UK Guns and Knives & the Roles They Play in the Media

1 Feb

2nd article in our 5 week series on “Guns & Violence in the Media”

In our last article we saw that the media does influence people (along with other factors). In the UK it’s the same of course but the problem is slightly different than the USA. Although there are stricter gun control laws, guns can still be obtained on the black market. However there is a bigger problem and that is knife crime.

Last year there were 5,507 firearm violations recorded in England and Wales [1] however there were 29,513 violations recorded involving a knife or sharp instrument. [2] Even with bringing in stricter laws (A quick look at the laws can be viewed here) it still remains a massive problem. A lot of organizations have been set up to help children after school or drop outs by providing safe entertainment, education and role models in case they lack ones in their homes. Also police and trauma surgeons have teamed up to make a DVD (A safe for work example can be seen here) which will be shown when they go to schools to help educate children. The idea is to inform children of the consequences before they join the gangs or decide to carry a knife or gun. But what about the media and what is being done to help prevent crimes?

Ofcom (the Office of Communications, which is a government approved regulatory body) has a number of codes which broadcasters must follow or risk having their license revoked. They also investigate complaints they receive from the public to see if the specific programs in the complaint has broken their codes.

  • Programs containing adult material must be shown after “the watershed” which is 9:00 pm and runs to 5:30 am. As most children are sleeping during this time they will not be likely to listen or watch anything that would distress them.
  • Violence must not be featured in programs for children. Any adult programs shown during the day, the violence must be limited and also must be justified.
  • No films should be shown if they haven’t been classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Also any film rated 18 and above must be shown after 9pm. [3]
  • Programs must not appear to condone or glamorize dangerous behavior which could encourage people to copy it. [4]
  • Any material which could influence people should not be shown at all. [5]

The British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC) rates films and video games. Although they have no power per se, the local authorities (which hands out licenses to cinemas) do and almost always they decide to go by the BBFC’s advice. So if a film doesn’t follow its guidelines and doesn’t receive a rating because of that, it is most likely not going to be shown anywhere in the UK. Also for a DVD/video game to be sold it must receive a rating, it must be on the packaging and never sold to anyone under age. So again they have little power but still have an impact, as no DVD/video game will be sold without a rating. Generally the BBFC will not allow films that desensitize violence, disregards the viewer’s empathy, dehumanize people or promote anti-social behavior. The current ratings are as followed:

  • U (Universal) – No dangerous behavior allowed that children could copy. Occasional mild threats or menace only.
  • PG (parental Guidance)   – No detail of dangerous behavior that could be copied by children nor any glamorization of any weapon. Violence must be not detailed and also must be justified.
  • 12A/12 (For 12 years old and above only) – No Dangerous behavior is allowed that could be copied, it must not be detailed or appear harm free. Weapons must also not be glamorized. Moderate violence is allowed but it mustn’t be long. Gory moments can only be used sparingly and must have context.
  • 15 (for 15 years old and above only) – Dangerous behavior is the same as 12A/12. Violence may be strong but mustn’t be for long or focus on the infliction of injury.
  • 18 (For 18 years old and above only) – Must comply with laws (Human Rights Act, Animal Welfare Act, Sexual Offence Act, The Protection of Children Act, etc.) but adults are free to view what they want unless detailed violent acts could cause harm to public health. [6]

Over the last few years the BBFC has been accused of relaxing on their classifications though. With knives being used in every household what more can we do and what more can the media do to help tackle this problem?

Also view: Who Should Take Social Responsibility for the Desensitization of America?









15 Responses to “UK Guns and Knives & the Roles They Play in the Media”

  1. Open Book February 1, 2013 at 1:45 PM #

    Ozzie- Wow! Wonderful research and very, very informative article. What I found interesting is the penalty for carrying a knife? A person could get 4 years in prison. That is amazing.

    Q: What’s the average age and demographic of those using knives as assault weapons?

    • ozzie20 February 2, 2013 at 7:43 PM #

      Thank you! I also read the 212 pages of the law that involves knife crime… Unfortunately it all went over my head! Reading it at night didn’t help either, lol.

      I’d say between mid to late teens. On my travels around the internet researching, this I found someone who said they knew someone as young as 9 carrying a knife.

      • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 3:17 PM #

        Thank u Ozzie. That’s fascinating.

  2. Open Book February 1, 2013 at 2:59 PM #


    U Said: “With knives being used in every household what more can we do and what more can the media do to help tackle this problem?”

    A: IMO the more isolated people are the more social problems occur. I think people need community and social interactions. That’s why getting out to the theater among other people is healthier than our entertainment becoming more and more intimate. Don’t get me wrong social media is great and I love watching VOD and DVD’s but I love getting out and interacting with people and seeing how audiences react to films.

    • ozzie20 February 2, 2013 at 7:48 PM #

      Good idea! I think it’s the same as the US in terms of the only way of moving forward will need a group effort (goverment/media/parents etc).

  3. parisienne February 2, 2013 at 7:26 PM #


    Great article!


    I do agree with you that people need social interaction. However, I do think the media tends to use a lot of scare tactics to control people.

    • ozzie20 February 2, 2013 at 8:08 PM #

      Thanks Paris! I totally agree with the media using scare tactics. I saw alot while researching this. The odd thing was there was alot from America rather than here! Although there could be some today. I’m sure I heard about someone dying today due to a knife attack. I only caught the tail end of the news report. I think it was a grown man who attack a woman then ran off.

    • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 3:24 PM #

      Fear seems to be used more in US media for power and control than the UK. Why is that?

  4. ozzie20 February 2, 2013 at 8:40 PM #

    Here’s a bit of trivia. The NRA was founded in England. 12 years later the American branch was founded. I didn’t even know the NRA even existed in the UK!

    • parisienne February 3, 2013 at 12:37 AM #

      I didn’t know the NRA started in England. I also think that television is saturated with violence. Just today I watched a program on the KKK,and Jonestown.. Also there are many reality shows that focus on being in jail (Lockup shows) and what not.

      • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 3:05 PM #


        I finally saw Django. I LOVED IT!!!!

        Samuel Jackson and Leo Dicaprio’s performance was fantastic. That’s the best performance I’ve seen from SJ in a long, long while. He went places that were so vile. Yuck!!!! Anyway, QT used the violence and guns to show the ridiculousness of violence he does not glorify it. GREAT, GREAT film. I plan on seeing it again.

        • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 3:09 PM #

          P.S. I thought Sharen Davis did a great job with costumes as well. Loved the costume transformation of Django character it really enhanced his characters evolution.

          • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 3:11 PM #

            P.S.S. My favorite line in the film. “Your a freeman and it was your choice to wear that?”

    • Open Book February 3, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

      Ozzie- I did not know that? So the KKK tried to become legit by calling themselves the NRA. Hahaha!

      Does the NRA still exist in the UK today?

      • Comic Relief February 3, 2013 at 5:11 PM #

        Great article Ozzie,

        I did not realize knives were such a big deal there. When I was in high school if you we’re to be threatened it was usually just the threat of getting a beat down by one or a group of people.

        I guess this problem has been around for some time there. There was a scene dedicated to knife threating in this film, “No where man.” I could not find a direct clip.

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