16 Jun 2005 22:30:42
/ / / Scotland / / / Toddler's Death Leads to Calls for Air Gun Ban / / /

The Sunday Times - Scotland

Toddler's Death Leads to Calls for Air Gun Ban

---Paul Lamarra
---March 06, 2005

A HUNDRED mourners attended a church service last night to pay tribute to
Andrew Morton, the two-year-old who died after he was hit in the head by an
air gun pellet.

The special Mass was held at St Dominic's Catholic church, in Craigend,
Glasgow, a short distance from where Andrew was struck down on Wednesday

Father Thomas Magill, the parish priest, spoke of the "shock and anger" of
local people, whom he urged to tackle antisocial behaviour in the area.

Andrew died in hospital on Friday after being hit with an air gun pellet
while walking to the shops with his 13-year-old brother Brian.

A 27-year-old man, understood to be a close friend of Andrew's family, has
been arrested in connection with the incident and is expected to appear at
Glasgow sheriff court tomorrow.

Andrew's death has prompted widespread revulsion and has led to calls from
his family, police and doctors for a total ban on air guns. It is believed
he was struck by a stray pellet that had been aimed at firefighters called
to a kitchen fire in the same street.

Magill told the congregation: "As a community, do we find it acceptable to
fire air guns, or even acceptable to own an air gun? Do we find it
acceptable that our young people run amok with iron bars and sticks? "We
have to decide what kind of parish and neighbourhood we would like to live
in and what we are going to do about it."

After the 40-minute service, which was not attended by the toddler's family,
the congregation were handed leaflets urging them to use a hotline number to
report crime in the area.

Local people spoke of their despair at the tragedy and a tide of violence
they said left them frightened to leave their homes.

Sally Maley, 61, from Craigend, said: "I'm devastated by what has happened.
I have two grandchildren who I really fear for. I feel afraid to leave my
own home. The whole community is shocked and we have to look to ourselves
but you are too frightened to say anything."

Last night Jack McConnell, the first minister, indicated that air guns might
be banned following calls from Andrew's mother, Sharon, for the weapons to
be outlawed.

Speaking at the Labour party conference in Dundee, McConnell said it would
be wrong to introduce new laws within

24 hours of Andrew's death, but added that if they were required ministers
would not shy away from them.

"As first minister, I do know that in irresponsible hands, an air gun is a
lethal weapon," he said. "It would be wrong for government to decide new
laws within 24 hours of such a tragedy; equally it would be wrong to rule
out a total ban. New laws on air guns are already in place, but if more are
needed, we must not hold back."

Legislation last year raised the minimum age for owning an air gun from 14
to 17. Higher-powered gas cartridge weapons were banned and a new offence
was created of possessing an air weapon in a public place.

Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, said she would be discussing firearm
laws, which are reserved to Westminster, with the Home Office.

Figures show that 129 people were treated in Scottish hospitals last year
after being shot with air guns - a rise of 13% on the previous year.

However, David Mellor, the deputy chief constable of Fife constabulary and
the Scottish police chiefs' spokesman on firearms, said he did not support a
change in the law. "It would not be a sensible step to license air weapons,"
he said. "There are an estimated 5m such weapons in the UK and it would be a
major administrative task to license those. The existing laws should be
rigorously enforced."


16 Jun 2005 22:31:50
Re: / / / Scotland / / / Toddler's Death Leads to Calls for Air Gun Ban / / /

Toddler's Death Leads to Calls for Air Gun Ban