Gun crime is low in the UK – but not low enough

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February 11, 2013 by Nash Riggins

As President Obama begins touring the US in order to try and build support for his gun reform legislature, gun crime in America continues to flourish. Yet while the rest of the world continues to wag a finger at the United States over its unprecedented level of gun crime, the UK was reminded last week that gun crime is still in issue here, too.

On Sunday night, Leicestershire Police responded to a call in which a woman had been shot and killed in cold blood at her home in Hinckley. The victim, Hayley Pointon, was a mother of two. Several men have since been arrested without charge, and local police are still searching for two other men they believe to be connected with the murder.

Meanwhile, Dale Cregan arrived at court Monday morning to begin his trial over the murder of two police officers, Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone. The attack, which took place on 14 September, saw Cregan murder the two unarmed police officers using an illegal firearm, as well as a hand grenade. Unfortunately, the officers were not Cregan’s first victims, as he had killed father and son David and Mark Short months before.

However vile, Dale Cregan’s story isn’t unprecedented here in Britain – nor is the episode still unfolding in Leicestershire.

Gun crime in the UK is admittedly low, and accounts for just 0.3% of all reported crimes. Yet that doesn’t make it any less appalling to know that there were 388 gun-related crimes in England and Wales in 2011 that resulted in either death or serious injury. Pair this with over 750 attempted gun-related murders, and these figures should speak volumes as to the government’s unfinished war on gun crime.

In fact, firearms were used in 5,507 crimes in England and Wales in the first half of last year alone – almost half of which were committed in non-urban areas. If nothing else, these acts of violence serve as a chilling reminder that gun crime is not just a product of inner-city gang culture, but touches Britain’s countryside, too. Accordingly, it’s vital that further action be taken in order to make the UK a safer place to live in.

That’s not to say Westminster hasn’t toyed with the idea. In October 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May declared that more action would be taken in order to limit the UK’s illegal gun trade. Such measures are commendable, and in the future could help to save lives by keeping guns away from the likes of Dale Cregan. But what about gun crimes that don’t involve illegal weapons?

In 2011, 57% of gun-related deaths were made possible by a legal, registered firearm. Accordingly, the UK government must do more than simply keep guns out of the hands of convicted killers – why? Because Britain is home to far more ‘Average Joes’ in Hinckley than it is to repeat offenders like Dale Cregan.

It’s all well and good to scoff at the disgustingly high level of gun crime in America – which happens to be around 40 times higher than it is in the UK; however, perhaps Westminster could learn a lesson or two from America’s struggling attempts at proactivity. Rather than wag a finger, Britain should be watching to see what sort of ideas emerge from America’s heated battle over gun control. After all, even a civic debate that may at times appear to be somewhat irrational is better than no debate at all – and while UK citizens continue to shake their heads in disgust at America’s weekly shootings, they would do well to take note that their society isn’t immune from such barbarism, either. Perhaps it’s time we get off our high horse and do something about that.


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