Comment: Arming our police is not the solution

Following the murders of policewomen Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, there have been calls to arm the police; this is not the answer, writes James Hallwood.


The cold-blooded murder of police officers Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone has shocked Britain. In response some are suggesting we routinely arm our police with the possibility that Elected Police Commissioners may run on such a ticket.

There could be few worse legacies for this horrific crime if this were to happen.

Along with Norway and New Zealand, the United Kingdom is one of the few nations that does not arm its regular police officers. Combined with the fact we have the strongest gun control laws in the world, British society is heavily sensitised to the sight of firearms. As a people, we tend to double take when we see an armed officer, a sight usually only seen at sensitive occasions or locations and as an understandable exception in Northern Ireland.

One of the foundations of our police force was Peel’s principle that “the police are the public and the public are the police”. As a civilian organisation the British police mirror the fact that as a society we are overwhelmingly unarmed.

The United States is the perfect example of a society that is desensitised to guns – 2009 figures show you were 40 times more likely to be shot in America than in England or Wales. We rightly see the murder of two officers as one of the worst crimes against our force in history, but in comparison 166 American cops died from gunfire last year alone.

Mark Duggan’s death sparked last year’s riots and the tragic shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes sparked a huge investigation. Yet for such emblematic incidents and mistakes the British police have killed 54 people since 1990 – while in just one year 414 ‘justified homicides’ were recorded in the US.

There will be moments when the police have to use or threaten lethal force but for these incidences we use Authorised Firearms Officers. These are spread throughout the country’s forces and are highly trained. We cannot expect everyday bobbies to deal with siege scenarios just as there can be few benefits to them carrying arms that may exacerbate lesser situations or undermine community engagement.

To roll out training and weapons to all constabularies would be unfeasible, particularly when the police face such heavy cuts. The PSNI model cannot be replicated as it works in a unique situation of high threat. Arming en masse would also flood our country with more guns that could well end up missing or stolen.

Critically, there are no voices from the Police Federation asking for routine arming. Despite accepting their lives have been at risk, in a 2006 poll, 82% of them rejected the need to carry guns on duty, while the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Superintendents’ Association described an unarmed service as “central to the British model”.

The police work best when they represent us as a society. We trust them more when their ethnic and gender make-up mirrors the communities they serve. Likewise were they armed, a British suspicion of guns would create a huge barrier between the force and a public that dislikes weapons.

Arming our police officers would be unprecedented and a singularly un-British step backwards. We may be a lone voice, but our gun control in the police and wider population is something to be proud of. It is something that makes the tragic deaths of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone an aberration not the norm.

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9 Responses to “Comment: Arming our police is not the solution”

  1. treborc1

    We must also ensure that this moron and his mates are never again seen on the street, and if he was given help to hide as is being suggested then the people who helped him get life terms to mean they spend the biggest majority of time behind bars.

    The killer I do not want to see him or hear from this freak again.

    Arming the police, well why not we have been heading down this road for a while and these young officers knowing we had an idiot on the lose should have been better protected.

    But with cuts to funding by the Tories maybe next time they will have one office not two so if one gets killed it’s better then two, I suspect this will be a defense for more cuts.

    I’m angry that two very young women officers were allowed to go on what is being called a routine call out, nothing can be routine when you have a piece of crap like him around.

    What a waste of two very young officers.

  2. Selohesra

    Im not sure arming police as matter of course would achieve anything other than start an arms race with that sort of thug – and in any case if the police shoot first they will be catigated and accused of insensitivity (as in Duggan case) and if they dont shoot first they will be just as dead as if they were not armed.

    Best deterant would be for life to mean life for police killers – with no luxuries like colour tvs in their cells and other priviliges

  3. Newsbot9

    If you arm the police you’ll finish off for good any chance of them being seen as anything but a tool of the White (c)hristian population. I can think of few better ways to ensure that Britain becomes not a mixing pot but a series of unmixed camps.

    The problem remains the fact that the police have pulled away from general society, and the recommendations of several reports on fixing this have been ignored by several governments.

  4. treborc1

    But they may well be alive, as for the police being a tool for Government or the white what ever , when was it not, I was bused to Yorkshire in 1983 as a young lad a miner, by the time we had finished I was in hospital having my jaw wired after being hit in the mouth by Thatchers Police.

    But lets be honest those two young officers have to be given the chance to defend them selves from a creep and if that means one of them is armed so be it.

  5. Newsbot9

    Then you have a situation where serious crimes are handled internally among communities, and law and order becomes for the Tories and their ilk only.

  6. treborc1

    Their ilk you mean labour, sorry but time ares changing and it seems life is cheap, cheap when your sent to war, and it seems cheap when a thug can lay in wait, I have no problem with guns when you have turf wars. In my back water we do not have shooting just stabbings ,maybe bullets cost to much other countries police carry guns so why no here.

  7. Newsbot9

    So you don’t have a problem with massive no-go areas for White British people, I see.

  8. William Ewart

    “The United States is the perfect example of a society that is desensitised to guns – 2009 figures show you were 40 times more likely to be shot in America than in England or Wales.”

    The inconvenient fact is that in the U.S. the right to Keep and BEAR arms have been increasingly restored over last several years and more citizens are now free to carry firearms in more places since the year 1900. Yet, homicides, including homicides with firearms, as well as all other violent crime have been decreasing since 2006. Moreover, after a dramatic increase in firearms sales and ownership after the last Presidential election including an increase in first time firearms purchases and an increase in firearms carry permits, citizen disarmament zealots and organizations predicted that there would be a corresponding increase in homicides and other violent crime. However, the U.S. homicide rate decreased from 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010 and all other violent crime decreased as well.

    Preliminary data from 2011 shows all Violent Crime was down 6.4%, Murder down 5.7%, Rape down 5.1%, Robbery down 7.7%, and Aggravated Assault down 5.9%.

    By contrast, The United Kingdom enacted extreme firearms bans years ago, and gun crime in the U.K. has double in a decade.

    Criminologists have found that U.S. citizens use firearms for self-defense 2.5 million times a year, and every life that is lost to firearms violence 65 lives are saved by firearms in self-defense.

    Suter E. “Guns in the Medical Literature – A Failure of Peer Review.” Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia. March 1994; 83: 133-48.

    It should also be noted that even though more citizens in the U.S. are legally carrying firearms, 2012 is on course for being the safest years for U.S. law enforcement officers in sixty years.

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