Plans to crack down on the manufacture, import and sale of replica guns are being outlined in the government's new Violent Crime Reduction Bill.
New legislation on the sale of knives are also set to introduced as part of the government's moves to restore a "culture of respect".
Other proposals include measures to curb violence fuelled by alcohol and giving school staff more powers to search pupils for weapons.
Do you think the Violent Crime Reduction Bill will help make Britain safer? Is the government doing enough to tackle violent crime? Will the proposed measures work? Send us your comments.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
The banning of replica firearms was examined by government as far back as the early seventies and dropped due to the impossible task of defining what a replica was. It has been re-examined periodically and the problem is always the same, definition. What magic formula the Home Office have created this time remains to be seen, but I will be surprised if it will be workable considering the millions of gun-like objects there must be in Britain.
Andrew, London, UK
This law will just punishes the honest citizen and will do nothing to lower gun crime. I'm involved in amateur theatre and guns are used in lots of plays - even if you produce a 'modern day version' of a Shakespeare play guns are normally used instead of swords to update it. I'm sure they'll legislate for professional theatre to use guns but what about fringe theatre, are we just meant to hold our hands in a gun shape and shoot bang like we did as kids playing cops and robbers?
"Culture of respect" what an attractive sound bite. But tell me why aren't we banning Hollywood's violent gun porn too?
Andy C, UK
What earthly good is this going to do? Replica guns are, by their very nature of being replicas, not dangerous to anybody facing one. The problems lie in the lack of support to deal with the problems of violent crime at source. When referring to the young, they already have their 'culture of respect', born of the mistaken idea that all the videos and games they watch give them good ideas for having fun. When we take these reprehensible learning tools out of the hands of children, we will see a change and not before.
Elaine, Letchworth Garden City UK
Words and more words but no action. Unless there is proper policing of the influx of arms from abroad the problem will continue.
Mike H, UK
Has banning anything ever had the impact intended? Did banning guns reduce gun crime? Has banning drugs reduce drug taking? Do criminals ever obey laws?
Lawrence, Crowthorne, Berks
Even if this ban were to be effective, its inevitable result would be to place the general public at greater risk. Criminals who might previously have carried a replica weapon will now have to carry a real one! The only beneficiaries will be the police, who will no longer have to concern themselves with whether a weapon is a replica, and thus will be free to shoot, and kill, at will without fear of the embarrassing discovery that the corpse is holding a replica.
The banning handguns did not reduce gun crime in the UK so I see no reason why banning replica guns would have any effect.
Richard Read, London, UK
Let me get this straight. One senior police officers says ban replicas and you'll see an immediate reduction in armed robberies. Absolute tripe, it will have no effect on criminals whatsoever (they don't obey the law!) Also, equalising the legal penalty for replica and real guns will mean there is now an incentive to prefer lethal weapons. A more radical plan, that might actually achieve something, would be to punish the offenders we do catch. The liberal attitudes of our current penal system mean that most offenders get off with little more than a wagged finger (or a group hug if they've been really naughty).
David Brundle, Beds, UK
Trying to restrict knives to under-18s is silly. It means a 16-year-old can leave home, set up a home of their own, get married and raise children, but not buy a sharp knife to prepare a meal. Only this government could come up with something so useless. Why don't they just make it illegal to assault people, that will solve it much more easily.
Karl Peters, UK
As seems to be the fashion in recent years, we are adding more legislation over the top of the existing legislation. Hands-up all those who think that the thug who illegally used a replica gun yesterday, breaking two laws, will stop tomorrow - because he would be breaking three?
When will this lot learn! Passing laws is NOT what the public want. More Police, sensible penalties handed out by the courts and if necessary build more prisons.
I am always aghast when I go into the average British toy shop or supermarket and find replica firearms and knives intended for childsplay openly for sale. When will the British people wake up to the fact that allowing children to use replica weapons makes no sense whatever if we want to move forward as a society.
Gillian, Leicester, Leics, England
Maybe people would not be inclined to treat guns as fashion accessories if they considered what they do, they can kill people. In addition the police should stop worry about shooting people who carry them. If you carry a gun (real or replica) and you endanger life or it is perceived that you are doing so and you do not drop the weapon immediately when challenged you get shot and probably killed. It is then a simple choice carry a gun and you risk dying.
Chris Parker, Bucks
I remember the ban on martial arts weapons in the late 80s after a small number of incidents made headlines. The same knee-jerk populist response. The proposal was to ban violent films and ban most martial arts weapons. The government couldn't ban Hollywood, but the martial arts weapons went. The past 15 years has shown the ban only affected law abiding martial arts enthusiasts, as criminals continued to acquire firearms on the black market or use the humble kitchen knife/baseball bat. Other than making the entire UK a "no sharp object" zone - then this proposal will achieve very little.
Clark Campbell, Wishaw, Scotland
Britain will not be safe until the law abiding majority are given the right to own and use firearms for the defence of our families and property. Judges, cabinet ministers and senior politicians never have to worry about the society they create, they have armed police to protect them, their family and property.
Roger, Whitwick, England
I wish the government would stop wasting parliamentary time legislating for things like this, when the real challenge is to help people who are in the position where they feel like violent crime is something they need to do. It's a far more complicated issue, sure, but really the root causes of people deciding to carry lethal weapons (or copies, or 'reactivated' replica guns) is what needs tackling here, not the carrying of the weapons themselves.
Kendrick Curtis, York, UK
Well - it can't do any harm but I think it's a little optimistic to suggest it will change criminals into respectful citizens! Clearly the root causes of social problems which lead to crime need to be addressed in conjunction with such measures. The alcohol problem is more of a cultural problem - money should be channelled into education and designing more sociable urban environments (as in Europe) in order to initiate a cultural change.
Keri Link, Romsey, UK
The Government has erred in that they have assumed that criminals are going to abide by the law and not try and buy/obtain replica guns. That said, why should they when real guns can still be easily obtained in towns and cities up and down the country despite being made illegal how many years ago.
So if this law goes through, in 3 years' time when my daughter is 16 she could get married and set up her own home ... but she won't be able to buy a knife with which to prepare food until she is 18! Somebody hasn't really thought this through, have they?
Jill Cockerham, Leeds, UK
This will make absolutely no difference whatsoever. You can have as many laws as you like, but until those in the judiciary start enforcing them there is no point to it. Without the punishment there is no incentive not to commit crime.
Keith, Sunderland, UK.
New laws solve nothing. Not least because this government will not provide the resources to enforce them anyway. All this will do is to further confuse our already over-worked police forces.
Tim Watkins, Cardiff, Wales
It's a bit silly identifying 'violent crime' with 'crime involving a handgun or knife'. I'm not saying that handgun restrictions won't reduce some instances of some violent crimes but it's hardly going to make much difference if you're attacked with a cricket bat is it?
Simon, Sheffield, UK
If someone put a replica gun in my face I would not be able to tell the difference and would assume it's real. They serve absolutely no purpose. Ban the sale of them all, and while you're at it, ban the sale of all knives, or do you assume everybody is a fisherman!
The man who brutally gunned down Nottingham jeweller Marion Bates had slipped off his electronic tag (for burglary) a week previously. We allow too many petty criminals to still be at large in our community, some of whom then go on to commit much more serious crimes. Electronic tagging, community service orders and other soft options are patently not working. Once convicted we need to get all criminals off our streets, out of circulation and incarcerate them where they can no longer terrify and harm the public.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK
I don't see how it's going to be effective. OK, you cannot buy a knife if you are under 18, just walk into any kitchen in the country and take one. Imitation firearms? When does a child's toy become an imitation firearm? When are we going to ban toys? In any case, it's pointless the UK doing this without the rest of Europe. It's easy to bring imitation firearms through the tunnel and they are easily available throughout Europe to holidaymakers.
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England
Replica guns have many uses for film-makers, historical re-enactors/collectors and for sports such as paintball and airsoft. There are many thousands employed in these related industries who will now be unemployed with little or no compensation from the government. Many replicas are made of plastic and other materials making them impossible to convert to fire real ammunition anyway. A criminal will not be stopped and will just break this law so why deprive these people of their hobbies and livelihoods? Another law made to jump on a bandwagon and score a few cheap points with those members of society that don't think things through.
The Bill will not be worth the paper it's written on unless it is backed up by police action. This action will be an expensive waste of time unless it is backed up by the courts by the way of actually giving sentences that may deter people. Given that currently the police seem to be failing to enforce some laws effectively and when they do, the sentences are inappropriately light, I cannot see this bill changing anything.
David, Durham, UK
The Violent Crime Reduction Bill is long overdue - a crackdown is needed to prevent the sale of replica guns, knives etc. capable of inflicting serious injury being sold as toys. This might not be such a problem where they are sold through reputable traders who are capable of making the distinction between genuine collectors. But I have seen very young children using items which have been purchased from market traders which have considerable force and are certainly capable of inflicting injury. Parents should be more aware about the danger they could be putting their own and other people's children in by buying these guns or letting their children buy them.
Eddie Espie, Cookstown
In my view, this is just another "easy" target. They banned legal ownership of pistols, and what happened? Armed crime using illegal weapons soared.
Gordon, Staffs UK
The government can introduce as many bills as they want but until they have bobbies on the beat there'll be no one there to enforce them.
Ryan Haines, Cardiff, Wales
I have been a member of a re-enactment group for over 10 years, we take the use of weapons very seriously and in many cases hold the required certificates etc. People need to be educated on what these weapons can do in the wrong hands. It's very easy to apply a total ban, but those involved in the illegal conversion of such weapons would only go underground making the issue worse. I would ban these weapons from open sale in places such as Toy/Model Shops, restrict them to gun shops and only then issued to people who can prove their age and a legal reason for purchase of such items.
What is needed is not a ban on this and a ban on that - we need sentences that act as deterrents to criminals, not free legal aid, and soft prison regimes for the few who are convicted. Try to punish the criminals for a change, not the law-abiding. Even then, our current laws take the view that under 18s can't be responsible for any crimes that they commit, so what's the point of banning anything from them?
Anne, Haslemere, Surrey
Another Bill that doesn't do anything to address the real problem. When are the government going to realise that by definition, criminals do not obey the law. Properly enforcing existing law is all that's required. What's the point in restricting decent people with draconian laws (like the handgun ban) when it's so easy for people with criminal connections to obtain guns?
Probably not. But stopping the extraordinary choreography of guns, explosions and killing, corruption and money that Hollywood films seem to revel in might lead to a generation that does live in a safer event more content UK.
Gareth Crawshaw, Olney, UK
About time too. If someone points a replica gun at the police, how are they suppose to distinguish the difference in an instance. If their lives are threatened they should shoot first and ask questions later, without being reprimanded and ridiculed later. It might sound hard but how many of you have had a gun pointed at you - real or not?
If Labour keeps on form eventually all law abiding people will have to eat their meals with plastic knives and forks whilst criminals will still carry knives. That's effectively what happened when they banned handguns for legal club users. Criminals still shot people. Usual knee-jerk without actually thinking things through.
Jim Kirk, Basildon UK
Let us hope that they work. The government seems, this time around, to be determined to tackle this so let's give them our support and see what happens.
Gavin, Brent Knoll, England
How many people are killed with replica guns compared with the real thing? This bill won't actually do anything to reduce crime as the really dangerous criminals are already disregarding the existing laws, and even if the police can be bothered to catch the real criminals and bring them to trial, they are either let off, or given stupidly short sentences and are out on parole in a couple of years. All this bill will do is to criminalise more already law-abiding people.
David Moran, Nr. Aberdeen, Scotland.
While this new bill is to be welcomed, it's very much a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. If our government spent more time dealing with the UK's problems in the first place, we'd be a lot less further along this road of violence and chaos.
Brian Pardew, Birmingham, UK
Since there has been a massive rise in real gun crime since the ban on all hand guns was introduced I cannot see how "cracking down" on replicas will improve matters. If anything these measures will only make a criminal more likely to carry a real gun. Why? Firstly, the police will be more likely to assume your carrying a real gun and secondly because the punishment for carrying a replica will be so harsh as to make little difference whether you carry a real gun or not; in for a penny in for a pound so to speak. I cannot imagine any criminal giving up crime because the Government has increased the penalty for carrying a replica.
David R, Plymouth UK
Replica guns don't kill people, real guns do. But since real guns were made illegal some time ago surely gun crime should barely be a problem? Or was that just some half baked idea like this one.
The bill, will not make Britain safer at all, even when the bill gets introduced, violent crime will still be occurring. The bill will make no difference whatsoever!
Scott Spackman, Aberchirder, Aberdeenshire, UK
I hope it does make Britain safer. Although I don't think that the government will simultaneously asses the fact that criminals will look at other ways around new laws and legislation. Maybe the laws of countries with little or no gun crime should be adhered to...
James Anthony, Cheshire, UK
Respect has to be earned - not legislated. The problems start at home, and that's where they most need to be addressed.
Jamie, London, UK
If one wants a gun, bill or no bill, then one can easily get a gun. As for knives - no chance! Every household has all sorts of knives and other implements that can be turned to violent use. The real issues are poverty and hopelessness. They fuel violent crime.
Carl, London UK
Safer than what? We already have the lowest crime rates since records began. This bill is just time wasting rubbish to keep the middle class whiners happy. Personally when I go out my door, the only thing I am thinking of is how long my ipod battery will last. Happy slapping, gun crime, etc, etc, etc doesn't even enter my radar.
We have to ensure that crime pays and people who break the law are punished. Anti Social orders, Community services are just a slap on the wrist. Even today's prisons are more like holiday camps than punishment cells.
Paul Collier, London UK
It doesn't matter what the government does, the criminals will still have weapons and that's where the problem lies. Besides people can still use baseball bats. What will they do then, ban baseball bats? What will be next cricket bats, hockey sticks? These can all be used as weapons.
No it won't. The only thing that will make the UK safer is far tougher punishments.
Are the laws not already in place to deal with these crimes? Surely the culture that exists in society today was created by the same politicians that are now moaning about it. It is the politicians that weaken the laws that encourage the society that exists all around us.
R. Bebbington, Portsmouth, England
School children today carry guns and knives as it is seen to be cool and society acceptable. The punishments must be heavy enough to vanish this myth once and for all.
Paul Collier, London UK
My concern is that some sweeping generalisations have been made about the sale and use of replica guns, there are many perfectly legitimate uses for them and there is the risk that once again the law abiding majority will be punished for the behaviour of the minority.
The only thing which might make Britain safer is to lock more people up so they are unable to commit more crimes and if this means building more prisons then so be it. It's time to stop pussyfooting around.
Possession of a firearm, or replica gun being touted as a firearm, should carry a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years with no chance of early release. Only then will the criminal fraternity stop and think about the consequences of their actions. Given that some 50% of crime in the UK is carried by 100,000 hardened criminals shows that there is an element in society that can never be re-educated and as such they should be removed from it via imprisonment.
Ian Jerram, Chesterfield, England
They've missed the boat, and the point. It all begins in the classroom and at home, education, education, education! as was once rallied. What do knives and guns have to do with respect?
Stevo, Glasgow, Scotland
It will have an enormous effect. Probably nearly as much as the hand gun ban had on reducing gun crime. Another section of society criminalised while the crooks do as they please.
You can bring out any bill you want, the problem will only be sorted out by putting people behind bars. So many things are illegal but no one stops just because a bill has been passed, you need more hands on investigation than just paper work.
Farhan Hamid, Manchester
How about banning toy guns that little kiddies play with, with them pretending to shoot people? Stop giving them the idea that it's cool to have a gun, that it's ok to shoot people.
Joe, Canterbury, Kent
Violent behaviour at all levels needs to be punished effectively. Violent people start with fists and move on to knives, guns etc. Currently, the courts punish violent behaviour with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, this just encourages offenders to move on to the next level. Start banning violent drunks from town centres for a year minimum and imposing large fines to get the point across that violence will not be tolerated.
Seems like another sticking plaster to me. The answer is to empower the law-abiding to tackle low-level crime. By the time kids are carrying weapons and things that look like weapons it's largely too late. The zero-tolerance approach catches petty crime before it escalates into anything bigger, but the police can't be bothered with the paperwork and the law-abiding majority can't take the chance of being arrested themselves for giving a wayward kid a clip round the ear.
John B, UK
Another knee-jerk reaction from the government. This won't stop criminals any more than banning handguns did. Now it will be the law-abiding citizens that suffer again. Criminals wont stop using replicas because they're illegal. What is the point? A bigger black market, the same as handguns. No doubt the government will confiscate (previously) legally held replicas, as they did with handguns. I wonder how many of them will be sold off in foreign countries this time?
Matt, Coventry, England
It's all well and good talking about "respect" and saying you're going to clampdown - I want to see longer prison sentences and more prison sentences to these yobs. Whether they learn to respect other people/property or not I am not convinced about nor do I particularly care if they are in prison where they should be.
Neil Shore, Leeds
When you outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns. That seems to be more true today than ever before. Why the government is wasting its time on replica handguns when the weapon of choice in most assaults is still the humble knife. And you're always going to have this problem, or should my kitchen knives be licensed? A culture of respect is all very well and good, but the criminal element doesn't respect other life and property. That is what needs to be tackled, not the tools they use to commit their crimes.
Steven Hill, Edinburgh, UK
The government should be looking at why violent crime is occurring. Reduce violent crime by dealing with what causes it, not by dealing with items associated to it.
Soong, Brighton, England
You simply cannot legislate for a 'culture of respect', it needs to be earned. That said, anything which makes it more difficult for people to carry knives around is positive.
It's a start - but it is a bill which tackles the results of the crimes, or once crimes are committed rather than the root causes. It is in the causes that the effort is required. Better planning controls are needed and a change in the reluctance of local authorities to tackle pubs and clubs and prevent them swamping town centres. Education of children in schools about crime and its affects, more preventative measures like more police; these are the actions which people are crying out for the government to carry out.
John, Watford, UK
The laws regarding weaponry need to be far, far more severe to act as a deterrent. Carrying an illegal gun should be punishable by 5 years in jail, stabbing/bottling someone should be seen as attempted murder and not ABH etc. The fact of the matter is the punishment should fit the crime but as it rarely does it rarely acts as a deterrent. As far as restoring a 'culture of respect', we have a very, very long way to go, the government are largely to blame for this by being so ridiculously politically correct and soft on criminals.
Why ban the sale of replica guns to only under 18s, shouldn't they be banned for all, after all what legitimate purpose do they serve?
Britain won't be safer until the police decide to enforce existing laws on being drunk and disorderly in public. That would certainly make me feel safer on a Saturday night.
Another bill to target the easily caught rather than bothering to target the tiny number who cause a problem. Banning of hand guns had no positive effect, and I expect this bill to be the same.
Keith Walker, Stafford, UK
Limiting access to replica guns will make no difference whatsoever to tackle violent crime! It's the real guns that are the problem, they should crackdown on the import of those, not the fakes. As for knives, it may be possible to limit the many types of hunting knives that people can get hold of, but if someone wants to use a knife for violent purposes, what's stopping them from just carrying a kitchen knife? Are they going to force us to use blunt knives at home just in case someone decides to go out and stab someone with it? The government should focus on the real problem, not wasting valuable resources skirting round it.
Michelle, Gravesend, Kent
I don't think violent crime is that much more rampant than in the past, merely that with a wider media in this day and age, crimes are more likely to be covered in the news. However, it definitely seems to be the case that there is more trouble amongst young people, and moves towards restoring a culture of respect can only be a good thing.
Chris, Blackpool, England
How utterly absurd it would be to ban replica guns. Surely it is better to maintain the gulf between the availability of fake guns and the real thing. What is the sense in making it no harder to obtain the real thing than imitation? Granted, if I were a bank clerk I would rather not be held up at all, but if it were going to happen I would much rather the criminal was holding an imitation which might scare but cannot kill me! Why on earth does such basic logic seem to escape our politicians?
Ron Levy, Rayleigh, Essex
Sadly this is just a knee-jerk reaction to media concern. After Dunblane the government banned handguns. All that achieved was an explosion in gun crime. If someone under 18 wants a knife they'll get one - just walk into their parents kitchen. You can do equal damage with a bottle, knitting needle, chisel or a screwdriver. How long before the government ban knitting or woodwork?
The Violent Crime Reduction Bill is much needed in the UK - as long as what is proposed is followed through and the police, teachers etc are given the necessary back-up when dealing with yobs/violent people/bullies.