UK: Gun crime - Urgent action needed to cut supply of guns to criminals

Official statistics show that the total number of firearm offences in 2002/03 (excluding offences involving air weapons) increased by three per cent.

Lesley Warner, Amnesty International UK Media Director, said:

'While the rise in gun crime has slowed, these figures show that UK citizens are still falling victim to the uncontrolled, deadly trade in guns. As more guns flood our streets the need for immediate action, at home and internationally, becomes more urgent.

'We must look at where these guns are coming from. Many are converted replica weapons that arrive in the UK legally and are turned into lethal weapons. Others may start off as legally-held or traded weapons: around 90% of the world's illegally-held weapons start off in the legal trade.

'We need tougher controls on the Arms to stop weapons getting into the hands of criminals. An international Arms Treaty would outlaw sales of arms that could be used in violent crime.

'Communities blighted by armed violence need more support, for initiatives like gun amnesties and community projects to tackle and reduce gun crime.'

On Friday 17th October, Amnesty International UK will be hosting a public debate on armed violence in the United Kingdom and Jamaica as part of the DJ Saved My Life event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Mall, London. The event highlights Amnesty International's call for tough arms controls as part of Control Arms, a new, joint campaign with Oxfam and IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms).

Detective Superintendent John Coles, Head of the UK Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident, together with Lucy Cope from UK organisation Mothers Against Guns, Yvonne Sobers from Jamaica's Families Against State Terrorism (FAST) and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office will debate the issue of arms misuse and share solutions from a range of different perspectives.

Lucy Cope of Mothers Against Guns, said:

'Guns are destroying communities and families in Britain and all over the world. Guns took my son from me, when he was only 22.

'I want people to act now to tackle armed violence in the UK and elsewhere. Without tough measures to stop guns getting into the hands of criminals, more mothers will have their sons taken from them. There are weapons of mass destruction right here on the streets of the UK and the government has done nothing to remove them.'

Amnesty International, Oxfam and IANSA are calling on people to show their support for tough arms controls by joining the Million Faces Project, a massive, global photo petition. More details can be found at www.controlarms.org .

Lesley Warner added:

'Armed violence is a global problem. Every minute someone loses their life because of small arms, and yet still the international Arms goes unregulated.'

Background Information

Lucy Cope's 22 year-old son Damian Cope was shot and killed on 29 July 2002. Since his death, Lucy has become a leading anti-firearms campaigner, forming the powerful nation- wide organisation Mothers Against Guns. The group has had a major influence on Government policy and won several victories in its campaign for tougher gun control legislation.

Yvonne Sobers' 22 year-old cousin Andre Morris was shot and killed by police in Jamaica in August 2001. Yvonne chairs Families Against State Terrorism (FAST) which campaigns for police accountability in Jamaica.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles heads the UK Metropolitan Police's 'Operation Trident' unit; a special unit established in 1998 to target gun crime within the black community in London with a focus on drug-related shootings.

Speaking on the eve of a 2001 UN conference to discuss small arms, Secretary General Kofi Annan referred to small arms as 'the true weapons of mass destruction', killing more people every year than were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Communities in the Crossfire is at the Institute for Contemporary Arts (ICA), the Mall, London, on 17th October 2003, 6:30 p.m. Tickets: 020 7930 3647.

For more information on the Control Arms Campaign, see: www.controlarms.org /b>

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