Police Scotland: Shock poll showing many officers want access to firearms is a worrying sign for society – Scotsman comment

A new poll that suggests more than half of Scotland’s police officers would like to be able to carry a firearm has been described as a “shock” by the Scottish Police Federation.

More than half of Scottish police officers would like the option of being able to carry a handgun, according to a new poll (Picture: John Devlin)

But, as David Hamilton, the SPF chair pointed out, it may also come as a shock, at least to the public, that 22 per cent of officers have been assaulted while on duty in just the last three months.

Britain has long prided itself on having a largely unarmed police force, unlike most other countries. According to statista.com, in 2020 the UK was among just 18 countries out of 197 not to routinely arm its officers, along with Ireland, Malawi, Botswana, New Zealand and several small island states.

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While having access to firearms is not necessarily the same as being routinely armed, the fact that so many officers now feel they need it is a worrying sign that this relative British/Scottish ‘exceptionalism’ is diminishing.

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Of course, there is an obvious example of what can go wrong when the arming of police becomes routine. In the US, 33.5 per 10 million people are killed by officer, according to the Prison Policy Initiative Report, published last year, compared to less than 10 per 10 million in Canada and significantly less than one per 10 million in the UK.

Firearms officers in the UK are highly trained experts, but dramatically increasing their numbers would inevitably lead to more deaths, with a greater chance of mistakes being made.

Furthermore, a gun creates a target for criminals and violent mobs, something that an officer must defend and stop from falling into the wrong hands. Organised crime gangs would also be likely to respond by increasing their illegal arsenals.

The fact that most British officers do not carry guns helps to create an almost tangible impression of a peaceful and pleasant land, and we should not under-estimate the power of this idea.

But we cannot ignore the very real concerns of the people charged with keeping the rest of us safe.

So governments should look at alternatives, possibly including increased use of tasers, and simpler measures, like making sure there are enough officers to do the job, before deciding to join the rest of the world in making something with the potential for deadly force a normal, everyday sight.

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