Britain has tight control over firearms, but growing fears that weapons illegally smuggled from the US increase gang-related crimes.
Josh Bains was only 28 when he was shot to death after an argument over a $ 50 drug debt in the village where he was born in England. The gun that killed Bains came from America.
Bains is just one of many deaths from gunfire on the rise in recent years in Britain. The British government fears the cause may stem from a line of gun smuggling from the US that is expanding its scale of operations.
Gun warehouse at the National Arms Intelligence Service in Birmingham, UK. Photo: New York Times.
The gun that killed Bains in October 2018 was a Taurus Model 85 that was completely banned in Britain.
“I think Americans never believe that what they produce can affect people like us,” said Clare Bains, stepmother to Josh Bains. “If they do not produce them, they will not be able to spread from the US to the world.”
Gun deaths are still extremely rare in Britain, the country has tight gun control, and very few people, even police, carry guns. But the appearance of American weapons on the streets of Britain is causing serious acts of violent crimes, such as murder or stabbing, to rise sharply.
Most illegal firearms in Britain still come from Europe. But investigators last year seized hundreds of guns originating in the United States. Experts believe that the number of pirated weapons that the police have not discovered is much larger.
British police have tracked a number of US guns smuggled into the country from states with lax gun control regulations like Florida. Investigators also obtained American weapons that were smuggled into the UK in cargo containers or hidden in car engines.
British officials fear that after Brexit, as the European Union’s borders are tighter, the illegal gun trade from the US could increase rapidly, especially when the administration of President Donald Trump is very support the gun industry.
The United States is one of the world’s largest legal arms exporters. However, hundreds of thousands of guns were also illegally trafficked out of the country, triggering a wave of violence, increasing murders, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the UK, criminal gangs mainly use knives. Knife-related crime last year hit a record high, accounting for two out of five homicides. Meanwhile, only 33 people were killed with guns.
But illegal guns are circulating more and more. Last year alone, the number of guns seized by the British National Crime Prevention Agency (NCA) has more than doubled. Gun crime is up 38% since 2015.