A number of high-profile events have reignited the debate over whether UK police officers should carry guns over recent years, including the shooting of Yassar Yaqub in Huddersfield on 3rd Jan, the death of Mark Duggan in 2011 and events inspiring Black Lives Matter protests in the US and elsewhere. The vast majority of UK officers don’t carry guns currently, although numbers have risen since the Paris attacks of 2015.
Can unarmed police protect us effectively?
Those arguing that officers should carry guns often point out that police need to be able to protect themselves if they are to protect the public. The rising number of gun-related crimes in the UK has also convinced many that the police should be armed. However, some suggest that more members of the public will gain access to guns if more officers use them, a claim that has been attacked by many in favour of armed police. Many of those favouring more officers being given guns also claim that would-be terrorists are more likely to be stopped in their tracks if they are armed.
More impulsive shootings by Police Officers?
Some on the against side of the argument claim arming police will make no difference when it comes to thwarting terrorist attacks. Many say that terrorists are no more likely to be deterred if police are armed. Training and arming police could also prove costly, using resources that could be invested elsewhere at a time of tough cuts. Another ‘against’ argument suggests that people are less likely to approach the police for help if weaponry is visible. There are also fears that guns will be used even when this is unnecessary, in the heat of the moment, leading to unlawful deaths.
A long-running debate
The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes is regularly cited during debates about arming police, though the death was never ruled as ‘unlawful’. The Ferguson shootings have also raised concerns about the consequences of arming more officers. The number of police authorised to use firearms has actually fallen over recent years, with 5,639 in March 2016 compared to 6,906 in 2009. The debate about whether armed police should be commonplace is showing no signs of slowing down.