Worried by an increase in crimes involving guns, the British government unveiled a proposal Monday to tighten the nation's already strict firearm laws.
Officials said they would press for a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone caught with a handgun or automatic weapon, both of which have been outlawed for years. There is currently no minimum sentence for such cases.
"While we already have some of the toughest gun laws in the world, there has been an unacceptable increase in the flagrant use of guns in crime across the country," Home Secretary David Blunkett said. "Introducing a tough minimum sentence ... will send a clear message that serious, violent offending will invariably be dealt with in the strongest manner."
The announcement came after two teenage girls were shot to death in Birmingham last week when they were apparently caught in a gang turf war. Officials said the proposal was in the works before their deaths.