Examination of Witnesses (Questions 254
WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2002
Chairman: Dr North and Mrs Marshall-Andrews
you are very welcome; known to some of us in different incarnations.
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
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
257. Do you have any direct contacts into Northern
(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
(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
(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.