UK Police Urge Gun Owners To Hand Over Weapons

By Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.
May 8, 2022 Updated: May 8, 2022

Britain’s National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) has urged the owners of hundreds of gas guns, blank-firing pistols, and unregistered shotguns to hand them over before they are stolen and used in violent crime.

NABIS is co-ordinating a National Firearms Surrender, running May 12–29, and is asking people to bring in weapons so they can be taken out of circulation and destroyed.

People are being offered the right to surrender guns anonymously and Gregg Taylor, NABIS’s forensic lead, reassured people they would face no charges unless the weapon they handed in could be linked to a crime.

He told The Epoch Times: “If there’s been a shooting and the ballistic material has been left at the scene once we do that forensic analysis we can draw a conclusion, a guestimate, what weapon was used. So we know at any one point in time what the weapons of interest are, so if any of those type of weapons were to be surrendered it’s quite obvious we’d want to pull those out and check them.”

Taylor said the most commonly used guns in Britain were self-loading pistols (SLPs)—either illegally imported from Europe or converted weapons—and shotguns.

‘Tit-For-Tat Shootings’

He said: “When you look at the homicides, and you’re generally talking about gangs and territorial tit-for-tat disputes, the self-loading pistol is going to be the dominant feature there and, on occasion, a submachine gun. The majority are going to be SLPs or shotgun blasts.”

There are between 30 and 35 firearm-related homicides a year in Britain—compared to 20,726 in the United States in 2021—and Ian Head, NABIS’s head of intelligence, said: “Gun crime figures have been going down steadily since 2016 and they’re the lowest they have been since then.”

Both men welcomed figures from the Metropolitan Police, who said recently they had not had such a fatality in London since October 2021.

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, Graham McNulty, told The Guardian last month:  “We are picking up that urban street gangs and organised crime groups in London are finding it difficult to source and move around firearms.”

“When it comes to the supply of weapons we know it waxes and wanes over time, we don’t always know the reasons why, whether it’s a supply issue, changes in the legislation, whether it’s pro-active policing with successful operations to take key members out. … But historically criminals have always been looking for those loopholes within the law or however they can get those weapons into the country,” Taylor added.

Outside of London, there have been a number of gun murders, including two in the West Midlands in February.

On Feb. 25 a shotgun was used to kill John Jones outside his home in Stourbridge, near Birmingham, and two men have since been charged with his murder.

Taylor said shotguns were sometimes stolen from licensed owners but he said: “There are still unfortunately a lot of shotguns out there that have not been put on licence since the laws changed many years ago.”

In August 1987 gun enthusiast Michael Ryan shot dead his mother and 15 other people before taking his own life in the small town of Hungerford, west of London, in a massacre that shocked Britain.

Afterward, legislation was introduced that restricted the use of a number of weapons, including shotguns.

When the law was changed in 1988 many people did not register their shotguns or apply for a licence and the police are hoping many of these guns would be surrendered this month.

‘Pool Of Unregistered Shotguns’

Taylor said: “As well as the millions of legitimate shotguns that are out there, there is also a fairly large pool of unregistered shotguns. The aim of the surrender is to ask people ‘if you have got weapons lying around at home to surrender them because they can, if they get lost or stolen, fall into that criminal use phase.”

Handguns, which have been banned in Britain since legislation brought in after the Dunblane Massacre in 1996, are much sought-after by criminal gangs and NABIS said they are often converted gas guns or blank-firing pistols.

NABIS said they were aware organised crime always needed those with expertise in converting and adapting firearms.

Over the years a number of “underworld armourers” have been convicted, including former British Army sergeant Paul Alexander, who was jailed in 2009 after being convicted of supplying weapons and ammunition which were linked back to 28 crimes around Britain.

Last week Mane Gerell, a criminology professor at Malmo University pointed out there had been 27 gun-related homicides in Sweden in the first four months of 2022, with another 36 people wounded.

Gerell wrote on Twitter: “Sweden was already looking very bad on gun homicides from a European perspective, and 2022 so far is twice as bad as the average of past five years.”

Taylor said he could not comment on gun crime in Sweden but he said Britain was unlikely to see such a spike in the near future.

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.