British government relaxes gun laws on sport ahead of 2012 Olympics

Updated: July 8, 2008, 3:44 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The British government relaxed gun laws Tuesday to allow shooting teams to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics.

Britain banned handguns in 1997 after the massacre of 16 children and a teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. The law includes a ban on guns for licensed sports, preventing domestic pistol events.

But home secretary Jacqui Smith has invoked special exemptions in England and Wales. A similar exemption allowed pistols to come into Britain for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

"(Smith) has agreed to use her powers under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 to allow a small squad of elite GB Olympic pistol shooters to train in this country ahead of the Olympics in 2012," Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said in a written parliamentary answer. "Scottish ministers have agreed, in principle, to exercise their powers in a similar manner."

Northern Ireland was not affected by the ban.

Sutcliffe said the government would make sure that competitors and officials can "possess their special competition pistols for the duration of the games and for any special warm-up events."

The ban has made it difficult for British shooters to emerge. None will be competing in the pistol events at the Beijing Games next month.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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