|Gun Crimes Soaring Despite Ban Brought In Following Dunblane|
Gun crimes soaring despite ban brought in following
By David Bamber, Home Affairs Correspondent
The controversial ban on the ownership of handguns which was introduced after the Dunblane massacre has failed to halt an increasing number of crimes involving firearms.
An independent report, Illegal Firearms in the UK, to be published by the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College in London tomorrow, says that handguns were used in 3,685 offences last year compared with 2,648 in 1997, an increase of 40 per cent.
The figures will renew the debate about the effectiveness of the gun ban, introduced by the last Conservative government and then extended to cover all pistols by Labour after winning the 1997 general election.
Legislation banning larger-calibre pistols was proposed by the previous Conservative government in response to the murder of 16 pupils and their teacher by Thomas Hamilton at Dunblane primary school in March 1996.
But Labour broadened the scope of the Act to cover smaller handguns as well, despite opposition from the sporting community. The law is now so restrictive that British Olympic shooting competitors go abroad to practise because their weapons are illegal in this country.
The new report, commissioned by the Countryside Alliance's Campaign for Shooting, was compiled by John Bryan, the former head of the firearms intelligence unit at New Scotland Yard.
Mr Bryan said that his report cast doubt on the wisdom of the ban. "The increase in the use of handguns by criminals since the implementation of the 1997 Act clearly raises important questions for policy-makers considering further controls on legally-held firearms."
David Bredin, the director of the Campaign for Shooting, said: "It is crystal clear from the research that the existing gun laws do not lead to crime reduction and a safer place.
"Policy-makers have targeted the legitimate sporting and farming communities with ever-tighter laws. The research clearly demonstrates that it is illegal guns which are the real threat to public safety."
The number of crimes involving handguns has increased, mostly due to a flood of illegally imported weapons and the use of those already in circulation before 1997.
The report also shows a dramatic rise in firearms incidents in general, from 4,904 recorded incidents in 1997 to 6,843 last year. It reveals an increase in crimes using shotguns, up from 580 in 1997 to 693 last year.
Offences involving air weapons show an even more startling rise, from 7,506 in 1997 to 10,103 last year. Mr Bryan compiled the statistics from Home Office figures and information obtained by analysing individual forces' crime totals.
A firearms amnesty at the time of the ban's introduction resulted in 160,000 handguns being surrendered to the police at a cost of £90 million to the taxpayer in compensation.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government did not believe that banning handguns by itself would eradicate gun crime. We recognise there is a continuing problem with the use of guns by criminals and that it has increased over recent years.
"We are taking further measures against criminals who use guns and we already have schemes in the pipeline to curtail illegal gun use. These include a national register of legal guns, an intensified effort against illegally smuggled weapons and a determination to punish criminals who use guns."
Copyright Family Guardian Fellowship
|Last revision: March 29, 2009 09:26 AM|
|This private system is NOT subject to monitoring|