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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

London Set to Ban Nearly All Weapons

LONDON -- The British government prepared Wednesday to unveil plans to impose some of the world's strictest gun laws in response to the Dunblane massacre last March, when a crazed loner shot dead 16 children and their teacher.


Officials privately confirmed media leaks that Prime Minister John Major, bowing to public outrage over the killings, would go beyond the recommendations of a judicial inquiry and ban most of Britain's 200,000 legally held handguns.


According to the media reports, the only handguns Britons would be allowed to hold would be single-shot .22-inch caliber weapons, widely used in shooting competitions.


These smaller guns, accounting for 10 percent of the total, would have to be kept at registered gun clubs.


The sweeping curbs mark a victory for Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth, whose own parliamentary constituency includes Dunblane, and for a grassroots campaign that has collected 750,000 signatures on a petition calling for a total ban.


A senior judge, Lord Douglas Cullen, presented a report to ministers Monday thought to recommend that handguns should be banned from private homes and kept instead at registered clubs. But Major, advised that he risked defeat in parliament unless he went further, decided at a meeting with senior ministers on Tuesday to opt for an almost total ban.


Even so, Major cannot count on reaping political credit from the proposals as he fights to revive his Conservative Party's flagging fortunes in time for an election now no more than seven months away.


For a start, Major risks being outflanked by the main opposition Labour party, which wants a total ban on handguns.


Dunblane has become synonymous with senseless violence since Thomas Hamilton, a loner with a worrying fondness for young boys, walked into the town's primary school in March and coldly began a slaughter of the innocents.


Hamilton, who held gun certificates from the police and was a member of a gun club, then turned one of his four semi-automatic pistols on himself.


Gun ownership is rare in Britain. Opinion polls show around 70 percent of Britons want a total handgun ban.