Drugs, crime and a growing gun culture

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The Independent Online

The death of Danielle Beccan in a drive-by shooting over the weekend is a terrible reminder of the growing scourge of gun crime in Britain. The 14-year-old, who was shot dead while making her way back from a funfair early on Saturday morning, joins a growing list of young people who have been killed in cross-fires; children who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The death of Danielle Beccan in a drive-by shooting over the weekend is a terrible reminder of the growing scourge of gun crime in Britain. The 14-year-old, who was shot dead while making her way back from a funfair early on Saturday morning, joins a growing list of young people who have been killed in cross-fires; children who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shooting deaths are becoming more common in this country. Firearms offences have risen some 40 per in the past six years. The Government needs to do more to prevent criminals getting hold of guns. This means increased vigilance at ports and airports and more rigorous enforcement of gun laws. The police should hold more firearms amnesties.

But tackling the problem of guns is ultimately about dealing with the people who use them; a person determined to acquire a firearm will usually be successful. Gun crime is concentrated in places like Moss Side in Manchester, Aston in Birmingham and parts of Nottingham, where Danielle Beccan was killed. It is in deprived enclaves of these cities, some of which have become virtual no-go areas, that gun culture thrives. It is by focusing on these places, as the police have done with Operation Trident, that the number of shootings will be driven down.

People tend to carry guns because they are involved in drugs, crime and gangs. It makes no sense to talk of tackling gun crime in isolation from rehabilitation schemes for drug addicts and education programmes. In the past the Home Secretary has mooted a mandatory five-year minimum sentence for the illegal possession of a firearm but this would have little deterrent effect. Those who carry guns are not usually making rational calculations.

It is important to remember that Britain still has one of the lowest levels of gun-crime- and firearms-related deaths in the world. It is less than most European countries and far below the United States. For the sake of innocent victims like Danielle Beccan, efforts to eradicate gun crime must be intensified, but we must not lose a sense of proportion.

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