Tuesday, July 05, 2005


One in ten teenage schoolboys has carried some kind of gun in the past year, according to the largest study on the impact of Britain's firearms culture on urban youth. The Times has learnt of the alarming extent of weapons use in London by children as young as 11 just as Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, has been criticised by the Prime Minister for not doing more to crack down on young gangs who terrorise local communities. Mr Clarke was called to meet Tony Blair two weeks ago to be told that he needed to act now or a "sense of fatalism" would creep into the public's view of the Government's promises to cut social disorder.

The unpublished government-funded report, commissioned by the Metropolitan Police, shows that gun culture is now rampant in urban schools, The Times has learnt. Although the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, now making its way through Parliament, proposes a ban on replica guns and raising the legal age for buying dangerous knives from 16 to 18, critics fear that the problem is already out of hand and needs a far tougher response.

Of the 11,000 Central London teenagers under 16 who were questioned, one in ten boys and girls had carried a knife in the past year, and one in 10 boys had carried a gun or a replica gun. White boys were more likely to say they had carried a gun than black boys. Many children blamed a growing sense of lawlessness on the need to carry a gun or knife in self-defence. The most common reason was the fear of attack from other children. Only a tiny minority said that they had been caught by the police. More than half of the children said that they could easily get hold of a knife, and one in five reported that they could get hold of a replica gun.

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, called them "extremely alarming statistics". "[Mr Blair's] failure to live up to his promise to be `tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' is tragically dragging children as young as 11 into serious crime." he said.

More here

Canadian farce: "Canadian soldiers testing their fighting skills in a rare urban exercise were forced to rent commercial paintball weapons because they couldn't get proper army gear, a newly disclosed document shows. The unusual paintball battle was fought in the Halifax area last February, as the army practised helicopter evacuations in a hostile urban setting.... But the faux evacuation was marred when soldiers were unable to use their army-issue practice ammunition, which fits into their rifles but fires only low-speed powder balls, leaving a harmless mark on the target. Known under the trade name Simunition, the 5.56-calibre soft bullets are manufactured by SNC Technologies Inc. Soldiers need to wear special protective gear when using Simunition, including helmets with face protectors, but a shortage of supplies meant there was none available for Exercise Sky Trooper. So troops were forced to lay down their C-7 rifles, and pick up commercial paintball guns, rented locally. They also rented commercial paintball helmets, with face masks and neck protectors. "The paintball did add limited realism to room clearing, (but) Simunition is clearly superior and will hopefully be available for future exercises," says the report, obtained under the Access to Information Act."

House overrides DC gun restrictions: "Morphing themselves into city council members, a House majority overturned a city law and voted to allow D.C. residents to keep in their homes loaded shotguns and rifles, as well as handguns bought before 1976, unbounded by trigger locks or disassembled"

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