Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 254 - 259)



  Chairman: Dr North and Mrs Marshall-Andrews you are very welcome; known to some of us in different incarnations.

Mr Beggs

  254. At the start of your evidence you state, "There is a well-established correlation between gun violence and the availability of guns, both legal and illegal". What is the evidence of this correlation, particularly between gun violence and legal guns in Northern Ireland? Has the Gun Control Network actually carried out research which could be made available to our Committee?
  (Dr North) We cannot comment specifically on Northern Ireland, but a number of studies have been done by various agencies, including the United Nations international study of firearms regulations, centres for disease control, a number of pieces of academic work in which comparisons have been made between different countries, between towns in one country and similar towns in another. It is certainly fair to say that although there are complex effects, social, economic, political etcetera, which make such research rather difficult, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that rates of firearm death and injury are linked to access to firearms. Getting data on illegal guns is very difficult. I must say that I am often very sceptical about people who can say precisely how many illegal weapons there are in, say, Great Britain. You wonder, if they have access to those kinds of figures and know a lot about them, why the police do not know about them. It does make it difficult but certainly international comparisons indicate quite clearly that there is a correlation between levels of gun violence and particularly gun death and the availability of guns.
  (Mrs Marshall-Andrews) The gun death is crime, it is homicide, it is accident and suicide. We are not just talking about homicide.

  255. I take it from your answer that the Gun Control Network has not itself commissioned specific research on this issue.
  (Mrs Marshall-Andrews) No, we have not.

  256. What is the extent of the membership of the Network? What organisations are associated with you?
  (Mrs Marshall-Andrews) That is a very interesting question. It came up the last time we gave evidence to a committee. I cannot actually see myself what particular relevance it has to anything, but I can tell you that we are a small organisation, we were set up after the Dunblane tragedy in 1996 with a small number of people who included victims of families from Hungerford and Dunblane, lawyers, academics. We remain a small organisation. We have a large number of supporters and we are not a membership organisation.

  257. Do you have any direct contacts into Northern Ireland?
  (Mrs Marshall-Andrews) No, we do not. We have no direct knowledge of the situation in Northern Ireland other than what we have read and tried to acquaint ourselves with before today.


  258. Does the research you were talking about correlate the incidence and the frequency with the level of control in the countries concerned? I put this question because of course the level of gun control in Northern Ireland is quite different from that in England and Wales and is very much stricter. If you are therefore comparing a country like the United States, where there is practically none in some States, it is not a fair comparison to make with a country where in terms of legal firearms there are very strict controls and the police have their finger on the button.
  (Dr North) The difficulty would be to quantify what control is. What is possible is to determine the number of guns per household and that reflects the measure of gun control, then yes, it does correlate with gun deaths. Anecdotally yes, the greater the level of gun control worldwide, the lower the number of gun deaths per capita. I find doing comparisons between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK rather difficult because I am not entirely sure what the gun death figures refer to and whether in a situation where you have terrorist-linked gun death you can make direct comparisons with the rest of the UK.

The Reverend Smyth

  259. In the evidence you provide about air weapons and young people, all the illustrations came from Great Britain. Are you aware of such issues in Northern Ireland in your research at all?
  (Mrs Marshall-Andrews) We do not have any specific instances in Northern Ireland. It would be very unusual that instances of airgun abuse were confined to this side of the water. It would be very surprising if there were no airgun abuses in Northern Ireland, but we have no data specifically on that.

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