Take pity on Ramsay Scott, a 21 year-old man sentenced on Wednesday to 3 years and 9 months in prison for firearms possession. The student, who has been diagnosed as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome or a schizoid personality disorder, had bought £20,000 worth of gun components on the internet, and amassed a collection including pistols, sub-machine gun parts and ammunition.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Scott had ever harmed anyone else with these weapons, nor that he had any intention of doing so. As Lord Uist remarked to the High Court in Edinburgh on sentencing him:
It is probably impossible to say what, if anything, you would have done with the weapons had the police not intervened.
He explained that Scott was guilty not because he had actually hurt someone else, but because:
There must have been at least the possibility that you would have used them to cause injury to others.
The law that supports this judgment is grossly unfair in three respects.
Firstly, no free society should lock up its citizens unless it can prove that they have harmed, or intend to harm, others. It is not enough for politicians and judges to talk about the ‘danger of guns’ or the ‘good of society’; they must justify making a free individual, Ramsay Scott, a man who has harmed no one, into a captive of the state for almost four years. If this principle is lost, then many of our freedoms go with it.
Secondly, if the government is going to lock up people for owning harmful objects, it should arrest anyone who has a carving knife, a petrol can or a pair of fists. It is not enough to argue that guns are ‘weapons’ or ‘designed to kill’: the evidence suggests that to Scott they were nothing more than a hobby; they were no more a weapon than his cricket bat.
Thirdly, the punishment is far severer than those handed down to terrible men who have actually harmed others. On the same day as Scott received his sentence, an unnamed 15-year old boy was sentenced to two years by Sheffield Crown Court after punching a man and killing him for not giving him a cigarette, while in Northern Ireland, Ciaran McFall was jailed for three years and 6 months by Antrim Crown Court for sexually assaulting a 13-year old girl.
The Firearms Act should be repealed.