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Firearms Amnesty

May 9, 2003

Firearms Amnesty

The figures from the recent national firearms amnesty shed absolutely no light on the extent of gun crime here in London. Indeed the borough which took in the highest number of guns proved to be Bromley with 220 (twice as many as Lambeth and five times as many as Tower Hamlets). The most ammunition …

Firearms Amnesty

The figures from the recent national firearms amnesty shed absolutely no light on the extent of gun crime here in London. Indeed the borough which took in the highest number of guns proved to be Bromley with 220 (twice as many as Lambeth and five times as many as Tower Hamlets). The most ammunition handed in was in Richmond with 7,580 items surrendered (twice as many as Haringey and eight times the Islington figure).

As I said in the House of Commons to the Home Secretary on 28 April it is clear that the gun amnesty has been an abject failure in hot-spots of London and I asked him to make it clear that, rather than putting more legislation on the statute book, greater efforts will be made to ensure that we have proper enforcement of our current gun laws in London alongside a vast increase in police numbers. This is what most Londoners demand.

Gun crime is on the increase in this country and since the Government declared a "total ban" on handguns six years ago in the aftermath of the Dunblane tragedy it has become clear that there are more guns being used by criminals in our society. An amnesty has been better than nothing but not much more.

The firearms amnesty came about because of the New Year shooting which shocked the entire nation. The savage gunning down of two teenagers at a party in Birmingham by young men armed with sub-machine guns brought home to many the growing violence that exists in parts of our inner cities and has already expanded into our city suburbs and now seems to be threatening rural towns. To date no one has been charged with the crime.

However much the police in Birmingham try to make out that the New Year murders were an out-of-the-ordinary event it is clear that it was only the gender of the victims that made it so startling. Even here on the streets of central London I am fully aware, from speaking to fellow local residents, that gangs of young men involved in the illegal drugs trade, prostitution and protection rackets think nothing of brandishing firearms in order to protect their patch.

Drug dealers need to ensure a monopoly of supply in their districts if they are to maximise their profits. Competition for territory needs to be muscled out. These gangsters have no fear of the police, their only equals are other gangs whom they know are going to be similarly armed. Until we support the police in their endeavours to enforce the law to diminish the power of these gangs, the use of firearms will grow.

Unfortunately the reaction of many politicians and many in the media to that terrible, high profile Birmingham bloodbath was both predictable and illogical. The call for the existing handgun ban to be further enforced by new mandatory five year jail sentences handed out to anyone possessing a firearm is just grandstanding. Even a moment’s reflection should have persuaded everyone that this is neither a sensible nor a practical way forward. The fact is that the criminals on our streets are already refusing to obey the existing laws so there seems little point in passing even more new legislation for them to continue to ignore. Until the current total ban on handguns is properly enforced in this country then we shall continue to see a greater increase in gun-related violence.
The highly publicised firearms amnesty was really little more than an admission that gun-related crime is now out of control in parts of this country and the government doesn’t know what to do about it.