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  1. ITV Report

Dramatic rise in gun use across UK revealed

The number of gunshots investigated by police scientists has gone up more than 60% in the past four years, according to new figures given to ITV News.

Criminal gangs are circumventing the UK's stringent gun control laws by using antique weapons and homemade ammunition, investigators warned.

The shootings are often related to drug disputes between rival gangs, with the UK's National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) recording nearly 600 gunshots in 2017/18, compared to 360 four years ago.

NABIS analyses all firearms and bullets recovered in crimes, and its chief scientist told ITV News they have seen indications rival gangs may be renting firearms from third parties.

The number of gunshots investigated has gone up more than 60% in four years Credit: ITV News

"Renting guns has always been a feature," Martin Parker said.

"We saw rival crime groups using the same weapon - and if they are using same one, it must be coming from a third party."

364
discharges in 2014-15. Source: NABIS
463
discharges in 2015-16
585
discharges in 2016-17
587
discharges in 2017-18

Martin Parker said the figures should be seen in context, and that they tend to "go in waves".

NABIS's chief scientist Martin Parker says the figures should be seen in context Credit: ITV News

"There was a significant decrease between 2008-2014. That was a historically a low point, but we are coming out of that low point," he said.

Next to the US, the figures suggest the UK is doing a very good job in battling gun crime.

But Parker said looking at the UK's figures next to a similar European country gives a better picture.

"If you look at our gun crime problem and you compare it with a country like France, with a similar population, the gun crime levels are far higher in France than they are in the UK. We are dealing from quite a positive position."

NABIS analyses all firearms and bullets recovered in crimes Credit: ITV News

The figures are however clearly on the rise over the last few years.

The rise has been driven partly by the use of antique weapons, which are being loaded with homemade ammunition.

"If you look at other countries in Europe, certainly in America, you wouldn't see these weapons used in crime," said Parker.

He cited the case of Paul Edmunds, who was jailed last year for supplying handguns and homemade bullets linked to more than 100 crime scenes.

West Midlands Police have stepped up operations targeting gun crime Credit: ITV News

Chief Superintendent Andy Parsons from West Midlands Police explained his force have been increasing the number of operations targeting gun crime in the area.

"Unfortunately so far this year we've seen an increase in the number of discharges where firearms have been used, and clearly its a priority for us as police to tackle it," he said.

"We understand there are a number of ongoing disputes, predominantly around drugs, and the use of firearms is in relation to those disputes, so clearly we are using a number of methods and operations to tackle the presence of firearms on the streets and remove the people who are prepared to use them."