GUN crime hit an eleven-year high in West Mercia last year, new police figures show.

West Mercia Police recorded 104 offences involving a firearm in 2018-2019, according to Home Office data.

That's the highest number since 2007-08, and a 55% increase from 2017-18.

The incidents include offences where a firearm has been fired, used as a blunt instrument or as a threat.

Offences with low-powered weapons such as BB guns and pepper spray are included in police figures, alongside shotguns, handguns and rifles. However, with the data excluding crimes involving air weapons, the real number may be higher.

It means there were eight firearms offences per 100,000 population in West Mercia - below the national average of 11.

Across England and Wales, 9,787 gun offences were recorded last year – nearly 60% lower than the level recorded at its peak in 2003-04, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This is despite offences rising last year to the highest level nationally since 2010-11.

The Gun Control Network is campaigning for progressively tighter controls on guns in the UK.

Speaking about the national rise, Peter Squires, member of the non-profit organisation, said: "Although gun crime has risen it is still nowhere near as high as it was 15 years ago.

"What police forces were doing between 2005 and 2015 was pushing gun crime down. Priorities have shifted towards knife crime and that's why gun problems pop up in a cyclical way.

"There are more guns in Europe than there ever have been. Gun ownership is rising.

"Evidence shows that a lot of gun crime is gang-related."

Mr Squires added that cuts to resources have impacted the ability of police forces to tackle the issue.

The Office for National statistics said the rise in firearms crimes could be down to improvements in recording by police forces – with recorded stun gun and pepper spray cases seeing the biggest rises nationally.

The most common crime category involving a firearm last year was violence against the person, followed by criminal damage and robbery.

Kit Malthouse, Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service said: “We are taking action to make our streets safer and protect people from violence.

“We are recruiting 20,000 new police officers, giving them more powers to take dangerous weapons off our streets and ensuring serious violent and sexual offenders spend longer behind bars.

"The Offensive Weapons Act introduces new laws which will give police extra powers to seize dangerous weapons."