Intended for healthcare professionals


Violence and gun crime

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 25 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:837
  1. Gwen Adshead, forensic psychotherapist1,
  2. Peter Fonagy, professor2,
  3. Sameer P Sarkar, forensic psychiatrist3
  1. 1Broadmoor Hospital, Crowthorne, Berkshire RG45 7EG
  2. 2Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London, London WC1E 6OT
  3. 3Berkshire

    Protecting children and reducing social exclusion are the priorities

    The headlines about gun crime and violent crime in the United Kingdom are tragic and alarming—seven deaths of young people by October 2007 from gun crime and an apparent increase in violent crime generally. When combined with other news of gun related incidents, such as the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes by a police officer in a London underground station, anxiety about the danger of guns is understandably high.

    The statistics behind the headlines help to put the problem into context. Firearms offences in this country constitute 0.4% of all recorded crime; only 0.2% if airguns are excluded. The overall frequency of gun crime in the UK has been decreasing, and in 2005-6 the number of homicides involving firearms was 50: the lowest for 10 years.1

    Looking at homicide figures from an international perspective also helps reduce the collective sense of anxiety. In 2001, the average homicide rate internationally was 1.6/100 000 people,2 which interestingly is the same as in England and Wales. The rate in Scotland, which has a total ban on guns, was 2.2. The rate in the United States is 5.6, but even this rate is much …

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