The number of murders involving firearms in Britain is far smaller than in the United States, which is why they have had such a national media impact. Murders involving hand guns have actually fallen in the past year, and killings involving young people have actually fallen dramatically - by half - in recent years, not risen. The worry is that this could be a temporary lull. Woundings involving firearms have risen from around 850 woundings per year five years ago to around 4000 last year. Possibly more worrying is the much higher rise in the carrying of knives. People involved in the drugs trade are bringing weapons onto the street as part of their business and needlessly putting young people at risk. Even more irresponsibly, they are putting some of those weapons into the hands of young people, either when they dispose of them or when they recruit the impressionable into doing their errands. Worse, many of those young people who choose to carry a knife are not doing so because they want to be criminals, but because they feel scared in the communities that drug gangs are preying upon.
What is so sad is that young people are no different today than at any time in the past fifty years, and nor are the problems they encounter as they enter young adulthood. We should be able to surmount most of them and give every child a meaningful future. And most young people are reaching for that future. Young people today are working harder and achieving more in education than ever before. They are not irredeemable, as some tabloids like to assume. The trouble is that for the ones who do drop out and become dissaffected, they are less prepared for technical and trade careers, and there is now an established underworld that habitually uses guns and knives for 'respect' to fall into, should they happen to live in areas where the trade in drugs has grown. Over half of all incidents involving weapons occur in a handful of cities: London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool amongst them. So for those young people that we miss, the ones we fail, the consequences can be higher than they used to be in these communities.
So for all of us, if we want to stop the violence from escalating, we have to try harder to support young people. Spend time with them, do our jobs as parents and families, talk with them, set an example, work with our neighbours to put our neighbourhoods in order, help them with their schoolwork, make sure they do it, provide training in trades as well as academic subjects and office skills, improve the surroundings so they are safer, talk to them about the adult world before they are faced with it, stop bombarding them with commercials and commodities, play with them, set up clubs and run activities that give young people hobbies and interests, teach them how to talk to people and communicate, get young people involved in helping others, get the police on the beat again and people talking to them (people, you have to talk to the police if they are going to solve murders). As an aside, it wouldn't hurt if we could cut out the casual drug use at dinner parties and in university digs. They exacerbate the problems of communities they don't live in. Where do those people think drugs come from? A fairtrade stall?