As the node "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns"
that I wrote a few years back is often bookmarked, I think it is worth a new version with the most recent data from the British Governments Home Office statistical bulletin for England & Wales 2009 ~ as well as some interesting changes in the law.
In the year ending June 2009 the following Firearm offences took place.
39 Fatal Injuries - down 26% on 2008
321 serious injuries - down 20% on 2008
1,404 slight injuries - down 50% on 2008
5,155 threats - up 2% on 2008
1,288 no injuries - down 18% on 2008 (no threat or injury? these are for possession, which is a crime in UK)
The total above can be further understood by looking at the types of weapon used.
Shotgun = 619 offences
Handgun = 4,275 offences (includes converted replicas)
Rifle = 89 offences
Imitation firearm = 1,515 offences
Unidentified firearm = 953 offences
Other = 761 offences (mostly cs gas, pepper spray & paintball guns)
Total = 8,208
An interesting aspect of these statistics is also how the firearms (including air-guns, paint-guns and replicas) were used. The figures include firearms that were used as a threat or as a blunt instrument as well as those being fired. Of all the real handgun offences only 10% actually involved firing of the gun, when an injury or death occurred it was not necessarily due to being shot.
The most injuries were sustained in offences involving replica guns, a total of 544 injuries representing 22% of all firearms related injuries (presumably self inflicted injuries through trying to get a replica to fire a live round).
As before it should be noted that as possession of a firearm is illegal for the majority of people, an injury caused while, cleaning or leisure firing could result in conviction and contribute to these statistics, as would being found in possession, or threatening someone with an imitation or paintball gun.
It should also be noted that the term 'Imitation firearm' now includes "any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm, whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile". That means being in possession of anything that could be mistaken for a gun, including a children's toy or, as in one case, a table leg; these could all be worthy of conviction, or in the case of the table leg, being shot dead yourself by the police.
In previous years criminal damage costing less than £20 was not included in the figures, changes in law for this year now include them in the figures. So by extrapolation, a child that breaks another child's doll by hitting it with a toy gun, could in theory be convicted of criminal damage and possession of a firearm - luckily there were no injuries.
During the year ending 2009 firearms (including air-weapons, paint ball guns and replicas) were used in 0.3% of recorded crimes in the UK. This percentage can also be expressed as an average 15 crimes per 100,000 of the population each year, adjusting this regionally sees London as the most dangerous place at 40 crimes per 100,000 head of population and North Yorkshire the safest at 1.4 crimes per 100,000 people.
Re-reading this node in the light of the appaling Sandy Hook incident, the chorus often used by the U.S. rifle association keeps ringing in my ears "Guns don't kill people; people kill people" and to my horror realise that these stats could support that point of view, but then perhaps it would also be reasonable to say that in the UK "People with paintball guns can be lethal.