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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 11:53 GMT
How can gun crime be tackled?
Victims of the 2003 Birmingham shootings (left to right: Cheryl Shaw, Charlene Ellis, Sophie Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare)
Shooting survivor, Cheryl Shaw, has called for an end to gun crime.

"This gun crime has got to end. The community need to stand up and say enough is enough."

Ms Shaw was shot through the hand, and saw her cousin and friend killed, at a New Year Party in Birmingham in 2003.

Four men have been found guilty of the crime, and will be sentenced in Leicester Crown Court on Monday.

The prosecution claimed the shootings were a "botched" revenge attack by one rival gang on another.

What should be done to tackle gun crime? How should the community respond? Are gangs a problem in the UK?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

You can't compare crime rates when the definition of a crime has changed
Neil, Glasgow, Scotland
We seem to be missing an important point here. As gun laws are tightened, things which were not previously considered crimes are now considered crimes. Therefore, there is obviously going to be an increase in reported crimes of a gun-related nature. You can't compare crime rates when the definition of a crime has changed.
Neil, Glasgow, Scotland

How about people sent to prison actually serving the sentence they're given? As a bonus we could get a judiciary who cared more about the law-abiding public than the rights of the criminals who appear before them. We could go the distance and hand down sentences that fit the crime, rather than the laughable ones we hear about all the time.
James, Farnborough, UK

In Singapore, the level of gun crime is very low. Even the crimes committed are often perpetrated by foreigners. However, the capital punishment system is likely to be frowned upon by many countries. Nevertheless, people do not live in fear.
Kevin Lim, Singapore

Anything vaguely associated with firearms is either vilified or glamorised due to ignorance
Adam, Hampshire, UK
We need a society which has a better understanding of firearms. Most people's knowledge of guns is derived from Hollywood, not real life. In turn, we need to clarify the difference between legal firearms owned for sporting purposes and illegal guns owned to commit crime. Shooting is a sadly hidden sport in this country as anything vaguely associated with firearms is either vilified or glamorised (depending on personal perspective) due to ignorance.

By doing this, we can differentiate between firearms and the criminal mentality which causes people to misuse them. Once this is done, it will be possible to deal with the criminal mentality. Firearms are real. They cannot be un-invented. The sooner we accept this and address gun issues rationally and sensibly (rather than use gun-ban rhetoric to appease those with an agenda of ignorance) the better.
Adam, Hampshire, UK

The laws we already have comprehensively cover all crimes committed with them. Consider - handguns have been banned for years - and having anything that looks like a gun in public is already illegal. The problem is with the police not having the resources, nor the actual "support" from above to tackle hotspots known to be harbouring illegal guns. Consider also where the guns are coming from - surely International co-operation is needed to stop the guns being imported here in the first place...
Jason Harris, London

Arm the police
T Forster, Cambridge, UK
Arm the police. To tackle this level of problem the police need to be on an even footing with the criminals rather than constantly having to act with one hand tied behind their backs.
T Forster, Cambridge, UK

Your gun crime is the result of banning responsible firearm ownership. Guns can only be banned in a perfect world; there are just too many guns in the world to eliminate them. Criminals will always have guns. Can't you just put yourself in the shoes of a criminal for a moment and imagine robbing a home of law abiding citizens knowing that they are unarmed and you are? Why is that so hard for your lawmakers to understand?
Al Simon, Higgins Lake, Mi. USA

Most deaths by guns are due to accidents at home in which guns are kept. People who argue that the increase in gun crimes since the 1920s is due to more stringent anti-gun laws may as well argue that the increase in gun crimes is due to decreasing cases of small pox. Guns kill people. That's what they are designed for. Any other use is by the by. Period.
Av, Madison Wisconsin

Carry a gun should result in a mandatory 15 year prison term. Harsh consequences are the best deterrent. Bad choices in life should result in bad penalties. Until people make this connection, this problem will continue.
Mark, Sheffield, UK

In the UK it is a demonstrable fact that more stringent gun control causes gun crime
Stephen, London
OK. Time for some facts. There was no gun control in the UK prior to 1920. Before 1920 there was virtually no gun crime. With every increase in gun control since then there has been a corresponding increase in gun crime. The most recent example, the banning of the legal ownership of pistols, has seen a dramatic increase in crime committed with handguns. I know our politicians are not very bright, and I know the hysterical public is not very bright either, but you might have thought that they'd have figured out the connection by now. In the UK it is a demonstrable fact that more stringent gun control causes gun crime.
Stephen, London

"Before 1920 there was virtually no gun crime" says Stephen from London. Is he quite mad? Does he have any evidence of this at all? Is he aware that Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was shot dead in 1812, that in 1840 Edward Oxford tried to shoot Queen Victoria? Perhaps in his next list of 'facts' he could tell us how many prime ministers and monarchs have been shot at in England since 1920...
Alex, London

I seem to recall after Dunblane we were told that banning guns would solve gun crime. Since that didn't work how does making them more illegal change anything?
Nige, England

For those people who think that there is less gun crime where responsible firearm ownership is practiced, just look at the US (very little gun crime there eh?). And do you know where most of these criminals in the US get their guns? By stealing them from places they burgle. Less guns equals less gun crime.
Jim, UK

Criminals couldn't care less whether or not anything is illegal. Law-abiding citizens don't need new laws, only that existing laws are enforced adequately. For once I'm in agreement with Michael Howard.
Ian, Leven, Fife, Scotland

Look at Switzerland. Gun ownership and maintenance is required by law and the incidents of gun related problems are very low. It is not the guns themselves, it is the loose moral culture which makes violence of all kinds acceptable. That is the issue which needs addressing.
Isabel, Manchester, UK

Proper enforcement of existing laws is all we need
Erin Freeman, Cheshire, England
What should be done to tackle gun crime? For starters, no more knee-jerk banning to appease the voters. The only thing a ban will do is remove hobbies and interests from the legitimate owners and users of replica weapons and air rifles and leave them in the hands of the criminals who would intend to use them in an irresponsible manner. Proper enforcement of existing laws is all we need.
Erin Freeman, Cheshire, England

We were told that banning the possession of handguns, even for sporting purposes, would stop a repeat of Dunblane or Hungerford. Well, all too many law-abiding people gave up their weapons but gun crime is worse than ever before! We need mandatory prison sentences, minimum ten years, for gun-toting criminals. Where actual injury is caused, a minimum sentence of twenty years. Lock 'em up and throw the keys away!
Adrian Martin, Birmingham, UK

An armed society is a polite society. There is actually less gun crime in areas where responsible firearm ownership is practiced - in the UK only villains seem to have firearms these days, so they can use or threaten to use them with impunity as the rest of us cannot shoot back!
Megan, UK

My sincere wishes go out to all who suffer, directly or indirectly, by violence. I can only offer a few words of consolation and pray people will listen and change. The best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to your friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to your father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to your self, respect; to all men, charity.
Georges Didier, Lidkoping, Sweden

Censorship on all films and games involving guns or ammunition
Colin Harrison, London England
Zero tolerance, 25 years for owning any gun, including air-guns. No licenses for any purpose whatsoever, no clubs, no fakes, no decommissioned weapons. 10,000 reward and anonymity for reporting any gun ownership. Censorship on all films and games involving guns or ammunition, including old-favourites like 'High Noon'.
Colin Harrison, London England

No need for special laws or methods to deal with gun crime. Just enforce the law properly and convince the judges to come down hard. Once you start treating it as something special, it is seen as glamorous by those who want to be noticed.
Andy, Cheshire, England

'Gun laws don't work'. What rot! The easy availability of guns in the US is one (not the only) factor in gun crime in the US. If guns were as easily available in the UK as the are in the US (thankfully they aren't) there would be far more gun crime.
James Davey, UK

This shows that although the laws are in place to protect us against armed men, the police do not have the resources to prosecute all those who illegally hold firearms. The police should be given the resources to enforce rigorously all the UK's laws.
David, Cornwall, UK

"When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns"; not an original observation, but never a truer word spoken.
Gareth Evans, Banff, Scotland

Gang culture thrives where there is neglect and dysfunctional families
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium
The gun culture has definitely come from the Wild West and glamorized by Wild West films. Gun culture is totally abhorrent. Perhaps stiffer sentences and greater control of guns by strict licensing laws are the only way to tackle gun crime. Gangs are definitely a problem in the UK just as in the United States. The Community should come together as in Singapore where there is fantastic rapport between the different multi-racial communities and the police. The only sensible way forward is through education and the schools where children are inculcated with good values. Gang culture thrives where there is neglect and dysfunctional families.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

Zero tolerance to all gun crime. Immediate ban on replica weapons of all types.
Chris Franklin, Banbury, Oxfordshire

Re-introduce death penalty for killing using a gun.
G Herrick, UK

Mandatory 5 years jail time for illegal gun possession. Mandatory 10 years jail time for any offence committed with an illegal gun. Mandatory life sentence for pulling the trigger. Simple.
David Priddy, Slough, UK

Guns are too readily available for thugs like these to buy. That's the problem.
Daniel, Kent, UK

The more they ban weapons, the more they glamorise them to the kind of people who are drawn to violence
Chris Jones, Aberdeen UK
Gun crime does not need to be tackled. The government took guns "off the streets" in 1997. The government also banned certain types of air gun only last year. Even if gun crime could be shown to be a problem, then it would be easy to solve by banning something else - elastic bands, for instance. Or maybe, the government have got it wrong. The more they ban weapons, the more they glamorise them to the kind of people who are drawn to violence. Unfortunately this type of thinking is a bit too deep for our democratic government - after all, they were elected by the public an as they say, half the population have below average intelligence.
Chris Jones, Aberdeen UK

This is proof that gun laws don't work since the weapons were surely illegal for these men to own or have. Very harsh punishment for violent crime is a deterrent if for no other reason than it takes the criminals off the streets. That's what Rudy Giuliani did for New York as both District Attorney and as mayor and that's what it takes if you want to curtail gun violence. If that clashes with your ultra liberal views about incarceration versus rehabilitation, learn to live with the violence, there is no other way that works.
Mark, USA

Gun crime is no different to any other form of crime. It can be tackled only by teaching children a set of values at home and at school. It will take years to make a difference; at least as many as we have been going downhill since Harold Wilson dismantled our education system in the '60s. Political correctness would also have to go. For Britain to return to a society where people have respect for each other, the outlook for Labour would be bleak. Can the electorate rise to it?
Barry, Peterborough, UK

The judiciary is too worried about their rights and welfare
Julian, England
The problem (as with all crime) is that there is no deterrent. When criminals are caught the judiciary is too worried about their rights and welfare that they do not impose sufficient sentences. They worry themselves about the number of prison places available when this should be of no concern. If more prisons are required they should be built. And when they are sentenced they don't serve their time.
Julian, England

The explosion in gun crime goes to prove that the knee jerk ban all legal hand guns campaign after Dunblane was totally useless. Punishing people who obey the law does nothing to prevent those who choose to ignore the law.
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK


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