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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 15:14 GMT
Guns becoming 'a fashion accessory'
Billy Cox
Billy Cox was shot in the chest
The fashion status of guns is leading to an increase in murders, according to community leaders and politicians reacting after a teenager was shot dead in his own home.

Billy Cox, 15, who was due to start a college course next September, was shot in the chest in Fenwick Place, Clapham, on Wednesday afternoon.

He was the third teenager in two weeks to be shot dead in south London.

Reacting to Billy's death, Claudia Webbe, who is vice chair of the independent advisory group to the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident, said youngsters want to be seen with weapons.

"Guns have gone from the domain of the crack cocaine dealers to now being an everyday accessory, a fashionable accessory, that young people want to be seen with," she said.

"It's become a lifestyle choice... part of a culture to be part of a gang.

"I think that's what's motivating young people, where a gun has become almost a status symbol demanding respect and power."

'Decent young kids'

Peter Robbins, a Lambeth councillor, insists that although gun crime was a problem, it was wrong to portray the area as "the Wild West" as only a minority of youngsters were involved in gun crime.

"There seems to be a willingness for people to almost ignore guns when they see them... but the vast majority of young people on the Fenwick Estate and in the entire area are decent young kids," he said.

Jennifer Blake, a local community worker, said the main problem was "easy access" to guns and a breakdown of communication between the youths and their parents.

Shooting scene
The teenager was found dead in his own home
"Parents need to know more about, and understand more about, where these things are coming from.

"There's a concern with parents because they want to know where these guns are coming from and how easy to access they are."

Ben Okechukwu, father of Ruth Okechukwu, who was stabbed to death by Robert Malasi in 2005, also endorsed this view.

He said "not enough is being done to check the infiltration of guns and knives".

On Wednesday, Malasi was jailed for 30 years for killing Ms Okechukwu and shooting dead Zainab Kalokoh in Peckham.

The Metropolitan Police has set up a special taskforce to investigate the recent spate shootings in south London.

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