On the June 20th a firearms licencing team, backed up by more than 20 police including two armed officers- appeared at the premises of a Merseyside shooting club announcing that they were there to carry out an inspection. This was the latest in a series of such surprise visits to clubs, RFD’s and FAC holders in the north-west. When asked why they had chosen to visit unannounced on that day and in such numbers, the club’s personnel were told that it was just “routine”. As a result of this raid, officers confiscated a number of weapons and the club has now had its Home Office Approval revoked despite no changes having been made since it was renewed in January following a real routine inspection. An appeal has been lodged with the Home Office and club members must now await the outcome. Unsurprisingly many of them see this action as part of a wider campaign, both in Merseyside and beyond, aimed at reducing the number of legally held firearms. And if the club members are not able to find a new place to shoot at other approved ranges, it will only be a matter of time before these members are told their FAC’s will also be revoked.
On July 1st the BBC announced that Merseyside police was to receive £4 million from central Government to aid a new initiative called Operation Target, aimed at checking a runaway epidemic of gun and knife crime (up by a third in 2018) in the region. According to the Chief Superintendent Matt Boyle, who is heading up the operation, this will “put officers where they are most needed”. At which point we should ask why 20 of those officers were needed to carry out a routine visit to a gun club, when normally it requires no more than two? This becomes especially pertinent given that Mr Boyle’s boss, Merseyside Chief Constable Andy Cooke, spoke last year about the real source of gun crime in his bailiwick, as he confessed that his force was struggling to stem the rising supply of illegal firearms coming into the UK from overseas.
Chief Constable Cooke, who is also the national policing lead for serious organised crime, told the Guardian newspaper there was an increase in the supply of guns coming into Britain. Mr Cooke said he was worried the trend would continue into 2019, adding: “We in law enforcement expect the rise in new firearms to continue. We are doing all we can. We are not in a position to stop it anytime soon.”
Through no fault of Matt Boyle or Andy Cooke policing has become something of a numbers game.
Operational success is measured by their masters and the media in convictions handed out and goods seized. And under such circumstances which catches the eye most? The seizure of an illegal smuggled gun destined for the hands of a serious criminal with goodness knows what consequences or 100 legally held firearms confiscated because, at the very worst, of irregularities in the paperwork? And which makes for the better soundbite?