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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 14:53 GMT
Mother calls for tougher gun law
Lucy Cope's son was shot dead two years ago during a night out. She tells BBC News Online why she wants to see tougher gun laws introduced.

Damian Cope
Damian Cope was shot during a night out in London

Damian Cope was enjoying a night out in central London in July 2002 when he was shot in the stomach.

The 22-year-old was rushed to hospital but died six hours later. A murder trial is due to start at the Old Bailey in August.

His death came at a time when gun crime was spiralling out of control.

Firearm offences had been creeping up for years, culminating in a 34% rise in 2001 to 2002, according to Home Office figures.

Injuries

And it is a problem that is still not being addressed, says Damian's mother, Lucy, who founded campaign group Mothers Against Guns following his death.

"Gun crime destroys families. People tend to talk about the mothers but it affects fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and the community as a whole.

"My seven-year-old daughter relates sirens to death, she doesn't realise police deal with other issues."

Lucy Cope
Replica guns can be even worse than real ones as bullets can shatter on impact causing multiple injuries
Lucy Cope, founder of campaign group Mothers Against Guns

Following the 2001 to 2002 increase, the rise in gun crime slowed to 2% a year later.

But what was more noticeable in the figures was a 46% rise in the use of replica guns in offences.

Ms Cope, from Southwark in south London, says: "Criminals are converting replica guns to take live ammunition. They then become weapons of mass destruction.

"And replica guns can actually be even worse than real ones as bullets can shatter on impact causing multiple injuries."

But despite a tightening of firearm controls in January, when it became illegal to carry replica guns in a public place and a mandatory five-year jail term was introduced for possession of illegal firearms, Ms Cope believes the government is not doing enough.

"We need to go further, I am not sure this is a priority for Tony Blair. I also want to see communities coming together over this, we must root out the guns once and for all.

Gun crime: The facts
Gun crime rose by 2% last year, compared to 34% the year before
Carrying replica guns is banned in public
Possession of illegal firearms carries a mandatory 5-year jail term
More than 500,000 replica guns are estimated to be in circulation

"Gun crime doesn't just affect London, its all over the UK. Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester and most other urban places."

Mothers Against Guns is calling for a total ban on the sale of replica guns, which are defined as anything that has the appearance of being a firearm whether or not they can fire ammunition.

It also wants to see longer jail terms with the introduction of 10-year sentences without parole for people found in possession of a firearm and life sentences without parole for those who murder with guns.

Ban

Toby Harris, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, supports the campaign.

He says: "Young people are more willing to carry firearms and replica handguns than they used to without recognising the danger that they pose to themselves and innocent passers-by.

Replica weapon
A gun which has been converted to fire live ammunition

"We must make it harder for people to obtain and convert replicas into deadly weapons. That is why I support the call for a ban."

The campaign group is organising a march on Downing Street on 12 April to present a petition to the prime minister demanding action.

It also wants to see a National Gun Destruction Day in July, similar to the month-long gun amnesty in April last year when more than 43,000 weapons were handed in.

Ms Cope, who has seven other children, adds: "The government must act now or there are going to be many more deaths on our streets."




SEE ALSO:
New gun law welcomed
21 Jan 04  |  Berkshire
Blunkett defends gun measures
11 Jan 03  |  Politics


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