HC Deb 10 July 2003 vol 408 cc966-7W
Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are being taken to reduce the incidence of gun crime across the UK. [124413]

Caroline Flint

The recent increases in the number of gun crime offences are unacceptable and the Government are therefore taking a wide range of action to reduce this.

This includes: Proposing a mandatory, minimum 5-year sentence for those convicted, on indictment, of possessing prohibited firearms; Proposing to ban the carrying of replicas or air weapons in a public place without reasonable excuse; Proposing to raise the age limit for owning an air weapon from 14 to 17 and restricting their use without adult supervision as 77 per cent. of airgun crimes are criminal damage; Proposing a ban on the sale, manufacture and import of tandem air cartridge systems, and the licensing of those already held as they can be readily converted into lethal firearms; Publishing a new strategy for witnesses to increase the numbers of people who come forward when they witness a crime; The national firearms amnesty, held during April, in which over 43,000 weapons and 1 million rounds of ammunition were handed in.

Legislation and law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem and it is vital that community groups, local authorities and those involved in service provision, including education, engage with us in taking action to deal with this problem. Community groups have therefore been involved in the two national meetings my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has chaired and we will maintain this dialogue and support community involvement in tackling gun crime.

We look forward, among other things, to working with the Disarm Trust which will support the victims of, and communities working against, gun crime. We will be looking to support community groups in other ways.

The police have established dedicated teams, such as Operation Trident in London and Operation Stealth in Nottingham, working against particular groups of criminals involved in armed violence. Many of these Operations have forged good links with the communities they serve by establishing Independent Advisory Groups, made up of members of the local community.

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