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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 13:06 GMT
Gun law shake-up unveiled
Guns recovered by the Metropolitan Police
Some of the guns recovered by police last year
UK firearms laws are to be tightened as a result of an unacceptable increase in "flagrant gun use", said Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The changes - which come just days after two teenage girls were killed at a Birmingham New Year party - will see a mandatory jail sentence of five years for gun possession.

For years I have been very worried about these hateful lyrics that these boasting macho idiot rappers come out with

Kim Howells
But the announcement made no mention of tightening laws on airguns or replica weapons.

Mr Blunkett has confirmed he is to host a summit on Friday on tackling gun crime, the day after new figures are expected to show the number of offences has risen sharply.

He said: "We will not tolerate an escalation of the number of guns on our streets."

The home secretary added that hand gun possession was particularly a problem among some young people "who carry weapons for self-protection or as a means of gaining respect or revenge, often related to dealing in or the use of drugs.

"Introducing a tough minimum sentence for criminals caught with illegal firearms will send a clear message that serious, violent offending will invariably be dealt with in the strongest manner."
Guns haul
Police welcome changes to gun laws

Downing Street said ministers had been forced to address a "significant increase" in gun crime in some parts of the country.

But the Conservatives dismissed the announcement as a "knee-jerk" reaction.

Home affairs spokesman James Pace called for "a properly thought-out strategy" on crime.

Rehabilitation

The government needed to address the whole issue, "not just those who carry guns but also those who supply them, as well as the drugs that lie behind so many of these incidents," he added.

Just locking up for longer those who carry guns on the streets will do little to make guns less used and less dangerous

Simon Hughes
Lib Dems
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said ministers needed to do much more to tackle the causes of crime.

"The government has done nothing to bring about a greater level of rehabilitation for young offenders such as we've seen in other countries.

"This would help hugely to reduce the level of crime."

Birmingham tragedy

Earlier, Home Office Minister John Denham said that the government had been planning tougher action for firearm possession even ahead of the Birmingham shootings.

"The truth is if it had not been for the tragedy in Birmingham we would have been making an announcement at this time of year and people would have been saying why are they doing it now."

He added that tougher sentences were needed to tackle people who "carried guns casually with no particular crime in mind but who would then be prepared to use them".

'Macho idiot rappers'

Earlier Culture Minister Kim Howells caused controversy when he appeared to lay part of the blame for rising gun crime figures at the door of rap music.

"For years I have been very worried about these hateful lyrics that these boasting macho idiot rappers come out with," he said.

"It is a big cultural problem. Lyrics don't kill people but they don't half enhance the fare we get from videos and films. It has created a culture where killing is almost a fashion accessory."

Tribute left at scene
A tribute at scene of Birmingham shooting
Mr Howells was particularly critical of the London group So Solid Crew three of whose 30-strong membership have been linked or convicted of gun charges.

"Idiots like the So Solid Crew are glorifying gun culture and violence," Mr Howells said.

The gun crime summit at the Home Office later in the week will include police chiefs, community representatives from across the country, customs and immigration officials, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Friday's discussions, planned for some time, will cover topics including the rise in small arms imports from the Balkans.

Lib Dem reaction

For the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes said: "Government leadership against guns is necessary and welcome.

"But just locking up for longer those who carry guns on the streets will do little to make guns less used and less dangerous.

"Challenging our growing gun culture is an urgent and important job."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The government is working on further legislation to deal with replica guns"
  John Denham, Home Office Minister
We will need to bring forward further measure on imitation and replica weapons"
  James Pace, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman
"We do need a much more thought out strategy to deal with guns"

Key stories

Background

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See also:

06 Jan 03 | Entertainment
13 Aug 02 | England
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