26 September, 1997 page 2
Shooting enthusiasts were warned last night of a possible further tightening of firearms laws as the deadline neared for the surrender of large-calibre handguns.
The Scottish home affairs minister, Henry McLeish, signalled his intention to crack down on gun owners who sought to get round the ban on handguns above 0.22 calibre by buying other types of weapon.
He said: "My task is to make sure that we proceed with this first ban on large-calibre handguns, then proceed to a ban on smaller calibre weapons, then we want to look at some other outstanding concerns. I want to make Scotland a safer place."
The minister said gun owners who failed to hand in their weapons to police by Tuesday's deadline would be denied compensation and face up to ten years' imprisonment.
He said: "I am very pleased with the way that gun owners in Scotland have been so co-operative and the majority of handguns now prohibited have already been handed in. I urge anyone who has not already handed in their weapons to do so now."
The anti-handgun campaigner Ann Pearston yesterday expressed concern at reports of a surge in gun owners seeking to vary their firearms licences to cover carbine rifles and muzzle-loading revolvers, which are not covered by the ban.
However, the Scottish Pistol Association said shooters would continue to use whatever weapons were legal. Its secretary, Terry McCarthy, said:
"People shoot bcause they enjoy the sport of marksmanship. If they cannot shoot one form of weapon, they will switch and shoot something else."