Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Monday, June 20, 2005
Amnesty foolishness. I'm talking about the sort of amnesty mentioned in this story from The Scotsman.

Let's not jump to conclusions. Although, as Joel Rosenberg points out, there are many instances of prominent anti-gun campaigners packing guns, Sheila Eccleston's story could well be true: she did not want the shotgun for personal use; it had been handed to her by a repentant gangster and she was waiting for a gun amnesty to surrender it to the police. The fact that she herself told the police about the shotgun - albeit after she had had it for six months - is strong evidence in her favour.

Assuming her story is true, what does that tell us about her attitudes to the gun laws?

  • She thought they did not apply to her because she was a prominent anti-gun activist. ("If people see a person like me being arrested despite all the work I do...") The law demands that you hand in unregistered weapons immediately, amnesty or no amnesty.
  • She thought that weapons amnesties were like No.72 buses: another one along in a minute. Once that expectation is established, amnesties lose their purpose. In fact they become a means for gangsters to dispose of inconvenient evidence safely.

We'll see how this one pans out. She might be right in both assumptions.

ADDED LATER: I thought I'd just add an explanatory note. If you find your grandpa's old pistol in the loft you can hand it in to a Registered Firearms Dealer without penalty. You must sign his register when you do so, but he there is no onus on him to even check that your signature is real. The ordinary course of the law acts to make it as easy as possible to hand in an illegal weapon. That is the law on firearms as I understand it; I can hardly believe that the law for shotguns would be more strict. In other words Ms Eccleston did not need to wait for an amnesty to protect the guy who gave her the shotgun. Firearms amnesties administered by the police are presented as being a special, and usually a final, chance to legalise your position, but this is not true. Furthermore if your grandpa's pistol turns out to be worth a lot of money and you, being a law-abiding citizen, have given the dealer your true details, he can sell it for you on commission. Police amnesties do not publicise this fact. Quite a few widows have handed over their late husband's valuable property to the police, practically weeping with relief at being spared prosecution, when had the police properly advised them on the law they would have known that they were in no danger anyway and could have realised considerable sums from the sale of the guns.