A series of gun-related crimes is reported in the press over the last week and, as sure as night follows day, we have an immediate response from the government that it is going to bring forward legislation to increase the penalty for possessing a gun. At a time when our prisons are straining at the seams we have a headline-grabbing policy which may in the short term look good, and in the medium term will probably be either irrelevant or counter-productive. On top of this it is announced that the prime minister is going to take personal control of a new crusade against guns. Visas will monitor Jamaicans travelling to the UK, and instant deportation will face asylum seekers found in possession of such weapons.
First, let's put this into perspective: a Metropolitan police spokesman has said that gun-related crime only accounts for 0.003% of all crimes they deal with. Yes, it would appear that gun crime is increasing, but from a very small base. It is not a time to panic. Also we should remember that most gun crime relates to the illegal drugs trade, which is mainly controlled by foreign gangs, for whom guns are a regular part of the business. Drug dealers have been shooting each other for some time, without the media and Home Office attention suddenly being lavished upon them.
Admittedly there are changes occurring in the gangs that dominate this market. It would seem that at the moment there are a number of Kosovans moving in on the UK. This, though, probably has far more to do with US and UK military action in Kosovo (where defeat of the Serbs has facilitated drug running through the Balkans) and Afghanistan (where defeat of the Taliban has led to the extensive production of heroin again) than with the UK's sentencing laws for gun possession. The increase in gun crime is a byproduct of the level of organised crime that we are allowing to fester within our society - an organised crime business that is being fuelled by our wrongheaded laws relating to drugs.