Gun Crime – Fact And Fiction

THE KILLING of two innocent young black women on New Years Day, apparently caught in the crossfire of a gang battle, sparked a flurry of media interest in gun crime.

Steve Score

There is genuine horror over these killings and concern, particular in inner-city areas, over the use of firearms. However politicians, in particular New Labour ministers, used the incident to divert attention away from the huge unpopularity of other government policies.

After statistics showed an increase in gun crime, the government proposed a mandatory five-year jail sentence for possession of firearms or replicas in a public place.

However as criminologist and former prison governor, Professor David Wilson said: “If sentencing had any part to play in reducing the crime rate, Britain would have the lowest crime rate in Europe”.

We already have Europe’s highest prison population and mandatory minimum sentences, yet still have one of the worst crime rates.

There has been a racist element to some of the comments, from the Birmingham coroner to Labour politicians like Kim Howells and Blunkett, hinting that the problems are somehow caused by black communities, or even rap music!

Government statistics claimed that, despite other figures showing a fall in crime rates, there was an increase in gun crimes by 35% last year. These were concentrated in particular in the big Metropolitan areas.

But statistics should always be approached with care; they are affected for example by changes in the ways they are recorded.

The British Crime Survey shows that in 84% of cases the gun was not fired. 97 of the 858 murders in England and Wales last year were from guns. So, although this issue is a serious one, particularly for families in inner-city areas, it has to be seen in proportion.

Underlying causes

It is ironic when the government talk of stopping the import of guns and replicas, yet support the British arms industry’s export of 1,200 tonnes of guns and military equipment since 1997.

Without condoning violence, the question remains as to why some young people in inner-city areas join gangs that use weapons.

For many youth there appears no alternative to a life of poverty, unemployment or low wages, repression and alienation in society.

Many hope that through a gang they will get respect, a feeling of community, protection from others and a way out of poverty. Of course it is also likely to lead to a higher chance of prison, injury or death.

The BBC Midlands news quoted one teenager saying that many join gangs because the alternative was “a crap job on £3 an hour”.

Censoring rap music or simply increasing sentences will not solve the problem. Tackling the underlying causes of inequality, discrimination and repression, which result from capitalism, has to be part of the solution.