Starr urges tougher gun laws on Lennon death anniversary

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Ringo Starr called for tougher sentences for gun users as he marked the 31st anniversary Thursday of Beatles bandmate John Lennon's death.

The drummer unveiled his psychedelic design for the Non Violence Foundation's "knotted gun" symbol, posing by a statue of it at an event in London.

"It should be that if you're caught with a gun or before you use it that it should be a higher sentence than what they get now," the 71-year-old said.

"I can't stand up and dictate to the world: 'it's over -- no more guns'. I can just do what I do, and there's another side to the story which is peace and love."

He spoke of his shock in hearing of Lennon's death.

Lennon was shot dead outside his New York apartment by Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980 as he returned home with his artist wife Yoko Ono.

"My stepchildren called saying 'Something's happened to John'. And you don't think 'He's been killed', so you say 'Well, what's happened?'," Starr said.

"They called me back. They called and said 'John's been killed. He's been shot and he's dead.'

Starr flew from the Bahamas to New York to see if he could be of assistance following his friend's death. He looked after Lennon's son Sean for a while but later left feeling having another Beatle around was not helping the situation.

"You don't know what to do. Your emotions are so whacked out. You don't believe it really, but you know it's happening. It's just such a mad moment," he said.

"Yoko was there, of course, and she just asked us to look after Sean, who was a baby, and that's all we did for a couple of hours.

"In the end it was so crazy that we got on another plane that night and went to Los Angeles."

Gesturing to the statue, he said: "It was a bad day. But it was a bad day because someone took one of these and shot John."

1960s British pop legends The Beatles -- drummer Starr, rhythm guitarist Lennon, bassist Paul McCartney and lead guitarist George Harrison -- are the best-selling band in history.

© 2011 AFP

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