Gun crime requires ‘social and economic solutions’

A new report published today claims most of the problems associated with the use of illegal firearms in the UK require social and economic rather than criminal justice solutions.

The report published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies claims there is “no compelling evidence” that the current enforcement-led strategy developed by the government is likely to provide an effective way of dealing with firearm related offending.

Instead of mandatory minimum sentences, which the report claims are ineffective, the think-tank claims the “causes and contexts of interpersonal violence” need to be addressed.

Firearms, excluding air weapons, were used in 59 homicides in 2006-07, representing eight per cent of all homicides in that year and an 18 per cent increase on the year before.

Since 1998-99 there has also been an 84 per cent increase in recorded crime involving firearms, excluding air weapons. The rise has been put down to a significant increase in the use of imitation firearms.

The figure is highlighted with the fact that only three per cent of all recorded gun crimes resulting in serious or fatal injury in 2006-07.

Using previous research, today’s report also claims that young people living in deprived areas and members of black and ethnic minority communities are more likely to be the victims and to be convicted of firearm offences.

Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at Brighton University and author of the report, Peter Squires, said: “This report examines what we do and don’t know about gun crime to establish a basis from which we can start asking the right questions and developing effective policies.

“It demonstrates that the use of guns is a product of conflict and violence in deprived and excluded communities and once we understand that we can start addressing causes and not just symptoms.”

Research Director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Roger Grimshaw, added: “Though few people are seriously injured by the criminal use of firearms, many more are frightened.

“Myth and fantasy surround offences that feature a bewildering array of both fake and real guns. Because “gun crime” is indeed a potent cause of fear, it needs to be far better understood; otherwise we will all be hoodwinked into accepting calls for panic measures instead of more effective long term solutions.”