Ministers 'in denial' about gun crime, says Cameron

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Ministers were accused of "self-satisfied" complacency over gun crime despite government proposals to set up a series of anonymous "drop-off zones" to allow people to take firearms off the streets.

The issue of firearms deteriorated into a full-blown political row yesterday as David Cameron, the Conservative leader, launched a strongly worded attack on Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, and accused the Government of being "in denial" over the problem.

Ministers also faced criticism over claims that gun crime has fallen, as Home Office figures showed that deaths and injuries in gun attacks increased from 864 in 1998-99 to 3,821 in 2005-06.

Mr Straw acknowledged that incidents of gun crime had risen, but said that it had now started to decline again. He told BBC News 24: "We are concerned about the fact that, within the overall record, which is a good one, of crime going down in the last 10, 11 years, the number of gun-related incidents has gone up, there is no doubt about that. But it has now started to fall."

But Mr Cameron, who will hold talks on gun crime with the former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani next month, said the Government was "complacent". He said: "Jack Straw's self-satisfied comments today expose this Government's complacent attitude to the growing problem of gun crime on Britain's streets.

"The Prime Minister should instruct Jack Straw and his Home Secretary to instead formulate the robust response this country demands after the murder of Rhys Jones. We have a Government that for 10 years has refused to learn from the successes of some American cities, including New York.

"Even now it would seem that this Government is in denial and prefers to use its time spinning statistics to mask its failure."

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced plans for voluntary organisations to help relatives of people involved in gun crime by letting them deposit illicit weapons without revealing their identity. The proposal was welcomed by the Police Superintendents Association.

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