Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, said on the radio this morning that she continued to be opposed to ordinary police officers in London being routinely armed. Britain is one of only three major western countries that do not routinely arm their police officers. The others are Norway and Ireland. The policy is to continue with small, elite, and mobile armed squads that are on sudden call and can deal with a terrorist incident.

There is no doubt that on Saturday night this proved very effective, with all three terrorists dead within eight minutes of the first 999 call being made, and only one innocent, non-fatal casualty from police action.

But what are the arguments for and against the arming of every constable? Could the wielders of knives or explosive backpacks be stopped more quickly by a single officer? Would this lead to more innocent parties being killed, or could it save lives? What are the professional arguments for and against?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 6, 2017 at 18:02
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    Living in a country where all police are armed, it has its trade offs. The criminals will also armed themselves. There will be shoot-out in the street/neighborhoods. Innocent people will be killed/injured. Especially in the 1st few years after the police get guns. It will deter certain types of crime, but not others. Gangs will get guns. Fortunately, after 3+ decades of living I have not experienced one in my not bad, but not-that-great neighborhood. Do research, most of the crimes reach the newspaper which is online. Some cities/states have public records you can view onlne.
    – cybernard
    Jun 9, 2017 at 14:00
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    One thing to consider is that, in the US, the biggest cause of death of police officers is suicide (and of course firearms are the most lethal way to attempt suicide).
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 11, 2017 at 12:32
  • This is way too broad, and quite opinion based.
    – James K
    Jun 17, 2017 at 18:54

11 Answers 11


A lot of the opposition to arming the London Police seems to be due to the Police themselves. The BBC explored this in 2012

A 2006 survey of 47,328 Police Federation members found 82% did not want officers to be routinely armed on duty, despite almost half saying their lives had been "in serious jeopardy" during the previous three years.


Arming the force would, say opponents, undermine the principle of policing by consent - the notion that the force owes its primary duty to the public, rather than to the state, as in other countries.

Great Britain is a bit of a unique case, where you have a culture that has been built from the ground up to deal with crime without being routinely armed. The other countries that do this kind of thing are also smaller populations with lower crime as well

  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • Many Pacific island-nations

So, if it works well there, why not disarm all police?

The best answer there is that Police are the first step in government authority. If you have a society that largely respects the police, the odds of an authority breakdown are low. The citizens backing the police can help keep other citizens in line. Note that most of the unarmed police list is in Europe, where crimes are lower, due in part to society (NZ is highly influenced by the European society effect as well).

But in many countries, the government is weaker, or mistrust of the police is higher. Guns, for better or worse, establish authority quickly. Brazil, which had a police strike, had to send in the Army to re-establish order. Armed police who draw their guns in limited circumstances are clearly preferably to the military holding weapons of war openly in the streets (terrorist responses notwithstanding).

That having been said, it's hard to say if arming British police would have helped in any of the recent terroist attacks. You have to send response at the point you're notified and then get that response to the scene of the incident. Yes, it could have helped the stabbed police officer, but faced with a gang of attackers unafraid to die, even that might not have stopped them. It would not have saved anyone who died from being struck by the vehicle. Arming police is not a panacea, or the U.S. would have no terrorist attacks.

  • 31
    For UK, perhaps you could say "Great Britain", please. The Northern Ireland Police Service has quite a different history, especially regarding firearms. (Also, as a footnote, I understand that the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary are routinely armed on patrol.) None of this undermines your excellent answer.
    – Qsigma
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:18
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    @Machavity It's relatively nuanced, but the fact to remember here is that the United Kingdom is short for "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom.
    – Richiban
    Jun 5, 2017 at 17:12
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    The BBC link doesn't go into why officers themselves oppose carrying guns. Here is an anecdote: "Some police have complained that officers are reluctant to sign up for firearms training because they fear being dragged through years of lengthy investigations in the unlikely event they have to use their weapon." Any data on the why of opposition to carrying guns would be enlightening. Jun 7, 2017 at 16:24
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    @PatricHartmann Not every policeman can get a special forces training, and in a situations of great stress sometimes panic takes over anyway. youtube.com/watch?v=1gh1rSIy67A here a guy with hammer is fired upon 15 times and only 1 bullet actually hits the intended target. Now the real question is - where did 14 others go?
    – Agent_L
    Jun 8, 2017 at 11:38
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    Consider adding China to your list. The vast majority Chinese police are not armed. Jun 8, 2017 at 19:44

But what are the arguments for and against the arming of every constable ?

  • Cost - it costs money to train, equip and maintain levels of competence.
  • Overkill (no pun intended) - most crime does not involve any weapon and most armed crimes involve edged weapons or blunt force weapons. These do not generally require a lethal weapon to stop. Likewise an awful lot of police work is simply dealing with domestic violence or public order offenses which simply become escalated when weapons are produced - e.g. a drunk won't generally respond better or worse to a firearm than a couple of well trained cops.
  • Mindset - most UK police regard their role and vocation as helping people. This even extends to trying to avoid harming criminals (often at considerable risk to themselves). Policing methods in the UK prioritize not harming people where possible.
  • Policing style - UK policing is generally not confrontational in its approach. I think they regard being armed as introducing an aura of fear to the image of the police with ordinary people. That's not how they do things.

Could the wielders of knives or explosive backpacks be stopped more quickly by a single officer ?

A knife yielding opponent is something a police officer is trained to handle. There is protection to parts of the body as well. The use of tasers and similar is permitted when available.

Explosive backpacks are an extremely rare occurrence. It would be ridiculous to design day-to-day police training, operations and equipment around such an event. The odds of even an armed response officer encountering such an event are small.

Would this lead to more innocent parties being killed, or could it save lives ?

Experience in the US would suggest that, regrettably, there are some officers who will shoot first and ask questions later. As comparatively rare as this may be, once is too often would be the view from the UK. Even the existing level of specialist armed response units has been considered too high outside of the context of terrorism.

What are the professional arguments for and against?

I can't comment directly on that, but it has been a consistent position of serving police officers, expressed through ballots by their representative associations, that arming officers on a normal basis is not desired. This runs from the lowest ranks to the highest.

I think it boils down to the less confrontational style of policing normally adopted by UK officers and the mindset that goes with it. I suspect if gun use by normal criminals were more common, this would change somewhat over time.

I think headline events like terrorist attacks, while the media gives the impression they're common-as-muck, are actually very rare events in the grand scheme of things and distort the picture.

Consider this question : how many people does a police officer save when he stops and warns a motorist off for driving like a fool ? In 2016 there were 1780 road deaths - just normal stupidity and accidents. I believe there was only one terrorism related death in 2016. Even with the appalling attacks in 2017, the number of road fatalities far exceeds the number killed by terrorists. I think serving officers recognize that the role of stopping and identifying terrorism is primarily one for the intelligence people, and should not distort day-to-day policing which saves a great deal more lives than the media would give the impression they do.

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    You should generally try to use citations or other references for your points. Jun 5, 2017 at 23:32
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    you severely underestimate domestic calls. Domestic calls aren't JUST 2 people yelling at each other. Often if police are needed to show up, some form of violence/fear of life has been added. Murder suicide over lover arguments happen all too much. I am not saying a gun is the best choice to help, I am simply saying, it isn't just a simple walk in the park "hello good sir please stop hitting your wife thank you" and walk off again. House calls are one of the scariest things an officer has to go through because they don't know what awaits in the home of someone who has merited a visit.
    – ggiaquin16
    Jun 7, 2017 at 17:44
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    "Explosive backpacks are an extremely rare occurrence. It would be ridiculous to design day-to-day police training, operations and equipment around such an event. The odds of even an armed response officer encountering such an event are small." And if one does design day-to-day police training, operations and equipment around something like that, all it takes is one individual realizing that they are not at all unlikely to be shot at, and switching to a dead-man's grip detonator control for all that to be moot -- or maybe even making the situation yet worse.
    – user
    Jun 8, 2017 at 12:14
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    A case in point is the ongoing trial for the death of Philando Castile in Minnesota. The officer involved was standing outside a vehicle, with the victim inside and seat belt on, talking through the window. The officer perceived a threat and immediately fired 7 rounds into the car, 5 of them striking the victim and 2 others coming dangerously close to other occupants of the car. It's interesting to note that had there actually been a threat and had the victim been wearing a bullet-proof vest, the cop had effectively disarmed himself. Too often having a gun determines the cop's response.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 11, 2017 at 12:42
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    I was stopped by the police visiting London once, and never have a meet so nice police officers in my life. They even thanked me for cooperating with them. Jun 11, 2017 at 13:10

It is interesting to note that that kind of terrorism is about the only case where widespread armed response makes any kind of sense at all.

The normal UK police (And I wish more politicians would remember this) operates (somewhat imperfectly) on the principals laid down by Sir Robert Peel:

The sworn duties of a police officer are:

  • The preservation of life.
  • The preservation of property.
  • The prevention of crime.
  • The apprehension of criminals.

In that order.

For most situations arming an individual officer with a weapon likely to be lethal is incompatible with at least the first duty of a Peeler because it raises the stakes and what would have been merely crime now becomes something where somebody might well die, it also raises the probability that a criminal will consider carrying a lethal weapon as being worthwhile (Still mostly uncommon over here, it gets you a much longer sentence).

In the terrorism case we have to ask, is the increased danger from giving weapons to officers who are nowhere near as well trained to use them as the specialist squads are, going to save enough lives to compensate for the inevitable accidents and 'heat of the moment' bullshit that WILL inevitably happen?

Given the difficulty an officer at the scene of something fast moving like that will have in even figuring out what is going on, 8 minutes to get people who drill for this stuff all the time on scene (With a command structure that is in possession of at least some facts) probably beats individual response by officers who do NOT drill for this stuff until doing it right becomes automatic. A panicking crowd is not a good place to be using a gun in anger for possibly the first time.

I would point out that an officer who is aware that he is facing a knifeman (Far more common in the UK) has options, an extending baton typically trumps a knife for reach, so does a taser, both are as effective in self defence as a gun against anything except a gun, and both are less likely to kill in the even of either a hit or a miss with a poor choice of backstop (Remember the first duty).

Even for a firearms unit the best result is no shots fired, it causes a great deal less paperwork.

Not perhaps a model that would work in the US, different Policing culture, and culture generally, different firearms availability, but I can see why the commissioner would not want to go there for the position as it exists here.

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    Did you mean Sir Robert Peel?
    – WS2
    Jun 5, 2017 at 23:46
  • 1
    Yes indeed! Must have been tired.
    – Dan Mills
    Jun 6, 2017 at 9:32
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    Not really, getting into a gun fight is a loosing proposition for both sides and someone might die, see the first duty! The usual strategy is to call in the specialists (Who always include a professional negotiator as well as a firearms team). Common criminals over here do not use firearms (earns you an automatic 5 years just for carrying it, and if you shoot (never mind kill) a copper they will NEVER stop looking for you). Close up a gun is really no better then a taser (But is more likely to kill), and at any sort of range, you need a LOT of practise to be any real danger to your target.
    – Dan Mills
    Jun 6, 2017 at 9:59
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    Also you might want to add, that especially in a densly populated area, firing a weapon always endangers anyone BEHIND the perpetrator as well. Since using a firearm as a police officer is something that happens extremely rarely and the training in using one - even in countries that do have their officers armed at all times - is often lacking. I can understand why regular duty officers would not even want to have one.
    – Adwaenyth
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:00
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    Gun carrying criminals are very rare in the UK, because carrying a gun is a very bad strategy. As soon as someone figures out you are carrying a gun, it's not one ordinary police officer coming after you, but an armed response unit. And to them the safest strategy for everyone is to come with so much power that the criminal doesn't have any chance.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:20

Could the wielders of knives or explosive backpacks be stopped more quickly by a single officer?

A police officer trained to deal with wielders of knives, like those in the London police force, can be quite effective at disarming or preventing further harm by stalling a wielder of a knife before further fatalities are caused, at least until armed backup arrives (which means less than ten minutes in a densely populated urban area like London). So, having an unarmed officer in that situation is not necessarily a total loss. A police baton and training and a canister of Mace could easily be sufficient to mitigate most harm from delay in access to police with firearms in a densely populated urban area.

Firearms have very limited effectiveness against people with explosive backpacks. There are many places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria, where explosive backpacks have been used regularly in the last several years, and in Israel, where explosive backpacks were used regularly for many years, where defenders with automatic weapons are almost ubiquitous. At best, a firearm can be used to force a suicide bomber to prematurely detonate explosives which can reduce the number of people harmed but rarely entirely prevents a deadly attack. More often, the explosives carried by a suicide bomber aren't discovered until it is too late to meaningfully mitigate harm at all.

Firearms can mitigate the harm caused with out of control vehicles (e.g., two recent cases in London, one in Nice, and one somewhere in Germany IIRC), by preventing the continued controlled use of vehicles as a weapon, but there is a narrow window of time to do so: (1) the time elapsed before it is possible to learn that the vehicle is out of control and the time when it starts to cause harm is usually a matter of seconds so eliminating all harm is virtually impossible, and (2) it is rare for the vehicle based mauling to last more than a few minutes at most before stopping anyway, with much of the harm often being caused early on, so there are limits to the benefits of firearms to stopping out of control vehicles.

The biggest benefit to having police officers universally armed with firearms, in terms of preventing mortality, is probably their ability to stop "active shooters" much more effectively than an unarmed police officer, for example, in a case like the Paris nightclub attack. An "active shooter" can do immense harm in a very short marginal period of time, and an unarmed officer can do little to stop them without grave risk of simply becoming another casualty. There are numerous instances of police and private security stopping active shooters in the U.S. who might have caused more deaths if they could continue. In some instances, a quick draw by an officer can even prevent innocent casualties.

The upshot of this is that the usefulness of universally armed police is significantly a function of the probable threats that the force will face. The more likely it is that the threat will be someone armed with a firearm, the more benefit there is to having universally armed police. The less likely it is that a police officer will encounter an armed threat, the less benefit there is likely to be to arming the police.

Would this lead to more innocent parties being killed, or could it save lives? What are the professional arguments for and against?

Downsides to a universally armed police force:

  • In places where guns are very hard to gain access to (such as Japan and Great Britain), one of the important ways criminals gain access to guns is by seizing them or stealing them from police officers. For example, you don't necessarily want a prison guard patrolling the halls in a prison where inmates can come close enough to touch him to be carrying a firearm. You want to leave the firearms in those cases to guards who are in places where they aren't interacting directly with inmates (e.g. guards in guard towers rather than guards on an exercise field).

  • A police officer with a firearm is likely to make different choices about how to handle a volatile situation than a police officer who does not have a firearm. For example, faced with someone with a knife who is mentally ill or on drugs or a brawling person who poses a risk of using non-deadly force, a police officer with a firearm is much more likely to shoot and kill the knife or non-deadly fore wielder than a police officer without a firearm who is more prone to retreat and focus on defusing the situation. Similarly, a police officer without a firearm is likely to be far less tempted to try to kill a fleeing perpetrator who committed a non-capital crime.

  • A reduced likelihood of unnecessary police shootings (of both innocent and non-innocent people who are shot) can make it more likely for people to trust police which can make it easier for police to do their jobs with public cooperation which can often outweigh the benefits of having access to a firearm. Minority populations in the community that trust the police and provide them with tips are frequently the most powerful possible tool to prevent terrorist attacks as opposed to merely mitigating harm once terrorist attacks are begun.

  • People who commit violent crimes may be more likely to arm themselves with firearms or other comparably dangerous weapons if police are likely to be armed than if police are unlikely to be armed.

  • A certain small percentage of people who routinely have access to firearms commit suicide with those firearms or harm themselves or others through firearms accidents, and the amount of harm by these means is roughly proportional to the number of people who routinely have access to firearms. These harms are reduced both by having fewer officers with routine access to firearms, and by causing the few officers with routine access to firearms to be better trained to use firearms on average and more carefully supervised on average.

Again, an important part of the calculus hinges on the threat matrix faced by police officers. Some of the downsides (like theft of police firearms and an "arms race" with criminals) are the biggest concerns in places where firearm ownership rates among the general public and even more importantly the rates at which criminals have access to firearms are very low. Also, the concerns about suicide, accidental harm, and wrongful escalation due to the availability of firearms, while real and quantifiable, aren't huge. So, those concerns are only overwhelmed if the benefits from having universally armed police (which is primarily gaining an advantage against armed criminals) are pretty low - something that varies from place to place.

The bottom line is that while it makes sense for law enforcement to be unarmed in places where criminal access to firearms is extreme low (e.g. Japan and Great Britain), it makes considerably less sense when criminal access to firearms is commonplace (e.g. the U.S. and Mexico).

  • You should generally try to use citations or other references for your points. Jun 6, 2017 at 6:48

I live in the US and I don't have a specific position on the gun ownership subject - it is very complicated to balance history, social issues, liberty, etc.

However, it does add a complication to policing. A contributing factor as to why gun use is not widely needed for policing in the U.K. may be tied to the lack of widespread gun ownership.

According to the [2010] figures for England and Wales, there are 138,728 people certificated to hold firearms and they own 435,383 weapons. There are 574,946 shotgun certificates which cover 1.4 million shotguns. Statistics for Scotland show that 70,839 firearms were held by 26,072 certificate holders at the end of last year. Some 50,000 people in Scotland are certificated to hold shotguns - and 137,768 weapons are covered by that scheme. "Gun control and ownership laws in the UK". BBC News, 2010

While criminals (and terrorists) will be creative in their methods of violence, limits on gun ownership may have some limiting effect on criminal gun use. I do not have evidence available to demonstrate this. Anecdotally, I would point to case examples like the UK and Japan, where strict gun laws and low gun crime seem to correlate. However, there are other examples such as Australia which has a higher volume of guns owned, but a relatively lower occurrence of gun crime. Therefore, it is not necessarily true to consider that a high number of guns means a high occurrence of gun crime. Consideration also has to be made for areas where an extensive illicit guns market exists. This illegal market creates issues for analysis because the usual methods to track gun ownership cannot accurately account for illegal gun ownership. However, I think that in looking for solutions, it is important to consider which countries may point to potential successful methods, and fewer guns seems to be one successful method.

The OP question also requires the consideration of what are the potential implication of arming all U.K. police. One of the fundamental concerns that underpins the US 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights (an addendum document to the US Constitution), is that an armed authority without an armed public could lead to a dangerously unchallengeable authority. While the US has gone the way of mutual armament, it may be that mutual disarmament is an important pillar to maintaining the balance of security and authority. If you arm one side (i.e. the police), it can be a slippery slope - where the short-view would benefit a particular event, but may lead to long term complications. Once you begin down that path, there may be unintended consequences and reactions. Currently in the US the question is, "Is it possible to unring the bell?". It is unclear how a policy to disarm police from their guns wouldn't serve to endanger police given that they are policing an armed general public. It would seem that when considering expanding gun usage in a society, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"

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    In principal, the founders of the Metropolitan Police service put constables in great danger, because criminals were (and are) well armed with knives and worse. The collar of the early London police uniforms were a protection against a garrote. Yet, in practice, the police took (and still take) that risk, and established the policing by consent that Machavity described.
    – Qsigma
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:29
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    "limits on gun ownership creates a limiting effect on criminal gun use." It's false... i live in Brazil... here we have a very low legal gun ownership rate and one of the most restrictive laws on civil gun ownership... But despite it, we have one of the highest murder and gun violence rates in the world. The illegal guns come from the vast borders... and those guns, used especialy by drug dealers, outclass even the police equipment. Jun 5, 2017 at 18:56
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 8, 2017 at 1:21
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    @bloodmagew Apparently it does work so in the UK. Also, I recall reading the memoirs of a Scotland Yard superintendent (this was from the 60s, so may be a bit dated). He was very clear in his view that it adds to the police safety that the criminals also know that the officer is not carrying. Neither in the UK nor in the US will a criminal want to become a cop killer - that's bad for you! His opinion was that criminals would often carry only because the police carrying leaves them with less options. Jun 8, 2017 at 18:09
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    @bloodmagew No. You presented an example that "limits on legal gun ownership". If you had a successful restriction on all gun ownership that would change the situation considerably and in the UK that is what we have. Virtually no-one in this country carries a gun, criminals included. As soon as a gun is involved you get a massive response from heavily armed and specially trained units so as a result using one is considered more risky than not..
    – Tim B
    Jun 9, 2017 at 11:04

Any discussion of armed policing for anti-terrorism purposes in the UK without including Northern Ireland during the Troubles is woefully incomplete.

NI not only had armed police, it had armed troops from the Parachute Regiment and others. Troops were deployed on patrols, day and nighttime traffic stops, border searches, and at demonstrations. This resulted in a number of killings of unarmed civilians which made the political situation significantly worse.

The most prominent of these became known as "Bloody Sunday":

British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march against internment. Fourteen people died: thirteen were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Other protesters were injured by rubber bullets or batons, and two were run down by army vehicles.


Following a 12-year inquiry, Saville's report was made public in 2010 and concluded that the killings were both "unjustified" and "unjustifiable". It found that all of those shot were unarmed, that none were posing a serious threat, that no bombs were thrown, and that soldiers "knowingly put forward false accounts" to justify their firing.

Routine arming of the police makes unnecessary death more, not less, likely. In the context of political violence there is a special risk of making the situation worse. The Met have already shot someone by mistake. It would take only one or two mis-identifications of Muslims as suicide bombers to completely destroy community relations and any possibility of people turning in suspected terrorists from their communities and families.


Arming the police at large likely wouldn't help much in terms of saving lives in aggregate. The two big reasons would be that the police still have to respond to incidents, and more armed police means a better chance of police misconduct with their guns resulting in more deaths.

Using mass shooting data from the U.S. we can get an idea of how effective attackers can be before police response. The average mass shooting stopped by police kills 12 people, while private citizens intervening often means there aren't enough deaths to qualify as a mass shooting. While the number of deaths from attacks in the UK where guns are much less common would be lower overall, it still illustrates that any response time is too much because its the first few minutes that are critical.

Arming police also means that they will kill more people than unarmed police, whether that happens to be closer to the U.S. rate of nearly 1,000/year or something more in line with everywhere else is something that can't really be known.

Arming police would save lives in instances where attacks happen with police already at the scene. If an 8 minute response time for special armed police can be the average response time when needed that puts it as fast or faster than similar response times for current Police, so arming all police wouldn't necessarily improve armed response time. This would come at a cost of more civilians being shot/killed by police simply by the massive increase in potential situations.

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    Not sure if it's a good idea to compare the UK to the US here. The US is a very different country in many ways (police policy, gun culture, etc.) A better comparison would be Ireland (which arms its police force I believe) and/or mainland Europe.
    – user11249
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:46
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    @Ryathal Please provide a source for "private citizens intervening often means there aren't enough deaths to qualify as a mass shooting." The source you linked explicitly says that you cannot conclude that. Jun 5, 2017 at 14:51
  • @WayneWerner I think it is accurate to describe the perpetrator as an armed private citizen as well. That is part of the complexity of the argument, but I am unsure how to balance the two scenarios. Jun 5, 2017 at 17:07
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jun 6, 2017 at 6:06
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    @WS2 : One customer with a heart condition or a respiratory condition and, yes, it could be fatal to the innocent. And it might not stop a knife yielder completely. Tear gas is for controlling mobs (that is to say, deterring them, partially disabling them temporarily.). A pepper spray is not indiscriminate - it's targeted, whereas tear gas is simply a going to affect everyone, good and bad. Most ordinary people, armed or not, will not attack but will try to withdraw, so I think armed waiters would not work. And what if I didn't tip enough ? :-) Jun 7, 2017 at 22:26

Even as a citizen of the US, I don't see that arming all London bobbies would have made any difference.

In this particular case, the assault was carried out by a vehicle (hard to stop with a sidearm), and knives, which can be counteracted with nonlethal devices such as pepper spray or tasers that have the side benefit of not hitting civilians on a crowded London street. Maybe an 'assault taser' that sprays out charged darts is in order? That attack was carried out by terrorists who have no objective other than killing as many defenseless people before they are killed, which is particularly difficult to anticipate.

One thing I admire the UK for is being able to not arm its police. I believe the same is true of Japan - most of the policemen on the street are not armed. (and I say this as a long time firearm owner who takes pride in marksmanship) In the US, that's not possible - too many illegally owned guns, too many criminals already shooting at each other. Once you let that genie out of the bottle, it stays out.

It would be far better to address the source of terror. Instead of arming bobbies, boost the funding for the SAS so they can hit ISIS harder in their homes, not yours. I thought the SAS sniper igniting the flamethrower tanks of three ISIS maggots about to incinerate a group of villagers, burning the murderers up instead, was particularly stylish.

Wipe out a good deal of their leadership, and they might think twice before inspiring people to attack London again.

  • 2
    "harder in their homes" - unfortunately a lot of the recent terrorists in the west have come from the west. The previous attacker in March was given the birth name "Adrian Russell Elms" and lived in Kent.
    – pjc50
    Jun 6, 2017 at 16:27
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    No, hit ISIS leaders in their homes, which right now is Syria and portions of western Iraq. It is the leaders that incite this behavior. So, you're an ISIS leader, just saw a British smart bomb take out two or three of your fellow leaders... are you going to encourage more attacks on the UK, or somewhere else? After all, you don't see ISIS attacking Israel, do you? That's a curious omission, until you realize that the Mossad is very good at finding and killing the leaders that order any such attacks.
    – tj1000
    Jun 6, 2017 at 17:11
  • Are you sure the Japanese police are not armed? I lived there briefly in the 1970s. It was my recollection that they did carry guns.
    – WS2
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:40
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    Ultimately the thing that stopped the IRA and forced them to the negotiating table was infiltration. MI5 had people planted inside the organisation, a few at a very high level. It may be what is needed with these Islamic groups, but one senses it will take a long time.
    – WS2
    Jun 7, 2017 at 16:05

One additional point: where do you get the training time?

With a police force already working hard under a heightened threat level, how do you afford the time to train them all? Just to shoot straight would take some time. Training in how to react appropriately in a wide range of plausible threat situations would take even longer.

What risks would be opened up by taking police off the streets and onto the firing range?

As a fairly extreme but not completely unrealistic example, putting all traffic enforcement on hold would presumably lead to more risk-taking on the roads, where over 30 people a week are killed already. A tiny increase in this number for a short time would be greater than all terrorism-related deaths in the UK.

  • 1
    I knew a police officer who volunteered for firearm training, but failed his test, more than once. It is not easy.
    – WS2
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:33

I am going to chime in From the U.S. so take this with a grain of salt.

Here in the U.S. We want and maintain our rite to bare arms. It's generally thought that having a population armed, and a state armed is MUCH better then having a unarmed population and a armed state. It's also thought that an unarmed state just is not possible. Historically this was true as the U.S. "conquerored" the land it now holds. Today it may not be as true.

Even here in the U.S. where a lot of house holds have access to one or more guns. (Guns In America) Police just don't need them for the huge majority of calls. (Cops pulling the trigger). Most cops never fire their weapons. It's not like the movies where cops slide over the car hood and empty a clip into a huge crowd of people.

We do have here, the same concept of "SWAT" teams that are specially trained and geared for situations where gun play is likely. The point is even here were every cop gets a gun, when gun fire is expected, time to call SWAT.

In Great Britain, there really is no need for the average police officer to carry a gun. Most of your population doesn't have access to a gun and the criminal element usually has even more restricted access. By contrast here in the U.s. criminals can get a hold of guns pretty easy.

A law abiding citizen, or a citizen that has a normal encounter with the police (speeding tickets, domestic violence, parking tickets, public intoxication etc) really isn't a threat to a cop. A person intent on breaking authority is a problem, but how likely is that person going to be to get a gun in Great Briton? Now from those cases subtract the number of people that are "Crazy" enough to make their own weapons, use explosives, or just go to extreams to cause loss of life.

I mean just a quick comparison, every U.S. gun toting cop and citizen couldn't stop 9/11. Nor could they stop the recent Orlando Fl. Gay Club shooting. Everyone having a gun won't stop someone determined to kill as many others as they can.

  • 3
    Huh, never knew that everyone in the United States has the right to perform rituals wearing a sleeveless shirt. Learn something new every day :-)
    – user11249
    Jun 7, 2017 at 1:56
  • 2
    There are more illegally held firearms in Britain than you might think. But "shootings" are thankfully relatively rare. One advantage of gun control to the police is that the mere possession of an unlicensed weapon gives them reason to make an arrest, which can lead to other discoveries, as such people are almost always involved in serious crime, usually with drugs. Hence such people usually keep what weapons they have under tight wraps.
    – WS2
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:29

Are any of the recent attacks ones where the suspects were seen, their actions identified, but they were unable to be stopped due to lack of firearms by police?

Lacking any indication of that, I'm not sure what the argument is for such a change. My argument against is that there does not seem to be an argument for it, and that any change that is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist is going to be a change for the worse.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Jun 6, 2017 at 14:39

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