As a competitive target shooter and club secretary, I am really worried about mandatory sentences for firearms offences. It would be all to easy to commit a simple offence – like accidentally dropping a round of ammunition in my gun-bag and therefore not locking it away properly, or picking up a box of ammunition left on the range by another shooter (if you are not permitted to hold that calibre of ammunition, then that too is an offence, even though it's the sensible thing to do). Other 'offences' could include being passed ammunition and/or gun spares by the widow of a deceased member (again, if you are not entitled to hold that calibre of ammunition it is an offence, and the gun spares could include components that nowadays would have to be entered on a Firearms Certificate, but years ago did not). There are a great many other examples, but I think the above is sufficient to illustrate the point.
Any of these currently require a mandatory 5-year jail sentence, which is horribly punitive and as a bona-fide target shooter (and no threat to law and order) is utterly unreasonable.
Regards – Richard Knight.
Don't get me started on Tony Blair taking "Guns off the Streets" – a campaign that decimated my sport with no affect whatsoever on illegal users of firearms.
Why is this idea important?
It removes the potential for significant miscarriages of justice, without removing the ability for real firearms offenders to be properly punished. I could also save the State and the individual from significant outlay of time and expense whilst the 'unreasonable' sentence is being debated.
It also eliminates the possibility of 'Nanny State' headlines if a particularly pointless case went to court.