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Membership of gun clubs shooting up in Northern Ireland

Former members of the security forces are joining gun clubs so they can hold onto their personal protection weapons (PPWs).

With the terrorist threat from dissident republicans growing, former UDR, RIR and RUC officers in rural areas are joining local gun clubs so they won’t have to surrender their PPWs.

One former UDR member who survived two IRA assassination bids said that he knows of 15 former colleagues in east Tyrone who have joined clubs to keep their weapons.

The former part-timer, who was wounded in both attempts on his life, said he was determined to hold onto the PPW he has carried since the 1980s and says many former colleagues say the same.

“My licence isn’t due for renewal for a number of months and I will fight any attempt to remove it from me. Recent events have just underlined the huge risk that is just around the corner and I'm not prepared to take the chance of not being able to fire back,” he said.

The former soldier , who doesn’t want to be identified, said he owes his life to the service pistol he carried when he was ambushed by the IRA near his home in the late 1980s.

“They wounded me and came to finish me off but from the ditch I tumbled into I was able to fire off rounds from my pistol and hit their car. I nearly killed the driver and they sped off,” he said.

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Former police and army personnel are permitted to have 25 rounds of ammunition with their PPW if they are allowed to hold onto it, but PSNI policy over the last three years has been to recall weapons if the holder hasn’t been advised of a direct threat to his life.

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