Gun culture: 'Independent' survey uncovers 109 incidents just this week

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The Independent Online

Anti-gun crime tactics deployed by Scotland Yard specialists are to be deployed throughout the country in an attempt to curb the burgeoning menace of firearms and gang warfare.

Other initiatives targeting drug dealers and gun gangs, such as those developed in Manchester and Bristol, will also be adopted nationwide.

To highlight the scale of the problem The Independent publishes a diary today of a week of gun crime in Britain. On average, there are 30 firearms incidents a day and about 100 people die a year. The majority of gun crime involves gangsters, drug dealers, and other criminals shooting each other - known by police as "bad on bad".

But, as the violence spills on to the street, as in the case of the jewellery shop owner in Nottingham who was shot dead in a robbery 10 days ago, the number of "innocent" victims is bound to rise.

There is no more poignant example than that of seven-year-old Toni-Ann Byfield, who was shot dead last month, along with her father, at a bedsit in London.

Incidents during the past week include the fatal shooting of a 60-year-old man as he and three friends drove home from a night out in Nottingham and the shooting of a professional footballer and two other people in Liverpool. The Independent's survey shows how widespread the use of guns has become.

As the toll of death and injury gradually rises - two people were killed this week - so does the fear for the public and pressure for the police and politicians to take action.

Deputy Chief Constable Alan Green, of Greater Manchester Police, who heads the Association of Chief Police Officers' firearms working group, has spent the past few weeks examining the country's gun crime operations to identify what tactics work best. The Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident has had impressive results in reversing the murder rate, mainly among black crack-cocaine dealers. In 2002, Operation Trident investigated 24 murders; this year there have been 12 deaths so far.

A combination of intelligence, rapid response teams, proactive operations, and the support of the black community mean police are gradually winning the battle.

But a Scotland Yard analysis has also concluded gun crime is increasing due to a growing number of replica firearms converted to fire live rounds, according to The Guardian. Latest statistics reveal 9,974 crimes involving firearms in England and Wales in the year to April 2002. With airgun incidents included, it rises to 22,314. Ninety-seven people died and 558 were seriously wounded.