Why don’t police officers in the UK have guns?   no comments

Answer by Tim Dees:

For the first 150 years or so of the U.K.’s current model of policing created by Sir Robert Peel, guns weren’t needed. Private firearms ownership in the U.K. is relatively rare as compared to the U.S. Handgun ownership is very rare. Some people own shotguns or rifles for hunting, but they’re generally kept at a hunt or gun club, not in private residences. Gun crimes were fairly rare.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.K. experienced an increase in gun-related crimes and a general escalation of violence. They also had to deal with “The Troubles,” e.g. guerrilla warfare fought by the Irish Republican Army and other terrorist organizations. This caused the U.K. police to rethink their position on deploying armed police officers.

Experienced officers with good performance records are screened and selected for firearms training. The vetting and training process is considerably more rigorous than police in the U.S. receive, as is the ongoing training that firearms-qualified officers receive during the rest of their careers while in that assignment.

Firearms-qualified officers do not normally carry their weapons at work, although those officers assigned to airports may be armed at all times with a fully-auto-capable rifle and handgun. Constables on regular patrol duties are assigned in pairs to armed response vehicles that carry the firearms and ammunition in a locked compartment. The firearms are deployed only on the order of a qualified commander, or on the constables’ own initiative in very restricted circumstances.

Although U.S. police can’t imagine working unarmed, many (if not most) U.K. constables have no desire to carry firearms. I saw several interviews of U.K. constables in the 1980s, when the firearms-qualified constables were first deployed. Many regular constables said they would leave the police service if required to carry firearms. It’s just contrary to the U.K. police custom and culture.

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Written by Tim Dees on June 26th, 2014