Shortage 'forces gangs to share guns'

Rival criminal gangs are being forced to share guns, analysis by police firearms experts has revealed.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) has identified a "middle market" between users and suppliers of the deadly weapons.

Guns may be held in a central point and even "rented" to different sides of the same conflict, they said.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul James said: "We see the same guns being used over and over again.

"Scarcity is such that they are exploiting that weapon, to lease and rent those firearms out.

"The same gun can be used by people on both sides of the equation. One gun on an estate can be used by people you would not expect to be allies."

Nabis, which was set up a year ago, brings together cutting edge forensic technology and police intelligence information.

Every time a weapon is fired it leaves a distinctive fingerprint on the bullet.

Combining those marks with police investigations on a giant database reveals patterns of use across the country.

In most cases guns are tied to a particular area, but in some the same weapon has been linked to separate shootings hundreds of miles apart.

Guns which have lain dormant for more than a decade have been found to reappear.

In its first 12 months in operation, Nabis has linked more than 350 guns with crimes.

It has also played a key role in bringing down major armourers, including Paul Anderson, who supplied guns to the killers of Rhys Jones.

Mr James said cracking key suppliers means there are fewer guns on the streets and added it was wrong to suggest that guns can be bought cheaply and easily.

He said: "It's a myth that you can go into a pub and pick up a gun for £50."

But he warned of a new threat from gangsters converting Russian-made Baikal pistols.

They are converted to fire real ammunition and smuggled from Lithuania.

There are three Nabis hubs in England and Wales and a fourth will open in Glasgow later this year.

Its scientists are also called on to carry out fast track DNA and fingerprinting analysis for the most serious murder and terrorism cases.

Police minister David Hanson said: "Thankfully gun crime is rare and continues to decline, however, when it occurs it ruins lives and devastates communities - and that is why we are committed to getting weapons off our streets.

"Through state-of-the-art intelligence Nabis has been instrumental in enabling the police to truly understand the extent and nature of gun crime in ways not previously possible.

"This pioneering ballistics work has helped to bring ruthless criminals to justice and clamp down on the minority of people who use guns illegally."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?