Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Will Government Block Changes to Gun Laws?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Will Government Block Changes to Gun Laws?

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political editor

MINISTERS are set to block tough new laws which Labour say would prevent further tragedies like the shotgun murder of three women in the North East.

The proposals from Labour's front bench follow the murders of Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull and Ms Turnbull's daughter Tanya, in Horden, near Peterlee, County Durham, on New Year's Day 2012.

It later emerged that the killer, 42-year-old taxi driver Michael Atherton, who was armed with a shotgun and went on to kill himself, was known to have a history of domestic violence.

Shadow Ministers want the law to be changed so that chief constables have a duty to carry out background checks before a firearms certificate can be issued.

There would then be a presumption that the application is refused if checks uncover a history of domestic violence, mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse.

Labour's Shadow Crime and Security Minister, Diana Johnson, said the proposal had been prompted by the Atherton case as well as the murders of 12 people in 2010 by Derrick Bird in Cumbria. Bird also went on to kill himself.

She said: "Reform of the gun licensing regime is needed and needed now.

"We know that the vast majority of the shooting community are law abiding citizens who are very careful about how they use their weapons. But it is becoming clear that the licensing system is not working as well as it should to serve license holders and protect the public.

"The terrible crimes of Derrick Bird and Michael Atherton show why we need a robust licensing system. Sadly in the last six months nine people have died in incidents involving licensed guns.

"That is why Labour is proposing the biggest change to firearms legislation since the handguns ban in 1998. We want to enshrine in law a clear principle that those with a history of domestic or sexual violence, substance abuse or serious mental health problems should not be allowed a gun. …

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