil to occur. However, horror at that act is no reason to attack nearly a million of one's fellow citizens who legally possess firearms and must perforce be exemplary citizens.

BASIL HASLER

Bramley House

Market Lane

Walpole St Andrew

Wisbech

Cambridgeshire

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