LONDON -- Prince Philip, the tart-tongued husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was forced to offer an apology yesterday for his comments about the British government's plan to ban most handguns, part of the government's response to a March massacre at a school in Dunblane, Scotland.
A day after he seemed to compare handguns to cricket bats, Prince Philip said through a Buckingham Palace spokesman that he "had no intention whatsoever of causing offense or distress to anyone and he is sorry if he has done so." But Prince Philip, 75, the Duke of Edinburgh, declined to withdraw his comments made during a radio interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.
While Prince Philip expressed sympathy for the families of the 16 children and the teacher killed by Thomas Hamilton, he said in the interview that banning handguns was an irrational response to the Dunblane shootings.
Pending legislation would ban 160,000 high-caliber handguns in Britain.
"If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean are you going to ban cricket bats?" Prince Philip asked.
"I think one's got to make a difference between what the weapons can do and what the people can do," Prince Philip added. "And there are always going to be unstable people who are going to do monstrous things. We know that but I don't think it helps by taking it out on the rest of the population."
While gun owners and lobbyists welcomed the prince's remarks, others reacted with outrage.
Alison Crozier, whose 5-year-old daughter Emma was among those killed at Dunblane, described the prince's remarks as "outrageous" and "very insensitive."
"This is just the view of a very uninformed old man, an aristocrat. I think it has damaged the credibility of Prince Philip enormously," said George Robertson, a Dunblane resident and the Labor Party's Scottish secretary.
The Sun of London editorialized yesterday that Prince Philip "has shot himself in the foot. Few of us lie awake at night worrying about crazed cricketers."
Prince Philip is noted for his acid comments. He has made provocative remarks about Chinese, Hungarians and Scots, and once claimed that "British women can't cook."
Pub Date: 12/20/96