Socialist Worker

Weapons of limited destruction

by Weyman Bennett
Issue No. 1857

THE SEARCH for weapons of limited destruction in the shape of guns haunts our cities, according to senior police officers of the Met. They talk of wild gun-toting Yardies and Albanians threatening the fabric of our society, especially in the suburbs where they threaten to flood us with drugs. Newspaper headlines scream out that gun crime has reached epidemic proportions and that it's no longer safe to tread any urban street.

There has always been a myth of the 'outsider' killer. The current moral panic over Uzi-toting Yardies echoes early 20th century fears of Italian gangsters and East European anarchists.

Yet the murder rate has not risen for the last 20 years. In London the murder rate has held steady at around 200 a year. In many areas gun crime has fallen. Southwark - the scene of at least five gun murders last year - has recorded a massive 59.2 percent reduction in gun offences. Lambeth, another so called gun crime hotspot, has also seen firearms offences fall by almost 46 percent.

Fatal shootings are down 16 percent across London and the overall murder rate has also fallen, according to the Met. Gun-related crime only accounts for 0.003 percent of all crimes that they deal with. Nationally gun crime appears to be on the increase. However, it starts from a very low base.

The police count gun crime not by the crime itself but by the number of victims. For example, a bank robber could rob one bank using a gun. This would then be counted as a multiple gun crime, which helps to inflate gun crime statistics.

Some 58 percent of increases in gun crime involve the use of air pistols. Now I'm not saying receiving a pellet in the rectum is a pleasant experience. But this is not on the scale of the St Valentine's Day Massacre, as the newspapers would have us believe.

According to the latest Home Office figures 60 percent of deaths from guns are caused by suicide. And you have a greater chance of being shot by Farmer Martin than by your local tough. Most illegal and legal guns are not kept on council estates but in rural areas in the hands of the Countryside Alliance shooting fraternity. The police mask the true picture by including urban area and country area figures for gun incidents.

Even more disgraceful is the way authorities manufacture a racist black on black crime hysteria. No other crime statistics are kept in this way. This is false justification to explain the unequal treatment that blacks and Asians receive at the hands of the police. Blacks and Asians are eight times more likely to be stopped and are twice more likely to charged.

The government and police attempt to use racism as a way of explaining rising crime. The real cause of violent crime is poverty and unemployment. When unemployment is high, crimes are higher.

It is ironic that many of the guns are manufactured in the UK. Britain exported arms to every war zone in the world, which are used to kill millions of people. Funny how we do not hear the call for these companies to hand all their weapons over at the local nick!

Blair and Blunkett's moral outrage towards a so called gun culture taking hold amongst black youths raises hypocrisy to new heights. The bombers of Baghdad could teach even the most streetwise of youths more about crime and murder then any drug dealer.

The one area where gun violence has really increased is within the British police force. Armed police units with laser-guided weapons and grenade launchers stalk our streets on a daily basis. These are the weapons that are just as likely to be killing our youths.

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Sat 28 Jun 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1857
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