The worrying recent news release that thousands of offensive weapons have been seized from children attending English and Welsh schools has prompted the British public to question why so many kids are carrying knives. Over the last year, the number of weapons found has shown an increase of 20% from the previous year, and although not all of the weapons discovered were knives – samurai swords, air rifles and axes being just some of the confiscated items – the reported figures from just 24 of the nation’s police forces revealed that no less than 500 of these offensive implements were blades.
Even more disturbingly, reports have shown that 47 of the children who were found to be carrying weapons were actually under the age of 10, meaning that they were too young to be prosecuted for the offence. The most frightening news of all was that three of these primary school pupils were just five years old, and according to an article in The Guardian, these reception-aged children are often actually carrying blades on behalf of older children and teens. With this news fresh on the horizon, it is no wonder that so many schools have now introduced the use of metal detectors and robust searching procedures in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the 2015 incident during which, teacher Ann McGuire was stabbed to death by a pupil.
So, why are so many British youngsters carrying knives, and why is the number increasing year on year? While there is a widespread belief that most of the young people who are found with weapons are part of gangs, evidence has in fact shown that this is not necessarily the case; more and more children with blades have no links to any type of gang activity. According to a report by the BBC, the reason for this increase in these otherwise law-abiding kids, toting knives appears to be fear of attack by other young people. It seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that, because there is a perception that young people are carrying knives, more children are themselves opting to take a weapon out and about with them for protection in case they end up in a confrontation.
Of course, protection is not the only reason why children are carrying knives. Unfortunately, one of the primary responses given by the young people from whom weapons have been taken, when asked their reasons, seems to be to gain respect from their peers and to feel more mature. Gaining ‘street cred’ has always been important for kids of all ages. However, increasing numbers of youths today are falling into the trap of believing that the way to win the respect of their classmates is to show that they are a force to be reckoned with – and that in a fight they could defend themselves using a blade.
For many of these young people, however, possessing a weapon has the power to backfire, with 70% of youngsters attending hospital A&E departments due to knife injuries having been hurt by their own blade. In other cases, those who have felt compelled to use their weapon on others have received a criminal record, resulting in restrictions for the rest of their life when working in some professions or travelling to certain countries. It is no wonder then that police forces are now agreeing to work more closely with schools in order to educate pupils about the possible consequences of knife crime. They seek to persuade young people that illegally carrying weapons is never acceptable, whether they are gang members or not.