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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2007, 07:05 GMT 08:05 UK
Anonymous gun tip-offs proposed
Guns removed from circulation by the Metropolitan Police
About half of all gun crime is concentrated in three cities
People could be encouraged to tip-off police anonymously about illegal guns under a proposed government scheme.

The Home Office says people could pass on information to a third party and retain their anonymity.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is also considering setting up a network of "drop-off zones" where guns can be handed in anonymously.

It comes amid a major police investigation into the fatal shooting of Rhys Jones, 11, on Wednesday.

Police in Liverpool said they had been disappointed by the public response to an appeal for locals to identify the killer.

A Home Office spokesman said trials would run in areas where gun crime was worst. The government is in talks with the police about exactly where and when these would take place.

About half of all gun crime takes place in the cities of Liverpool, Manchester and London, he said.

The scheme would not be an amnesty for illegal weapons, rather an attempt to get them off the streets, the Home Office said.

In an interview in Sunday's News of the World, Ms Smith said people who knew where firearms were hidden or were holding them for a relative or friend needed to be able to come forward without revealing their identity.

Mums or sisters or brothers may know there is someone in their family who has got a gun
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

"Sometimes people directly ask friends or other members of their family to look after their guns for them," she said.

"Mums or sisters or brothers may know there is someone in their family who has got a gun.

"They know it's wrong and they want to find a way to get that gun off their family member and make sure they are not able to use it and get themselves into the trouble they are obviously going to get themselves into."

Ms Smith said people needed to be able to go somewhere to hand in weapons or pass on information anonymously, without necessarily contacting the police directly.

Rhys Jones
11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot dead in Liverpool

"The most suitable place may not be a local police station, it may be a voluntary organisation that can work with the police and others where family members can go to and feel confident they can get that gun off the streets or out of their family home," she said.

"This means we can actually take that gun out of circulation and stop it from doing harm."

But the US civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson told BBC Radio 4's Sunday Programme that the government must stop guns from reaching Britain's streets.

"The source must be addressed," he said.

"Mr Straw (Justice Minister Jack Straw) suggests they may be coming in from Eastern Europe. Wherever they're coming from, stop the gun flow and make the gun manufacturers accountable. And those who use them accountable."

The Home Office stressed there would be no amnesty for people who possessed illegal firearms and police would always need to investigate any weapon in relation to crimes committed.

"We want to work with the police to create a scheme whereby members of the public can tip off a third party if they know someone is in possession of a gun or, if they find a gun, hand it in to that third party themselves," a spokesman said.

"The third party would then liaise with the police, protecting the anonymity of the informer."

Anyone wishing to inform on people anonymously can already do so via Crimestoppers.

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