Should More UK Police Officers Carry Firearms?

Maddy White
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More police officers in the UK could be given firearms in an attempt to counteract the cut in overall numbers.

Police chiefs have been considering whether frontline officers should carry guns, as there are concerns it could take too long for specialist officers to reach attacks in more rural areas of Britain. But is it necessary for UK officers to carry firearms?

With twelve terrorist murder plots known about in the last year (according to The Guardian) and an increased terror threat to the UK, Simon Chesterman, the national lead for armed policing said the possibility for officers to carry firearms remains an open option.

Photo by Yukiko Matsuoka

Lock and Load

In total, the home office have increased the number of officers carrying firearms by 874 individuals over the last two years, since a £143 million programme was launched.

This has been a significant investment for Britain, but aside from this, is the cost of firearms (£500 per handgun) excessive? Surely though, if it will keep Britain safer it is a price the UK public will be willing to pay.

Chesterman said: “Police chiefs are committed to our model of policing with a routinely unarmed service at its core. At the same time, we need to be sure we have the right level of armed policing to meet threats to the public.

“The increase in the number of highly-trained CTSFOs means that we can move more quickly to resolve major incidents and be more proactive when confronting a threat,” he added.

Since April 2016, there has been a 70% increase in the number of the highest-trained Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers (CTSFO). The expansion comes after a growing number of terrorist-related attacks carried out over the past few years. An attack on London Bridge last June, claimed the lives of eight civilians and even more recently a partially-detonated homemade bomb which exploded at Parsons Green station injured over twenty people.

Another attack in May last year saw a suicide bomber take the lives of 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester; these examples could prove the UK does need more officers with firearms.

In light of these terror attacks, Chesterman believes the force is now “better equipped” to handle serious threats to public safety.

Photo by David Holt

Cease Fire

Other options to constables carrying firearms being considered in areas such as Cornwall and Devon, is for officers to volunteer to carry guns on their belt openly. Another, is for the firearms to be stored securely away in the officer’s cars; this could be a better way for the police to have access to guns without bearing them.

Chesterman continued: “The overwhelming majority of England and Wales has very good coverage from armed response vehicles.  We are continuing to review and discuss options with some forces with harder to reach rural communities, including arming of some response officers.  

Chesterman said about the problems relating to after a weapon is discharged. “How we treat firearms officers in the rare instance that they discharge their weapon does influence the willingness of people to take up this role, and they naturally have concerns about the impact it can have on the welfare of themselves and their families.

“Any change would be decided by chief constables based on threat and risk and with wide consultation.  Our analysis suggests this is not necessary now but it remains an option on the table.” He concluded.

UK officers carrying firearms might make the public safer but it could be seen as a drastic move. There are other options such as keeping guns securely locked in patrol cars which could be just as effective. As well as the potential impacts discharging weapons could have on individuals related and involved as Chesterman said.

The UK has experienced higher threats to security and the public’s safety as seen in recent attacks, extra firearms could make Britain feel safer and police officers able to protect the whole country more efficiently. If every police officer eventually is allowed to carry a firearm though – excluding the cost –  this could be a sign toward a future more integrated with guns.

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