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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Should UK police carry guns?
Should the UK police force be armed? Send in your comments
Rising gun crimes have meant that in one part of the UK police officers are routinely wearing firearms while on foot patrol.

Nottinghamshire police took the decision after a series of shootings on two of the city's estates, sparked by rival gangs of drug dealers.

The police say the break from tradition is about stopping gun violence becoming the norm, and preventing murder.

But does the UK's police force really need to be armed? Will this measure combat violence on the streets? Or are the more traditional unarmed 'Bobbies on the beat' more effective in controlling gun crimes?


By what other means does one stop an armed criminal?

David Norsworthy, Texas, USA
Of course the police should be armed. By what other means does one stop an armed criminal? By using foul language? I've yet to understand the fear and mindset of pacifist, liberal, and "progressive" European countries. Good intentions do not deter criminal elements, only armed resistance or its mere omnipresence. Training is the key to personal responsibility in self-protection using firearms for both the police and citizenry. Your alternative is to become a victim. I like the odds better armed.
David Norsworthy, Texas, USA

The deterrent argument is the same pathetic one used by the likes of the NRA. Do people over here actually think that in those countries that have armed police, crime involving weapons is less? There is no such thing as a deterrent to crime, just preventative measures.
Jason, UK

Yes, they should carry guns.
Paul Grubb, UK

I wonder what the statistics are on how many armed robbers in the US actually use their guns as opposed to over here. I should imagine that a greater number of US criminals feel "compelled" to use their guns as they know they face police officers who would much rather shoot them than arrest them.
Graeme, England

It is time our police were given the authority and ability to fight back

Martin Cox, UK
The time has come for routine arming of the Police Service in this country. Criminals have nothing to fear at this time, a bit of hard questioning never hurt anyone, and they know it. However if you go out to steal and are armed in any fashion, knife or pistol, then knowing you may lose you life may be a deterrent. The Police must be prepared to use the weapons when issued, this is a training matter.
Our forces are trained in the use of firearms, many having served in Peacekeeping missions and are mature enough to know what they are handling. There is no reason our police are not. Take the war to the criminals do not let them take it to us. Why should the criminals have all the sayż it is time our police were given the authority and ability to fight back. Society must change its views and stop being soft on crime.
Martin Cox, UK

Not all police should be issued guns as my experience of some officers has been that they are just legalised bullies. Only selected and outstanding officers should be offered the chance to carry side arms. Not only should they show skill in its use but show impeccable integrity and have the correct attitude of what a police officer should do and be. You might find a few of them like this out there ... not many.
T. Gill, UK

Many criminals carry guns now and are unafraid to do so due to the PATHETIC sentences handed out to criminals in general. I think that if you are intent on carrying a gun, then it is not unreasonable to expect to face armed police and maybe get shot dead. You carry a gun, you know the risks involved. The police would look laughable going up against an armed gang with a whistle and a baton!!!
Andy Biddle, England

A Night-stick, not much use against a bullet is it?

Lee Shephard, UK
Why shouldn't UK Police Officers carry firearms? There is already gun crime here, and at the present time what do the Police have to combat an armed villain. A Night-stick, not much use against a bullet is it? So if you're going to have an armed response unit anyway, you may as well arm every officer.
As for the old argument, that Police carrying firearms will lead to more shootings and accidental deaths, if Police follow procedures there shouldn't be a problem. If they don't follow procedures then they are accountable for their actions, and bound by the Law's of Britain. In my opinion, Nottinghamshire officers have taken the right course of action.
Lee Shephard, UK

Of course the police should be armed. Not only can they defend themselves when defending the citizens but we are not allowed to defend ourselves any more. The criminals have all the rights and the law-abiders have none. Give all the police guns and then perhaps we could have a bit more peace in the country.
John C, Warwick, England

Do the public have faith that the police will also have adequate response times that will allow the police to capture criminals

Justin, UK
There is an astounding amount of naivety here! Do you really think that an armed criminal is going to wait around for the police to arrive? Do the public have faith that the police will also have adequate response times that will allow the police to capture criminals in the commission of their crimes against your family? I think it should stay the way it is, specifically trained units to rove and deal with situations on call. Either that or let the citizens arm themselves!
Justin, UK

Yes, it is a move in the right direction that the police have reclaimed their basic human right to self-defence. Now how about the rest of us, or will the police continue to stop everyone else from defending themselves against criminals?
Chris Gould, Britain

Guns made America great. The first thing we did when we freed ourselves from the tyranny of King George, is install the Bill of Rights. The 2nd Amendment gave us the right to bear arms so that we wouldn't be oppressed by a government that might suppress liberty.... like nationalising industries...stuff like that. It has worked pretty good so far!
Phillip J Hubbell, USA

Why does the government continue to believe banning things works? Ban bombs, they still get used. Criminals are those people who do not obey the law, so banning something tends to mean the criminals wind up being the only possessor. The pointless bans on many things should be repealed, the right to use force should be given back to the people, and thus reducing the power of both the criminal and the need for police.
Nigel Tolley, UK

We here in Switzerland have 20 million guns and 7 million citizens.. our homicide rate is LESS than in the UK! Our Police is armed so are the law abiding citizens. Maybe you guys and gals in the UK are just not mature enough?
Michael, Switzerland

I personally wouldn't want just any old fresh faced 18-year-old bobby carrying a gun.

Andy Stratt, UK
I think the compromise is the key aspect in all of this. On one hand you have countries such as the US, where every police officer is armed. On the other hand you have the UK police who have a few armed response units. I personally wouldn't want just any old fresh faced 18-year-old bobby carrying a gun. Training or not, these people are inexperienced in life. My suggestion would be to increase the armed police by training key officers with more policing experience. Instead of having every single officer armed, have one in 50.
Andy Stratt, UK

Its not surprising that UK criminals use guns more and more, knowing that citizens have been unarmed and most police are too. British people have a funny idea that if you make something illegal it just vanishes! Pandora's box was opened centuries ago and you can't close it now. The police are just catching up with reality.
Dan Peters, UK

What an indictment of knee-jerk legislation!

Tony Hague, UK
As several other correspondents have noted, arming police officers on a full-time basis is a forceful demonstration of how freely available hand guns apparently are, particularly to criminals. What an indictment of knee-jerk legislation!
Tony Hague, UK

If the police can have guns to protect themselves from dangerous criminals, can we have guns too, to protect ourselves from dangerous police officers?
Dylan, England

I am very proud of the fact that British Police officers, in the main, are not armed. The British Police should not assist in the escalation of firearm usage, which of course is the obvious knock-on effect. The British have always been more tolerant when considering individual freedoms, which makes us different. Lets not join the arms club, we don't need it.
Russell Thomas, Germany

In case you haven't noticed, owning firearms in the UK is Illegal!!

Simon, UK
In case you haven't noticed, owning firearms in the UK is Illegal!! Unlike the United States where it is a god given right to own a gun and where the law protects you if you use it. I do not think we will become like the US if the Police are issued with firearms as the only people who should be worried is the criminals who use guns for whatever activity they are involved in.
Simon, UK

If a criminal has a gun he is going to use one anyway, not wait for a piece of legislation to be passed. People are going to be less likely to tackle a Police Officer with a gun than one with a US Issued Truncheon. I worry what Planet some of you are from.
Sam Wren, England

No, they shouldn't be armed. Here in Australia where the police do carry sidearms there are numerous fatal incidents every year where nervous police shoot dead offenders who are armed with knives, axes, sticks and stones and the like. The majority of these people could have been handled without the use of lethal force had the police not had easy and immediate access to firearms. Many times I have thought that if we had had a British Bobby on hand many of these often ordinary people displaying temporary antisocial actions would still be alive and back with their families.
Brian, Australia

It always amazes me that nobody has thought of the obvious - an armed police force, but armed with fast acting tranquilliser pellets instead of bullets

Margaret Carre, UK in Belgium
It always amazes me that nobody has thought of the obvious - an armed police force, but armed with fast acting tranquilliser pellets instead of bullets! That way they can drop the criminal and arrest him without killing him. EASY! I also agree that police with revolvers are "unapproachable" - as they are here in Belgium. I once put my hand out to a police dog who was sniffing me and the police officer gave a command in French and the dog turned vicious! I got a terrible fright. Imagine what this officer would do with his gun.
Margaret Carre, UK in Belgium

I do not think it a bad idea to arm police. After all, why should they be defenceless against an armed criminal with their lives at risk? No job is worth that. However, the governing problem here is deterrent. Armed police will not achieve this. Let us face the facts.... the only deterrent is fixed, non-negotiable life sentences and the death penalty as the final nail in the coffin.
Gareth, UK

"IF guns are outlawed, ONLY outlaws will have guns."
"BAN firearms. Make the streets safe for criminals"
BOTH quotes used by the pro-gun lobby during the banning of legally held firearms on British main land. WHAT is to stop a police officer having their weapon removed by a chancer. Where will this weapon be stored out of office hours or will it be carried on and off duty? THIS government like many before rarely ask what the people want, has anybody asked the bobby on the beat!
Barry, England

The Meadows estate (one of the two where the armed officers patrol) is opposite my office. The more the police deal with the criminal low life that infests parts of this estate the better.
Peter, UK

The people of Nottingham should be grateful that their police force is sending a clear signal to criminals.

Hugh Davidson, UK
I've been living in London for three years and you regularly see armed police officers patrolling. When two officers on motorcycles go past, the chances are, from my experience and observation, that one of them will be carrying a sidearm. I feel the clear display of firearms acts as a deterrent to criminals who have for too long only been faced with wooden batons. If someone was committing an armed crime against me or my family, I would welcome the involvement of armed police. The people of Nottingham should be grateful that their police force is sending a clear signal to criminals.
Hugh Davidson, UK

Wake up Brits! You've abdicated your rights to self-defence by giving your firearms to the crown. Now only the criminal element have firearms and you're defenceless against them. Now you expect the Police to protect you without giving them the means to do so. I say you get what you deserve for abdicating your rights. Good Luck!
Steve Johanson, USA

In the US where gun ownership is almost universal the crime rate appears to be steadily falling. In the UK where you're not even allowed to shout too loudly at a criminal, crime is steadily increasing. Perhaps arming our police and citizens might just provide that critical deterrent to crime.
John Knight, UK

Of course police should carry guns. Over here they need war type of weapons because the criminals have better guns then the police. Come on I can't believe you don't let the police carry weapons to defend themselves. You can't be that far behind.
Elizabeth Sanders, USA

If the criminals have guns, then the police should have guns. It's that simple

Craig Karp, Texas
If the criminals have guns, then the police should have guns. It's that simple. Police should be able to respond to a crisis immediately, not having to dispatch the SWAT team from some remote location.
Craig Karp, Texas

As a police officer at one time I carried a gun every day. The continuation training was appalling, almost non-existent. In many cases now it hasn't improved. Personally I would like to see more armed coppers around but until proper and efficient training packages and venues are created it shouldn't happen.
Nick, UK

It all comes down to a matter of personal responsibility on each officer's behalf. We have seen far too many people killed by the police in situations that may well have been talked down (i.e. offenders with toy guns). My concern is that there are too many officers out there who will start to feel like John Wayne and get a little trigger-happy. I agree with 'Kate' that guns should remain in the minority. After all the corruption in the Met in recent years are we now to trust them with guns?
Tim Pilcher, UK

Over half of all police fatalities occur as a result of accidents and collisions on the roads

RP, England
Speeding cars have replaced guns, knives and swords as the greatest threat to the bobby on the beat. In an alarming development, increasing numbers of criminals are turning their vehicles into lethal weapons to escape justice. The last two police officers murdered on duty were both mown down by vehicles. Over half of all police fatalities occur as a result of accidents and collisions on the roads. The police also kill 20 or so innocent members of the public on the roads each year as well.
RP, England

I grew up in the UK and I now live in the US. The gun situation here is verging on the insane. I believe that to arm "bobbies" would indeed be an escalation of an already deadly problem. If they are armed then why would criminals want to match them? This is a never-ending cycle. It keeps getting worse. I have always been proud of the fact that guns are not a part of the culture in the UK. Equipping all policemen with firearms is only asking for the kind of spiral of violence that I witness here in the States every week.
Ander B, USA

The wearing of firearms by British police officers in one part of the UK is a move in the right direction, coming as it does when unarmed "bobbies on the beat" have not always been able to check the growing armed crimes. It will certainly be a deterrent. This decision will help the law and order machinery curb gun violence, murder and other crimes. The streets will now be a safer place. The police officers should, however, exercise extreme care and use the weapon sparingly, only when there is a genuine threat to the lives of the citizens. A situation should not arise when the protectors of the law turn trigger happy!
Albert Devakaram, India

Arming the police will enable them to react to a given situation more quickly

Michael, USA
I am an ex-pat living in the USA. Just because the UK took away the rights of law-abiding citizens to own their own firearms, criminals will still be carrying them. As you well know, gun violence in the UK is on the rise. Arming the police will enable them to react to a given situation more quickly. Wake up people - we live in an every shrinking global village, it's just a matter of time before all police are issued with firearms, get used to it.
Michael, USA

Where I live, I have more chance of seeing Elvis coming down the road towards me than a policeman on foot, armed or otherwise!
David Morris, UK

Surely this is a bad move. If the police carry firearms, then others will also feel the need and this will lead to an escalation in the prevalence of weapons on the street. I have visited many countries where the police are armed as a matter of course and I genuinely feel that those officers are less approachable because they carry a sidearm. You just don't feel as comfortable speaking to someone - no matter who they are - when you know they hold the power of life and death in their hands.
Peter Le Gresley, Jersey

The police force has a duty to protect the public

Graeme Miller, England
As the possession of firearms and their use in violent crime increases, it is obviously necessary to equip the police with a means to tackle these problems. The police force has a duty to protect the public, and we, as a society have a duty to support the police in their attempts to protect themselves. I would not imagine that any police officer, armed or otherwise would relish the idea of confronting an armed offender, but that is what we expect them to do. They certainly deserve our support.
Graeme Miller, England

It is interesting to note that the Government's pledge to rid the county of legal handguns to make our land a safer place has actually resulted in an increase in gun crime. Will the PM now admit his error?
Clive Smith, England

I can only agree with what has been said here already. Tougher control of firearms needs to be promoted and maintained. A serious reduction in black market and unlicensed weapons is needed to clamp down on an escalation in gun crime.
Chris, UK

It is a sad comment on British society that police on the beat have to be openly armed

Peter Haslett, Australia
In Australia police have been armed for a number of years and despite the fact that there are more guns in Australia than the UK there aren't that many shooting incidents between police and criminals. The important factor is the training police will have before strapping on any weapon. The sad fact is that there will be shooting incidents involving police where members of the public will be seriously or fatally wounded. It is a sad comment on British society that police on the beat have to be openly armed, but their lives are at risk from an element that is amoral when making decisions about using a firearm in their illegal pursuits.
Peter Haslett, Australia

We are now seeing an armed police force in the UK 'by the back door'. Surely Parliament is the only place to decide if the British 'Bobby' should be armed? The Police seem to believe they can operate outside the rules which govern the rest of the country.
Frank Fitzsimmons, Canada

Providing every policeman with a firearm normalises possession

Kate, UK
As the partner of a specialist policeman who carries a firearm every shift, I am totally against it being the norm being to carry weapons. They should be available to a small number of appropriately trained officers so that if a situation arises, those officers can be deployed immediately. Providing every policeman with a firearm normalises possession, and that will lead to more criminals feeling compelled to carry them with the inevitable results. It will make the police officer more of a target rather than less so.
Kate, UK

Ironic isn't it? The Government spends millions in compensation for the confiscation of thousands of legally-held hand-guns, on the basis that this will prevent a recurrence of Hungerford or Dunblanbe and thus make the streets safe. Now they plan to arm themselves anyway, why? Surely the streets are safe????
Neil, Scotland

NO. It wouldn't be a deterrent, it would be an escalation. However, I do believe that there should be an armed and highly trained response unit in touching distance of all areas - pretty much as there is now.
Jonathan, Denmark

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22 Oct 00 | UK
'Armed' police on the beat
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