THE SUN - London terror attack proves why ordinary police need firearms training and must carry guns, says ex-Met gun cop. British paranoia about guns clouds common sense
By Tony Long, ex-Met firearms officer who shot and killed three people in the line of duty
WHEN you go on holiday to Spain and see police with guns, picking up little kids and having their photo taken, do you think you are in a police state?
No, it is a myth that having armed officers on the street turns a country into a police state.
We don’t think twice about the fact the man or woman who checks our passport at Calais is armed.
We have armed officers at every airport in the UK and the deterrent seems to work because not one has fired a gun in a terrorist incident.
It is fair to say that many Americans are obsessed with guns but in Britain we have a phobia about them.
I went through Heathrow four weeks ago with a friend who is in the firearms trade and he had a sticker of a gun on his laptop — and security told him he was not to take the laptop out of his bag in the departures lounge because it might upset people.
That paranoia about guns clouds common sense to the point we have unarmed officers as the first line of defence outside the Palace of Westminster, a prime terrorist target.
And we put people with guns behind them.
It should be the other way round. We need to protect the public.
events proved armed police officers can save lives.
Had Khalid Masood decided to drive into the crowds at the other end of Whitehall, in Trafalgar Square, there would have been no one with guns to stop him.
That’s the same for any other part of the UK. He just happened to attack the one place where there are more guns than anywhere in the country.
And why are they there? To protect the politicians. It’s time we gave the public the same protection.
We don’t train ordinary patrol officers to use a handgun. Instead, we make armed officers really specialist.
We train them in close protection, to be snipers and even hostage rescuers.
We make it really difficult to pass the firearms test, so smaller forces have problems getting officers of the right quality to do the training.
It means we have highly trained officers, spread very thinly, and the likelihood is they will probably be in the wrong place at the wrong time when needed.
county such as Warwickshire has only 35 armed officers to cover the whole county, 24 hours a day, so probably at any one time you have only six on duty.
What happens, then, if a major incident occurs? It is likely the force will be waiting more than an hour for back-up to arrive.
Now is the time to act. We should adjust the bar for firearms training and allow ordinary officers to patrol with guns to protect the public, wherever they live.
Not every officer with a gun needs to be a highly trained specialist.
But to keep the public safe, we need more firearms training for the ordinary copper.