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Blair responds to editor's call for action

Prime Minister Tony Blair has sent a personal reply to an open letter from the editor of the Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough, which called for a change in the law under the paper’s Ban Young Guns campaign.

In his letter to Stephen Dyson, Mr Blair backed the Evening Gazette’s efforts and added his concerns to those expressed by the paper’s readers over the dangers of airgun misuse by people under the age of 18.

Mr Blair said: “I have, as requested, passed on your earlier letter and accompanying petition on the subject to David Blunkett, whom I know fully shares my deep concerns about this issue.

“I absolutely understand and share the concerns of your readers about the danger of airguns. As you know there are laws already in place to control the use and possession of air weapons, particularly by young people.

“I believe there is much that can be done by strict enforcement of the existing legislation and also through better public education to ensure that people who use air weapons understand the basic principles of safe and responsible shooting and are punished if they ignore them.”

The Prime Minister also advised the Evening Gazette to contact Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth.

Editor Stephen Dyson said: “I’m really pleased that Mr Blair has personally addressed thousands of readers concerned, and we will now be taking up his invitation to press home our campaign with Bob Ainsworth.

“I would like to challenge Mr Ainsworth to speak to us face to face and to explain exactly what new legal measures are being considered.”

The Evening Gazette has been campaigning to Ban Young Guns since June in a bid to stop the rising number of air weapon tragedies.

When Mr Blair visited the Evening Gazette in July, he was shown a portfolio of stories on the dangers of airguns and was presented with a petition signed by more than 3,000 people.

But after no direct response from Mr Blair or Mr Blunkett’s department, Stephen wrote to the PM “as a matter of urgency” and included more signatures for the petition and a letter from the parents of Matthew Sheffield – a 14-year-old who was shot dead by an airgun.

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