After what happened in Plymouth, we need to change our gun laws
Members of the public attend a vigil for the victims of the Keyham mass shooting at North Down Crescent Park in Keyham (Image | Alamy)
It has been six months since the first shots were fired in Keyham in Plymouth. The date of 12 August will loom large in our city for some time to come - when five members of our community were tragically killed, with two others injured, and hundreds of other eyewitnesses.
This incident has left a scar on our community that we are still healing from.
Biddick Drive, where the shooting took place, could be any street in any community. That is what makes this so scary. I do not want any other community to go through what ours has in Plymouth. And that is why we need to change the law on guns.
I have been working with the families of the victims in Keyham to come up with a set of policies to prevent another Keyham shooting. I was proud to present the first part of Keyham’s Law (the Firearms and Hate Crime Bill) to Parliament last week, with the first three proposals to tighten gun laws.
Our first proposal is to ban pump-action shotguns from being kept in homes.
There are 23,955 certificates for pump-action shotguns currently on issue in England, and 1,918 for pump-action rifles. A child as young as 14 can legally apply for a gun certificate.
I do not see why most people in Britain would need to keep a pump-action weapon in their home. I believe pump action weapons should be kept at a gun club, a gun shop or an armoury. There can be exceptions, farmers or pest controllers for instance, but these exceptions are few and far between. Let’s get these dangerous weapons out of our communities.
Secondly, I believe people experiencing a mental health crisis should not have access to a gun, for the safety of themselves and others. But the current system does not guarantee this.
At the moment, GPs are only asked to confirm that there are no health conditions to prevent someone from receiving a gun certificate during the initial application. And they are asked again when it is renewed - up to five years after the initial application.
I do not see why most people in Britain would need to keep a pump-action weapon in their home.
Keyham’s Law would create a legal requirement for more continuous cross-checking of mental health records. This would mean a simple marker on a person’s medical records, introduced and maintained by law. If any concerns were flagged about that individual’s mental health, the medical professional would be required to notify the gun licensing authority for a review of their suitability to have a gun, for their own safety and that of others.
There is precedent for this: it is what happens, for instance, when HGV drivers present with a serious health concern; and a similar system already exists in Northern Ireland.
Third and finally, Keyham’s Law would make violent misogyny a hate crime. Incel culture is a sickness that is being allowed to creep its way into the lives of far too many young men. Festering in the dark corners of the internet, they are being taught to channel their frustration into an insidious hatred for women. We need to find a cure for this terrible disease, and that also requires a full governmental strategy to tackle Incel culture.
Plymouth has pulled together after the tragedy of last year, and now it is time for parliamentarians to do the same. Big hearts prevailed in giving Plymouth the support that we have needed to date. Now, cool heads must prevail as we change our nation’s gun laws for the better – and stop this horrible tragedy from ever happening again.
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