Gun very small areas. While this is of

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Gun crime has increased in recent years, including a near doubling of handgun offences since 1996, the year of the Dunblane massacre. In 2001-02, there were some 22,300 firearms offences, a rise of almost a third on the previous year. The number of people killed by firearms was 23. But while it may appear to be rife, it is generally confined to a large number of incidents perpetrated by a small number people in very small areas. While this is of no comfort to those who may have witnessed gun crime on their own streets, those most likely to be victims are young men.

All the evidence suggests that gun crime is not the problem but a symptom of a huge and well established drugs economy. The growth of gun crime in London has come with the rise in crack cocaine. The worst of the crack dealing takes place in the poorest areas. At present, the worst affected are some of London’s African-Caribbean communities (hence the phrase of ‘black-on-black crime’), centred predominantly among those of Jamaican descent. That said, there is great concern about rising gun use within other communities in London and elsewhere.

So-called Yardie gangs were certainly involved in the growth of crack in the UK. But Lee Jasper, chair of the Trident advisory group, says the majority of those involved are now British-born. As their drug trade has become more established, gangs have become more inclined to carry guns to command the respect of rivals, he said. Community campaigners at the sharp end say much more needs to be done to prevent young men from poor areas being sucked into a gang culture which claims to provide respect and standing. This work, they say, has to start at a much younger age.

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Gun crime has risen by 35% in a year, new Home Office figures show. There were 9,974 incidents involving firearms in the 12 months to April 2002 – a rise from 7,362 over the previous year. That represents an average of 27 offences involving firearms every day in England and Wales, with guns fired in nearly a quarter of cases. Mr Howells attacked garage acts, like So Solid Crew, for “glorifying gun culture and violence” following the shooting of the young women after a party last week. He said people should stand up to “idiot macho rappers”.

So Solid Crew are one of the most controversial acts in the UK and in recent months three members of the garage collective have been arrested on gun charges. DJ Iyare said: “The whole gun culture in relation to music is minute. Whatever is hottest on the streets will always attract a small number of idiots. “It was the same with dancehall music and rap in the past and garage now. ” He added: “Films and computer games glorify guns far more than music and have a wider impact than music. “But Kim Howells is not prepared to take on Hollywood, or Sony and Microsoft.

Iyare said members of So Solid Crew carried guns not to glorify gun culture but to protect themselves. “Rightly or wrongly, they feel threatened and need to protect themselves. They are kids from council estates and are targets for those making a beeline for them. ” Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson also defended rap and garage music. He told BBC Radio Five Live: “If there is a serial killer on the loose, they don’t ring Stephen King and start telling him about what he puts in his movies or books because we all enjoy them. “We go to the cinema, we know it is not real, we go home.

” Social problem “But as soon as this happens with this subject… they are knocking on every musician’s door – from Eminem to whoever. ” Nelson said those who attacked rap and garage music missed the point that gun culture was a social problem. “I think it’s wrong – it’s an obvious problem. Anyone who goes into a club or who is young and on the streets of a city in this country knows there is a problem and is scared witless. “It is a big horror story on the streets and people have to do something about it sooner or later. ”

Mercury prize winning singer Ms Dynamite also criticised the media. “The media have blown it all out of proportion,” she told the Guardian newspaper. Attacked She said some rap acts were involved with guns because it was “a metaphor for life in general”. Garage act Heartless Crew also attacked the culture minister. The group told BBC Radio 4: “There is no evidence to say violence is connected to music. It is a general problem in society. ” Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has criticised the garage industry for not doing more to combat gun culture.

Only Ms Dynamite has agreed to front a police anti-gun campaign, he said. But 1Xtra DJ Iyare said he did not believe any such campaign would work. “They tried it in the States with loads of stars releasing a charity record. “But this is a social problem. ” Researchers in Manchester found that while ethnic groups were disproportionately represented in gangs, the gangs themselves were not organised along racial lines. The key factor was social exclusion. And the use of guns was not invariably linked to drug dealing and turf wars.

A gun might be produced simply because someone had been denied access to a party, or felt they had not been shown “respect”. Home Secretary David Blunkett has launched an attack on violent gangster rap music, condemning it as “appalling”. Speaking on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine programme, Mr Blunkett said there was a link between gun violence, Class A drugs and music. He said: “I am not going to get into the issue of censoring. “But I am concerned that we need to talk to the record producers, to the distributors, to those who are actually engaged in the music business about what is and isn’t acceptable.

” Mr Blunkett made his comments after listening to an excerpt from U Don’t Know by US rap artist, Jay-Z, containing the lines: “Ya’ll nervous knowin’ them guns on full service, ready to fire; One body, two body, three body, four Young sittin’ on paper, I’m above the law”. The home secretary pledged to work with community leaders to tackle the culture of “deep anger” which gave rise to gang violence. Problems included the lack of “adequate male role models”, education and “the opportunities that need to be offered these young men,” he added.

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