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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 10:11 GMT
Blunkett defends gun measures
Person preparing to shoot a gun
The government is clamping down on guns
The home secretary has denied making moves against gun crime which are attention-grabbing but effective only in the short term.

David Blunkett insisted on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that several measures announced this week had not been a "knee-jerk" response to the death of two teenage girls in Birmingham.

"It's not a coincidence that we've brought the proposals out because we knew there was a problem with gun crime.

"And we knew that was linked with drugs, and we knew it was linked with organised gangs... this has been in the ether for a very long time," he said.

Open in new window : Graphic guide
Crime at-a-glance, crunching the numbers

This week Mr Blunkett backed a police amnesty on illegal firearms; proposed a mandatory five-year jail sentence for carrying guns, and began moves against air weapons and replica guns.

Mr Blunkett said several of the measures had been outlined back in the autumn.

An opinion poll for the Daily Telegraph on Saturday said public confidence in the way ministers were tackling crime had virtually collapsed.

Guns haul
Blunkett has backed a guns amnesty
Eight out of 10 people questioned in the You Gov survey said the government had performed badly on crime.

Half the 1,829 respondents said their neighbourhoods had become more dangerous in the five years since Labour came to power, with only 3% feeling they had become safer.

Mr Blunkett blamed the media for fuelling people's concerns.

"I understand perfectly well why, if you survey people at the end of 10 days after a terrible shooting in Birmingham and a tremendous daily coverage on gun crime, people display their concern and their worry.

"If I didn't have the actual facts, I would believe crime has risen over the last five years."

Burglar row

He said the government acknowledged problems where they existed.

"This time last year there was a major problem on robbery and snatch theft - we acknowledged it, we took action.

"Where there's a problem on guns we've acknowledged it. We haven't pretended there isn't a problem, we've published the problem and we've acknowledged there's something to be done about it."

TALKING POINT
How can guns be made less accessible?
The government should go for a complete ban on the import of all replica guns

Nick, UK

There has also been a row in recent weeks following comments from judicial figures including Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, that fewer burglars should be sent to prison.

Mr Blunkett said: "They were trying to recognise the fact that you have to do the right thing for the right person."

He said some of the message - that many burglars would still go to jail - had been lost.

"[Burglars] go to jail if they've committed a number of offences, or they've been violent, or it's absolutely clear that community sentencing has failed."


Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
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10 Jan 03 | England
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