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'Have Gun - Will Travel’: The Movement and Re-use of Firearms in England and Wales

22 March 2013

Kate Gibson

Firearms criminality in England and Wales has been decreasing steadily over the last decade. Whilst Home Office statistics identify the scale of firearms criminality in England and Wales, little is known about how many of these firearms are ‘repeat offenders’, and how these weapons are offending. The aim of this research is to explore the nature of firearms used in multiple offences, and determine whether a relationship exists between offence severity and firearm behaviour post-offence.   Since 2008, the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) has been compiling a composite database of firearms used in multiple offences, or which are still in circulation with the potential of re-use. This dataset was interrogated to explore the nature of these firearms, including the type of weapons involved in these offences, and how they are being used by offenders. For those weapons moving between police forces, network analysis techniques were employed to identify those forces with increased influence on movement networks. To explore the relationship between offence severity and firearm behaviour post-offence, correlational techniques were used to explore interactions.  The study identified that four police forces (Metropolitan Police, West Midlands Police, Merseyside Police and Greater Manchester Police) are most heavily involved in firearms criminality, accounting for 83.8% of offences, and 81.9% of recoveries. Network analysis of firearms movement identified that whilst three of these forces are predominantly exporters of weapons, Greater Manchester Police are receivers, likely due to their strong links with Merseyside, which emerged as the primary exporter.  Analysis to explore relationships between offence severity and weapon behaviour post-offence was generally inconclusive, due to limitations with the dataset. Tentative findings however identified that firearms involved in homicides may be less likely to be used in subsequent offences and more likely to be recovered.