19/01/2004

National event set to tackle gun crime issues

A two-day national event bringing together representatives of the community and the voluntary sector, young people, law enforcement and policy-makers to discuss the nature of gun crime and gun culture has begun in Birmingham.

Hosted by the Home Office, the event – 'Connected: Together We Can Tackle Gun Crime' – will look at how the growth in gun culture can be turned around, and how population's can make a difference to their communities.

Home Office Minister Caroline Flint, who will deliver the closing speech on Tuesday afternoon, said: "In some parts of the country, and among some young people, the gun is seen the ultimate status symbol, with young people carrying or using imitation weapons to gain respect or intimidate others. Some of this is linked to gang activity, itself linked to the illegal drug trade.

"Although in the UK the level of gun crime remains low compared with other countries, while people are being killed by guns on our streets we will not be complacent. Tough sentences for people convicted of gun crime, as well as new controls on air weapons and imitation guns will all come into force within days."

Participants have been invited from a range of community groups, including the Disarm Trust, Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, Young Disciples, United Evangelical Project, Asian Youth Forum and Network and Xcon 2 Icon.

The Criminal Justice Act, which received Royal Assent on 20 November 2003, will introduce a five-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for people convicted of illegal possession or distribution of a prohibited firearm.

(gmcg)

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