The number of deaths in Britain from gunshot wounds has fallen to a 20-year low despite concerns about levels of violent crime.
Most of the 42 gun-related deaths last year took place in London, the West Midlands, Manchester or Merseyside, with swathes of the country recording no homicides, suicides or accidental deaths from firearms. One third of the victims were younger than 21 and four of them were female. The Gun Control Network, which campaigns for tougher restrictions on firearms, disclosed the figure, which was a sharp drop on 2007, when 51 gun-related deaths were recorded in England, Wales and Scotland.
The network said it was worried that "despite the fall in gun crime, disproportionate number of incidents involve teenagers as victims and/or perpetrators". Fifteen people, including six young men, were killed in 2008 in London, which has suffered a spate of gang-related murders.
There were six deaths in the West Midlands, four each in Manchester and Merseyside and two each in Kent, Shropshire and West Yorkshire. Other deaths were recorded in Cornwall, Derbyshire, Glasgow, Hertfordshire, Humberside, Northumberland and South Yorkshire.
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London said its research also suggested the number of gun-related deaths was falling since reaching a peak eight years ago.
The centre's director, Richard Garside, said: "Gun homicide in England and Wales is low compared with such countries as the United States, Australia, France and Italy."