(Scotland) The Killing Goes On Despite Gun Curbs


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Drizzt
January 6, 2003, 05:52 PM
Copyright 2003 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
The Scotsman


January 6, 2003, Monday

SECTION: Pg. 6

LENGTH: 1317 words

HEADLINE: THE KILLING GOES ON DESPITE GUN CURBS

BYLINE: Andrew Denholm

BODY:


PUBLIC revulsion in the wake of the Dunblane massacre in 1996 brought gun ownership in Britain to the forefront of the political agenda for the first time.

The Snowdrop Campaign, set up by a Stirlingshire housewife to press for reform of gun laws, blossomed into a nationwide movement that attracted support across the UK and beyond.

Ann Pearston, a mother-of-three, could not believe that nine victims of Michael Ryan at Hungerford and all 17 of Thomas Hamilton's at Dunblane had been slain by legally-held handguns.

Her concern was clearly shared by the public. From small beginnings, Mrs Pearston, the campaign co-ordinator, gathered a 700,000-signature petition, lobbied ministers and MPs, and eventually succeeded in achieving tighter controls on firearms. The 1997 Firearm (Amendment) Act banned handguns above .22 calibre and restricted smaller calibre weapons to secure gun clubs. As a result, 160,000 handguns were surrendered to police and the Snowdrop Campaign disbanded, seemingly with its work done.

Six years later, however, Britain once again appears to be faced with a gun crisis, typified by last week's gang shoot-out in Birmingham in which two innocent teenage girls were killed after being caught in the crossfire.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, yesterday added his weight to the appeal for information about the murders, saying the police faced an "impossible task" without co-operation from the community.

Meanwhile in local churches, congregations gathered to say prayers for Latisha, 17, and Charlene, 18, and two other teenage girls who were injured in the shoot-out.

As West Midlands police yesterday repeated calls for witnesses to the shooting to come forward, officers in London were dealing with another high -profile gun incident as an armed siege in Hackney ended after an 11-day stand -off.

This apparent increase in gun crime is supported by the figures. Statistics show a 10 per cent increase in Scottish gun crime from 938 gun-related offences in 2000 to 1,030 in 2001.

Police were involved in 163 operations involving criminals known or believed to be armed last year, an increase of 9 per cent on the previous year's figure of 150 cases.

In 2001, 343 people were killed or injured in shootings in Scotland, while police have responded by escalating the rate at which they arm officers.

Reports have also suggested that figures set to be released by the Home Office on Thursday will show that gun crime has doubled under Labour and that an average of 22 firearms offences are committed every day in Britain.

In Strathclyde, 40 extra officers were licensed to carry weapons in the past year, taking the number to 227. In Dumfries, Scotland's smallest force, 50 out of their 300 officers now have guns. The number of armed officers in Lothian and Borders rose to 114 from 102.

The escalating gun problem in Britain has led to another round of soul -searching from politicians and criminal justice experts about what can be done to reverse the trend. In a response to growing public concern, Mr Blunkett has already signalled his intention to introduce a five year minimum sentence for anyone who illegally possesses a gun.

Last night, Jack McConnell, the First Minister, backed the moves, while Executive sources have also said that bringing forward tentative plans for a new nationwide gun amnesty, planned for April or May, was now an "urgent consideration".

The Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS) has already been asked by its English counterpart if Scotland's eight police forces would be willing to take part in the exercise.

Graeme Pearson, Strathclyde assistant chief constable and secretary of the ACPOS standing committee on crime, said: "We acknowledge the number of serious injuries caused by firearm offences. We would be keen to offer Scots another guns amnesty to try to reduce the number of firearms in the community."

Britain's leading police officer, Sir John Stevens, also joined appeals, calling for "drastic measures" to curb gun culture before it spirals out of control. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said the murders brought gun -related violence into sharp focus and should be stopped.

Sir John condemned the view of weapons in some sections of society as fashion accessories and those who used them indiscriminately in public places. "This culture of mindless violence, which has sprung partly from the increasing influence of Jamaican and American culture and the glorification of gang warfare, must be stopped," he said.

The Scottish Police Federation went even further, demanding easier police access to guns, claiming the lives of officers are regularly put at risk when they face armed criminals without adequate protection. The federation, which represents 98 per cent of officers in Scotland, is now demanding that all incidents involving criminals suspected of carrying a lethal weapon should automatically be attended by marksmen.

It also wants the number of armed response units on patrol in Scotland to be increased and for it to be made easier for trained officers to gain access to weapons to deal with incidents involving firearms.

Norrie Flowers, the SPF chairman, said: "Ideally, an armed officer should go in, but unarmed officers are quite often the first to attend a scene and assess the situation. Who knows what will happen when you are dealing with an individual who does not want to be caught? They won't know if you are armed or not. The only thing they're thinking about is getting away from you and the consequences of that could be tragic."

However, civil liberties campaigners warned last night that giving police easier access to guns could be the first step towards a US-style gun culture which would increase rather than reduce violent crime on Scotland's streets.

Alan Miller, a professor of human rights law at Strathclyde University, said the SPF was calling for a "marked escalation" in police capabilities without providing any real evidence they were needed.

He said: "My concern is that it all just escalates. If police are increasingly carrying guns then criminals will increasingly carry guns and it will spiral upwards."

His concerns echo those of the UK-wide Gun Control Network, which took over the fight to remove guns from society when the Snowdrop Campaign closed.

Foremost amongst the group's aims is a call for a minimum age of 18 for the ownership, use and possession of all guns, a ban on multi-shot rifles and shotguns, certification of all deactivated weapons and one certification system for all legal weapons.

A spokesman said: "We will continue to work for a safer society where there are fewer guns and less gun violence, but there is still much to be done."

The debate about what can be done to take guns off Britain's streets is likely to become one of the key issues in the forthcoming Scottish parliamentary elections. However, for Mrs Pearston it is vital that the problem is seen as two separate issues - one of legal guns and illegal guns.

She said: "To say that gun crime is on the increase after our campaign completely misses the point of what we were trying to do. We never thought that there would be any effect on illegal gun crime, because that is a totally separate issue.

"What we were campaigning for was to make sure that a civilian could not be legally trained to use a handgun.

"Our legacy is that there should never be another Thomas Hamilton, and that is what the legislation was designed to achieve."

If, as Mrs Pearston believes, the use of legal weapons has now been curtailed, the spiralling use of illegal weapons needs a politically-driven solution rather than another gun amnesty, which is likely to be ignored by those who carry weapons as a matter of course in Britain today.

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schmo
January 6, 2003, 06:02 PM
I was starting to pick out quotes to lampoon, but there were too many.

4v50 Gary
January 6, 2003, 06:03 PM
What flawless logic Mrs. Pearston has. To wit - "We never thought that there would be any affect on illegal gun crime, because that is a totally separate issue. What we were campaigning for was to make sure that a civilian could not be legally trained to use a handgun."

Bingo Mrs. Pearston. Illegal gun crime is a totally separate issue. Now that the people have been disarmed and cannot "be legally trained to use a handgun", expect the illegal gun crime to increase. Social engineering by Bliss Ninnies, doncha just love it?

Makes me happy about the family feud of '76.

alan
January 6, 2003, 06:09 PM
Re the article at the beginning of this discussion, it appears that notwithstanding whatever it might be that some law or another might say, criminals remain violators of the law, all laws.

In anyone really surprised at this?

Deadman
January 6, 2003, 09:54 PM
Amazingly the anti-gun proponents referred to in that article are finally capable of seeing the flawed logic in their ideas. But never mind, the agenda is more important so they'll just continue with their flawed logic....

mjustice
January 6, 2003, 10:00 PM
The UK... so "civilized" and god-awful stupid in the same breath.

Had anyone gotten off their duffs and look at what happens anywhere else guns are banned, they would have seen the drastic uptick in gun crime - New York, Washington DC, Chicago, etc.

Will arrogant pride prevent them from reversing their ways and giving the proles back their guns. Methinks the answer is no.

MJ

JPM70535
January 6, 2003, 10:41 PM
Its no wonder that only the criminals have guns. The peoples of the UK are SUBJECTS, not CITIZENS. For centuries they have served their soverign and have had all thoughts of rebellion washed from their minds. In fact they have become SHEEPLE.


Praise the lord and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free.

Tamara
January 6, 2003, 11:00 PM
Seeing as how "THE KILLING (went) ON" for millenia before guns were invented, it's funny that anyone finds this shocking.

Standing Wolf
January 6, 2003, 11:02 PM
Rarely does a day pass when I fail to feel grateful to our forefathers for having rebelled against the English and founded a republic.

Why did we bother to save the English from the Germans? I think they'd have been happier as a Nazi client state.

alan
January 7, 2003, 12:30 AM
Standing Wolf wrote in part:

"Rarely does a day pass when I fail to feel grateful to our forefathers for having rebelled against the English and founded a republic. " A question re that.

Assuming that we still have a Republic, which I personally doubt, do you think we can keep it?.

Blackhawk
January 7, 2003, 12:34 AM
Another amazing and remarkably naive report from the UK.

That reminds me, where is agricola, anyway?

alan
January 7, 2003, 12:36 AM
Mjustice wrote in part:


"Will arrogant pride prevent them from reversing their ways and giving the proles back their guns. Methinks the answer is no."

Would you please clarify for my benefit, your observation? No, you don't think their arrogant pride will prevent them from reversing their ways, (gun control run wild), which means that they will reverse idiotic policies, or No, they will not give guns back to the "proles".

I suspect that policies won't be changed, nor will guns be returned, but I may be overly suspicious.

Monte Harrison
January 7, 2003, 10:34 AM
I was starting to pick out quotes to lampoon, but there were too many.Dear God, ain't that the truth!
These people really, seriously couldn't find a clue if you gave them a map, a recon photo and a GPS. "Making guns illegal hasn't helped, so we'll make them MORE ILLEGAL!!" "Criminals have guns, so we need to give them the opportunity to turn them in to the police!" "To prevent and avoid harm, one must become harmless!"
How the hell do these people manage to get dressed and find their way to work in the morning?

alan
January 7, 2003, 05:49 PM
Blackhawk wrote:


"Another amazing and remarkably naive report from the UK.

That reminds me, where is agricola, anyway?"


I find myself curious as to that also.

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