Whitehall pilots firearms register
Database was recommended five years ago
Emma Nash, Computing 30 May 2002
The government is to start developing a national firearms database in September - five years after the legislation that recommended its introduction.
Home Office Minister Lord Rooker last week said that a pilot gun register will start this year with a full roll-out anticipated in May 2003.
The database was first proposed in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which was passed following the Dunblane massacre in March 1996 when 16 school children and their teacher were killed.
The Act did not specify timescales for the register, but a series of government targets have been missed.
The government claims it is committed to the register but says it had to establish more urgent projects such as the sex offenders register.
'The time-scale for delivery has been affected by the need to complete the national DNA database and to upgrade the police national computer,' Lord Rooker told the House of Lords.
But some are dismayed by the delays.
'This is something that has been going on and on,' said Lord Marlesford, former Conservative MP for Birmingham Erdington. 'The Home Office doesn't wish to do this because they didn't think of it.'
Crimes involving firearms are rising. According to Home Office figures, in 2000/2001 there were 7,362 recorded crimes in which firearms other than air weapons were used - an eight per cent rise on the previous year, which was 31 per cent up on the year before that.
Some 8.6 per cent of murders committed in 2000/2001 involved firearms, and the number of robberies involving a gun increased four per cent between 1999 and 2001.
The Association of Chief Police Officers' recommended a national guns database in 1996.
'A central firearms register would bring clear benefits in crime detection and prevention,' it said at the time.