A former US police boss has urged a crackdown on gun crime in Britain before it spirals out of control.
Gun crime needs to be tackled now before it spirals out of control
Paul Evans, now a Home Office civil servant, said the nation's gun culture is small compared to the US.
But during an address to a Commons select committee on Tuesday, he said immediate action was vital to keep it that way.
Mr Evans spoke after the murder of 14-year-old Danielle Beccan and the shooting of a baby girl in London.
'Nip it in the bud'
Danielle was shot as she returned home from a fair in Nottingham on Saturday.
On Monday, an 18-month-old girl was hurt when up to 15 bullets were fired into a car in Hackney, east London.
Mr Evans is credited with dramatically reducing violent crime during his 10 years as police commissioner in Boston.
He told the Commons' all-party home affairs select committee: "You have got a very, very small gun problem compared to what I have experienced.
"The one thing you want to make sure of is that it does not snowball out of control.
"You want to nip it in the bud and make sure there are serious consequences for individuals who carry guns."
Mr Evans said police intelligence on who was selling and using firearms was vital.
"It becomes critical to have a national intelligence model to identify those individuals that you believe are carrying firearms."
Mr Evans said targeting known, major drug dealers - many of whom carry weapons - would help the reduce the gun problem.
However, shadow home affairs minister Andrew Mitchell criticised the comments.
He said: "A government spokesman talking about gun crime as a 'very, very small problem' which can be nipped in the bud shows an astonishing and worrying complacency.
"They clearly have no idea of the escalating gun culture in Nottingham and other cities, which is fuelled by drugs and needs urgent attention before more innocent lives are lost."
Home Office figures show that, in England and Wales, there were nearly 25,000 firearm offences in 2003/2004, compared with less than 15,000 in 1998/1999.
In 2002/2003, there were 81 firearm fatalities compared with 49 in 1998/1999 - in 2001/2002 there were 97.