‘New gun laws needed’ after Horden shootings says shadow home secretary

10th November 2011' MP Yvette Cooper'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE
10th November 2011' MP Yvette Cooper'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

THE shadow home secretary used an East Durham shooting as a leading reason to change gun laws.

Yvette Cooper said the fatal shootings in Horden by Michael Atherton showed the need of a change in licensing policy.

Taxi driver Atherton killed his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, Alison Turnbull, 44, and Tanya Turnbull, 24, before turning the gun on himself on New Year’s Day in 2012.

Mrs Cooper wants Home Secretary Theresa May to make a revision of gun laws a priority in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, May 8, which will set out the coalition Government’s legislative plans for the next 12 months.

Mrs Cooper said: “People with a history of domestic violence should not be allowed to own guns.

“The coroner in the Atherton case was right to call for root and branch reform of gun licensing.”

Mrs Cooper has met with Bobby Turnbull, the son of Alison Turnbull and brother of Tanya, as part of his campaign seeking more rigorous checks before gun licences are granted.

She added: “Bobby Turnbull has been campaigning for tighter restrictions on gun ownership after the tragedy that hit his family.

“Atherton had a history of domestic violence and he should never have been given a gun.

“Yet the existing licensing framework is much too weak on domestic violence and too variable in the way it is enforced.

“What the Turnbull family have had to go through is harrowing, and I pay tribute to them for taking this campaign forward.”

At an inquest into the deaths in March this year, it was said that four incidents of domestic violence incidents dating back to 2004 were reasonable grounds for not granting a licence.

During the inquest, Coroner Andrew Tweddle, who reached a verdict that the women were unlawfully killed and that Atherton killed himself, said that under the current “flawed” gun licensing system, it was “fortuitous” there had not been more incidents like the one in Horden.

Despite having history of domestic violence, Atherton legally owned six weapons, including three shotguns, and kept them at home.

He had his guns removed in September 2008 after armed officers were sent to his home when he “threatened to shoot his head off” while he was drunk.

Bobby, 24, launched a petition shortly after his family were murdered calling for better co-operation between police and health professionals in relation to sharing information on domestic violence.

Bobby, who works at Hartlepool Golf Course, has regularly appeared in the Star in recent months urging people to support his campaign and to sign the petitions, and has won widespread praise for his crusade.