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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 13:09 GMT
New gun laws 'help protect witnesses'
Brocock ME38 pocket gun
A number of projects have been set up to tackle crime
Community leaders in Birmingham say new gun laws will help to protect witnesses to shootings but are not the only solution to the problem.

The government has confirmed plans to introduce a minimum five year sentence for anyone convicted of carrying illegal firearms.

The move follows the shooting of four teenage girls outside a hairdressers in Aston in Birmingham, on Thursday.

Local MP Khalid Mahmood said the new laws would encourage more people to come forward and give evidence against people involved in gun crime.

Before these laws were introduced there was a chance the person carrying a gun wouldn't serve any time in prison therefore there was a fear of reprisal

MP Khalid Mahmood

"If someone tells the police about a person carrying a gun they can ensure that person will be put away for at least five years.

"Without these laws there is a chance the person carrying a gun wouldn't serve any time in prison and therefore there is the fear of reprisal."

Mr Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the shootings had been a setback for the community.

"Up until this isolated incident we were doing a lot of work to educate people about the dangers of guns.

Alternative choice

"There are so many projects going on in the area aimed at offering youngsters an alternative choice to crime."

Religious leaders in the area have been holding a series of meetings to discuss ways to bring the community together following the tragic incident.

Bishop Joe Aldred, who chaired one of the meetings, said it wasn't just about the shootings.

We have to look at one another hard - we cannot as Christians carry on and just pray

Reverend Daniel Bowen

"It's much deeper than that," he said.

"This is a manifestation of something that runs much more deeply and is not about knee jerk reactions."

The Reverend Daniel Bowen, who conducted a memorial service for the victims on Monday, said prayer alone would not stop future shootings.

"We have to look at one another hard - we cannot, as Christians, carry on and just pray," he said.

"One the other hand we can examine ourselves and make this a good strong community with good friendly people.

"It is no good as Christians to sit and wait, the time has come to show what we are made of."


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See also:

06 Jan 03 | Politics
04 Jan 03 | England
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