Son of Horden shooting victim say gun law plans do not go far enough

Bobby Turnbull with his mother Alison, who was shot dead in the attack

Bobby Turnbull with his mother Alison, who was shot dead in the attack

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

TOUGHER gun laws proposed by the Home Secretary yesterday (Thursday, January 17) are flawed, the son of a North-East shooting victim has warned.

Theresa May unveiled proposals to require people wishing to own guns to prove their partner supports the application, to "reduce the risk to domestic violence victims".

But Bobby Turnbull - who lost his mother, aunt and sister in a New Year shooting tragedy in Horden, near Peterlee, east Durham, last year - immediately warned the plan did not go far enough.

Taxi driver Michael Atherton, 42, shot dead his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44 , and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, before killing himself.

Atherton - who had a history of domestic violence - had his weapons removed by Durham Police in 2008, but he successfully applied to have them returned to him.

Mr Turnbull, the son of Alison Turnbull, said: "I think this is a good step forward, but the Home Secretary needs to take further steps.

"I'm worried that a partner may say that they are happy for someone to have a gun licence because they are in fear of what would happen if they didn't get a gun.

"To help in cases of domestic violence, they need to go not just to the victims, but further afield to other people in their families - and ask them in confidence."

Mrs May's proposal - revealed in a letter to MPs - followed mounting criticism of the Home Office for dragging its heels over calls for clearer gun laws, made in the wake of the County Durham massacre.

The Home Secretary said she was working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to strengthen "guidance on how reports of domestic violence should be treated by police considering firearms applications".

The proposal was to adopt the "Canadian practice of consulting the partners of firearms applicants", although the idea required further scrutiny.

A recent BBC TV documentary, Inside Out, revealed that a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), brands Durham Police's failure to remove Atherton's guns as "inexcusable" and "unacceptable".

Mr Turnbull, 24, a golf course green-keeper, of Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, has started a petition calling for Britain's gun laws to be made stricter, that has attracted 15,000 signatures.

It wants people with criminal convictions, a history of domestic violence, or mental instability, or alcohol or other substance abuse, to be barred from owning firearms.

A marker would be put on gun owners' medical records so that information on any problems can be shared by the police and health services.

And the petition calls for a single rigorous licensing system for shotguns and Section 1 firearms, that requires a good reason for possession of each weapon.

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