They are young men living in the shadow of the gun: deriving all their power, reassurance, self worth and respect from the very act of carrying illegal firearms. Recent research suggests that the proliferation of illegal weapons in some of Britain's most deprived communities - particularly replica and converted ones - is now such that there is a gun or an imitation firearm easily available for almost everyone who wants one.

They are being routinely carried for criminal purposes, but also as fashion accessories and a "necessity" by marginalised young men who have come to view this ownership as a rite of passage.

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