Knife crime and gun crime

Knives, guns and the law

It's illegal to carry knives or guns, including imitation guns. You will be prosecuted for buying, selling or carrying any weapons.

At school it's the right of all young people to learn in an atmosphere free from fear and violence. Schools have a duty and responsibility to protect their pupils and to expect that children won't be carrying weapons.

Most schools in London have a Safer Schools Officer assigned to them whose duties include:

  • reducing crime and anti-social behaviour within the school
  • working with children and young people at risk of becoming victims or offenders
  • ensuring the full time education of young offenders
  • supporting school staff in dealing with crime or anti-social behaviour

There are lots of people in schools and colleges who can help you get the right support, including access to the police. See our ‘More help and advice’ section or visit our section on ‘How to contact us’.

What's the law?

It's illegal for a shop to sell any kind of knife to someone under 18. This includes kitchen knives and even cutlery.

It's also illegal for shops to sell imitation guns or air weapons to anyone under 18-years-old, or to sell realistic imitation guns to anyone.

You'll be committing an offence if you buy any of these items. Possessing a knife or firearm (whether it's yours or not) is illegal and can result in a prison sentence.

Some knives are illegal for even adults to buy. The below are all categorised as offensive weapons and are completely banned:

  • Flick knives - also called ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’.
  • Butterfly knives
  • Disguised knives - in which the blade is hidden in something like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone.

You can find out more about these and other types of illegal knives on the website.

Things to know

Carrying a weapon in school does not mean it is just a school matter; the police will become involved and take action. For anyone carrying a knife or a gun, including those under 16, the consequences are tough.

  • It is illegal to carry a knife or a gun, or imitation firearm.
  • If you are caught with a knife or a gun, regardless of whether you say it was for your own protection or you were carrying it for someone else, you will be arrested and prosecuted.
  • Possession of a knife can carry a prison sentence of up to 4 years even if it's not used.
  • There's a minimum 5-year sentence for carrying a gun if you're over 18. If you're under 18, you could still go to prison.
  • If you stab somebody and they die, you will face a life sentence and will serve a minimum prison sentence of 25 years.
  • Causing the death of someone with a gun carries a life sentence and you will serve a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.
  • If someone is injured or killed by a knife or gun in your presence, even if you're not the one using the weapon, you too could be prosecuted. You could be sent to prison for murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’.

"Joint enterprise" explained:-

You can be found guilty of murder if, for example:

  • you are part of a group and someone in that group kills someone with a weapon or by some other means (this includes attacks where the victim is punched, kicked etc.)
  • if you knew that the person was going to use violence or knew they were carrying a weapon, even though you didn't agree to the attack or use of the weapon but remained as part of that group

To avoid liability under joint enterprise you would have to be no longer part of the group; actively do something to prevent the offence from taking place; stop the attack by physical intervention or call the police. However it is very difficult to prove that you had communicated your withdrawal and the only effective means of avoiding liability would to not be part of the group in the first place.

Remember - the law is clear - if you choose to carry a weapon, you put your future in danger. If you don't take it with you, it won't be used.

What next?

If you are worried about any issues relating to knife and gun crime, there's plenty of help and support available. Visit our page ‘More help and advice’ or for other related topics, take a look at our sections on gangs and group violence and bullying.

Knife and gun crime