Skip to content

Tag: Gun crime

Article Breakdown: The Times v The SNP

Posted in Article Breakdown

The Times:

Firearms statistics mask rise in serious gun crime


Politicians spin a story the way they think favours them. Papers do the same. Here is a classic case of both in action. In a new segment, Article Breakdown, we take you through the entire article, adding our own comments.

Serious gun crime in Scotland is on the rise with a marked increase in attempted murder, armed robbery and possession with intent to kill.

Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary, lauded new figures showing that firearms offences were at their lowest level since 1980 but the statistics masked an increase in the most serious crimes.

When I read this, my first thought was: “Isn’t ALL gun crime serious?” Apparently not. I couldn’t find a standardised definition of what is and is not serious, however. So one assumes that this is The Times’ own criterion. As for Humza Yousaf – I would dismiss this as a case of “politician is selective in use of facts” but a look at the actual numbers shows that The Times is far more guilty of this.

There were two gun related homicides in 2017-18 compared with just one in either of the previous two years.

Really?!?! TWO? Why don’t you just go for mass hysteria and say they’ve doubled?!

Attempted murders more than doubled from four to ten in the three-year period, and there were nearly twice as many incidents of possession with intent to endanger life, commit crime and cause fear of violence, up from 35 to 64.

Sorry I suggested it. This is the problem you have when gun crime is so low in the first place. Not much has to change for there to be an “increase”. Literally, one more murder than the previous period was all that was required to double the first statistic. In other words, the most serious crime of the lot has risen by one.

The figures were released days after the former boxer Bradley Welsh, 48, who had a cameo appearance in Trainspotting 2, was shot dead outside his Edinburgh home in Chester Street. A man arrested in connection with the shooting has been released pending further inquiries.

And do you think it would have been more responsible for the Justice Secretary to say: “Everyone, take cover! Gun crime is out of control!”? Whether you agree with his choice of statistic or not, it is his job to tell the public they have no reason to be alarmed after an incident like this, and pointing out that gun crime was at its lowest level since 1980 was a good way to do it. Two things I would add. First, overall crime being the lowest in 39 years is a far better indicator than one year to the next, unless there is a significant change, which there wasn’t. Secondly, I am grateful I live in a country where gun violence is so rare that any incident is headline news. Since Bradley Welsh was murdered, there have been five mass shootings in America – that’s not counting any incidents where less than 3 people got shot.

Armed robbery rose from 26 to 34 incidents in 2017-18, and serious assault with a firearm rose from five to eight.

The record low number of overall incidents is due to a decrease in less serious gun crimes, including steep falls in gun-related vandalism, from 45 incidents to 14, and reckless conduct from 74 to 37. Mr Yousaf said: “These figures show we are continuing to make progress in tackling firearms misuse with offences now at their lowest level for any single year since 1980.

Both those figures are significant drops, especially when compared to the earlier statistics. 14 is less than a third of 45, and both those figures are many times higher than TWO. So Humza Yousaf probably felt justified in reaching that conclusion. If you really want to get into the party politics of it all, couldn’t the SNP claim that the numbers had been falling, but has risen since they lost their majority in Holyrood?

“While firearms offences are rare, we know that just one such incident can have a devastating impact on victims and the wider community, so we are determined to continue working with our partners to reduce these numbers.

Does anyone have a problem with this bit? This is pretty much exactly what you would expect a serving Justice Secretary to say. Next!

“We are the only part of Great Britain to license air weapons. Since our licensing legislation was passed in 2015-16 offences involving an air weapon have fallen by a third.”

Which is really interesting. I note The Times has no comment to add to any of this. The data for Scotland is also significantly lower than any other country in the UK (even when adjusting for population size).

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Johnson, Police Scotland lead for specialist crime and intelligence, said: “We welcome the fact that firearms offences are at a historic low. Our officers work tirelessly to reduce the number of firearms on our streets.”

Well, there you have it. If he thought the comparatively slight rise in violent crime constituted reason for more concern, he would say so.

In a two-week firearms surrender campaign in June last year 474 firearms, 690 air weapons and 337 lots of ammunition were handed in to police.

No further comment, letting the statistic speak for itself. See, you can do it.