Letter: 'Gun culture' is everyone's problem

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Sir: The events at Moss Side ('Gun culture rules murder estate', 5 January) may prompt the question: Do our gun laws need to be changed? The EC directive on the control of the acquisition and disposal of firearms only came into force on 1 January. It is intended to compensate for the removal of systematic border checks in preventing large flows of weapons around the Community. The directive provides for a European licence, partially harmonised criteria for licensing and universal minimum standards for firearms control.

There is, however, a risk that covert trade in arms will increase. The number of crimes involving firearms has steadily increased in this country in the past few years. The latest year for which figures are available, 1991, saw 10,373 such offences in England and Wales. But there is no simple or quick solution to this. Further alteration in the licensing laws is not the answer. The problem for the community is one of enforcement.

'Gun culture' has developed hand in hand with a widespread attitude that the police are solely responsible for dealing with crime. Such crime is not just a matter for the police. It is a matter for everyone. It is a social phenomenon and requires a 'social' or communal approach. When 14-year-olds can swap guns as if they were football cards, we have a social problem.

A national strategy for crime prevention, based on a long-term partnership within communities, involving the police, local authorities, schools and parents, is the only way in which the insidious tide of lawlessness can be turned and 'gun culture' eradicated. It lies with the Home Office to initiate discussion on the framework of co-operation that is required to make such a strategy effective.

Yours faithfully,


MP for Caithness and

Sutherland (Lib Dem)

House of Commons

London, SW1

5 January

The writer is the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs.