How to tackle gun culture

Politics and sociology undergraduate Chinwe Akomah gives her take on Britain's gun 'culture'

In the aftermath of the four London murders in February Tony Blair, criticised for responding to the growing level of gun crime with "knee- jerk" reactions, has upped his game in a bid to try to tackle the escalating firearms culture in Britain.

The Prime Minister is proposing an extension of mandatory sentencing of 17 year olds from the already implemented three years to five years - the current ruling on 18+ teenagers toting guns.

Blair is also considering introducing surveillance methods to track down individuals suspected of carrying weaponry, another dogged step toward creating Labour’s model “surveillance society”.

There is definitely something to be said of Blair’s iron grip legislation. Indeed, implementing such policies will reduce the number of reported crimes in the short term yet gun crime itself will continue to fly under the policy radar. It has already risen by 0.6:% in the past year.

Some of members of the black community have also voiced their concerns over whether the law will drive gun crime off the streets or merely into the hands of even younger individuals. Drug dealers, using firearms to protect their trade, will target legally-protected youngsters to run their violent errands. How does Blair propose to tackle this? How far will the legislative bar be lowered? Will we soon be handcuffing infants?

Moreover, it is important not to forget that someone as young as 16 can purchase a knife. In 2006, knife crime rose to 42,020 incidents almost 72% more than gun crime but in the furore surrounding the London murders, tackling rapidly rising knife crime has been blindsided.

Blair has lucidly stated that gun crime is not a "general state of Britishness" and "British young people" but concerns a specific culture and specific group of people. The commonplace notion is that the problem is primarily within the black community but with such undertones highlighting government’s course of action how is the trust of the black community to be enlisted when the Downing street introduces its new spy kit.

It is too early to have the phrase "institutionalised racism" bandied around but one cannot escape the possible detrimental effects this could have on community-police liaisons.

Lords and MP alike have grappled with why youngsters engage in gun crime, citing phrases such as the “glorification of guns and knives” and “the alienation of young people” but as is the case with judges who sit on their aristocratic pedestals and dictate how the law should be obeyed, the very people who recycle these overused statements are those who are considerably distanced from young black teens.

Occasionally The Times will draw on the words of a youth worker from south London for solid social backing but talking about teens as opposed to talking to them is to alienate them even further.

The truth is, one can only be so sure as to whether it is the broken family or the lack of male models in society that accounts for high levels of crime but by talking, communicating and trying to understand the young people themselves.

If we continue to treat the youth as individuals at the margins of society; statistics to be analysed or as scapegoats to be criminalised then 'gun culture' will only escalate.

Chinwe Akomah is in her final year of studying for a BA in Politics and Sociology at Warwick University. When she graduates she plans to study to become a newspaper journalist.
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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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