The anti-gun lobby is out in force once more in the wake of the tragic deaths of two police officers earlier this week and calls for armed police are resonating across the internet
WPC Nicola Hughes and WPC Fiona Bone two Greater Manchester Police officers were killed when after going to an alleged burglary in Mottram in Longdendale, Greater Manchester, England, on 18 September 2012. The pair were called to a house on the Hattersley housing estate, near Hyde, and upon arrival were attacked by a suspect on bail on suspicion of murder.
Greater Manchester’s chief constable called the killings “cold blooded murder” and British prime minister David Cameron described them a “as pure evil”.
Gun Crime in the UK
The UK has had few firearms incidents in modern times. During the latter half of the 20th century there were only two incidents in which men holding licensed firearms went on shooting sprees and killed on a large scale, Hungerford massacre 1987 and Dunblane 1996. Hungerford resulted in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 which banned most semi-automatic long-barrelled weapons and Dunblane, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 which made it illegal to possess handguns having a calibre over .22.
The number of death per year committed with firearms remained between 49 and 97 up to 2006. There were two fatal shootings of police officers in England and Wales in this period, and 107 non-fatal shootings In 2005/6 the police in England and Wales reported 50 gun deaths a rate of 0.1 illegal gun deaths per 100,000 of population. 6.6% of murders involved the use of a gun.
Essentially the UK is still a gun free part of the world and call to arm the police need to be considered carefully indeed. Aside from the cost in arms and munitions, training and trainers there is the cost to the individual officer. I have spoken with a number of police officers who are “boots on the ground” and their reaction ranges from unwilling to horrified. Many Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) see their role as far away from gun toting law enforcer as possible and regard guns as a barrier to their day to day work.
Die Hard is for the movies!
Those of use who have some experience with firearms and in my case I will confess it to be very limited know just how far away from “Rambo” or “Die Hard” being armed actually is. While anyone can be, with time and patience, taught to fire an appropriate sized gun accurately, that accuracy drops the moment the person is put under any pressure or stress.
In a “stressfire” situation I have witnessed shooter who previously were scoring perfect centre of mass hits hit either the outer or miss completely. The definition of “stress” can be anything from being made to run 50 meters or less with a bit of smoke and thunderflashes as an accompaniment to the unexpected arrival of “attackers” who seemingly appear out of nowhere and fire back.
The only way to deal with this sort of situation is training, lots and lots of training, again the costs associated with that would probably preclude arming police to begin with. In addition while the pro-gun feeling may be running high at the moment, the next major civil unrest in the UK could be significantly exacerbated by the simply knowledge that every single officer behind the plastic shield wall could in a moment of mis-judgement kill a protester.
In short I doubt we will arm the police and I doubt that in the main the police want to armed. The murders were the result of a lunatic who probably should not have been out on the streets anyway but no amount of nanny state will ever protect everyone from the maniacs and people who ideally should be securely locked up and we need to remember the next time a policeman or woman appears to be acting a little officiously or in a high handed fashion that she or he may one day be lying there dead instead of you.