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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 21:40 GMT
Blunkett targets gangster gun culture
Guns recovered by the Metropolitan Police
Some of the guns recovered by police last year
Home Secretary David Blunkett has launched an attack on violent gangster rap music, condemning it as "appalling".

Ya'll nervous knowin' them guns on full service, ready to fire;
One body, two body, three body, four;
Young sittin' on paper, I'm above the law

U Don't Know by Jay-Z
But the home secretary appeared to rule out explicit censorship of lyrics.

He said those who made music which glamorised gun violence would be made aware of "what is and isn't acceptable".

The home secretary plans to tighten firearms laws as a result of an unacceptable increase in "flagrant gun use".

The changes - which come just days after two teenage girls were killed at a Birmingham New Year party - will see a mandatory jail sentence of five years for gun possession.

But the announcement made no mention of tightening laws on airguns or replica weapons.

Mr Blunkett has confirmed he is to host a summit on Friday on tackling gun crime, the day after new figures are expected to show a sharp rise in offences.

He said: "We will not tolerate an escalation of the number of guns on our streets."

The home secretary said hand gun possession was particularly a problem among some young people "who carry weapons for self-protection or as a means of gaining respect or revenge, often related to dealing in or the use of drugs".

He added: "Introducing a tough minimum sentence for criminals caught with illegal firearms will send a clear message that serious, violent offending will invariably be dealt with in the strongest manner."

Role models

Speaking on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine programme, Mr Blunkett said there was a link between gun violence, Class A drugs and music.

Gun related murders per 100,000 population
USA - 4.08
Canada (1999) - 0.54
England/Wales - 0.12
Scotland (1999) - 0.12
Japan (1998) - 0.04
Sunday Times
He said: "I am not going to get into the issue of censoring.

"But I am concerned that we need to talk to the record producers, to the distributors, to those who are actually engaged in the music business about what is and isn't acceptable."

Mr Blunkett made his comments after listening to an excerpt from U Don't Know by US rap artist, Jay-Z, containing the lines: "Ya'll nervous knowin' them guns on full service, ready to fire; One body, two body, three body, four Young sittin' on paper, I'm above the law".

The home secretary pledged to work with community leaders to tackle the culture of "deep anger" which gave rise to gang violence.

Problems included the lack of "adequate male role models", education and "the opportunities that need to be offered these young men," he added.

He stressed gun law changes had been planned for some time and were not a "knee-jerk" response to the Birmingham shootings.

'Macho idiot rappers'

Mr Blunkett's comments on rap music would appear to echo earlier remarks by Labour colleague Kim Howells.

Let's not pretend that ending gun criminality on the streets of Hackney or Birmingham is as simple as getting people to sing different songs

Dianne Abbott, Labour MP
The outspoken culture minister said: "For years I have been very worried about these hateful lyrics that these boasting macho idiot rappers come out with.

"Lyrics don't kill people but they don't half enhance the fare we get from videos and films. It has created a culture where killing is almost a fashion accessory."

'Different message'

But Labour MP Dianne Abbott, whose Hackney North constituency has seen a big increase in gun crime, blamed the growth of gang culture on social factors such as poor education.

"I think it would be good if these rap artists preached a different message with their lyrics.

Tribute left at scene
A tribute at scene of Birmingham shooting
"But let's not pretend that ending gun criminality on the streets of Hackney or Birmingham is as simple as getting people to sing different songs," she told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

Home Office Minister John Denham said he was "not entirely convinced" that politicians were in the best position to dictate popular culture.

"I very much doubt that banning music would be likely to get us the ear of those very young people that we are trying to influence."

Arms imports

The gun crime summit at the Home Office later in the week will include police chiefs, community representatives from across the country, customs and immigration officials, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Friday's discussions, planned for some time, will cover topics including the rise in small arms imports from the Balkans.

The Conservatives have dismissed the government's response to the Birmingham shootings as a "knee-jerk" reaction.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The government is working on further legislation to deal with replica guns"
  Home Secretary David Blunkett
"We really do need the communities involved to play their part"
  James Pace, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman
"We do need a much more thought out strategy to deal with guns"

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13 Aug 02 | England
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