After 552 seizures, firearms campaign warns: “Know the gun, know the law, know the consequences”
The National Crime Agency is warning young people: “You only get one shot in life – don’t blow it.”
The Agency – which leads the UK’s fight against serious organised crime – is urging people to know the gun, know the law and know the consequences of illegal possession of firearms in the UK in a new campaign.
Although firearms crime in the UK remains low compared with other countries, there has been an upward trend in recorded offences since 2014.
In the last two years the NCA alone seized 552 firearms in operational activity supported by police.
Now, in a bid to raise awareness among people interested in firearms or on the fringes of crime gangs, the Agency has launched its latest campaign with targeted online adverts on channels including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. More information and our partner social media toolkit can be found on the illegal firearms page.
The work is designed to encourage vulnerable young people to stay away from illegal firearms – and understand that possessing one could ruin their lives.
Matthew Perfect, NCA firearms threat lead, said: “Young and easily influenced people need to know that they’ve only got one shot in life – so don’t blow it.
“Life is full of opportunities but illegal firearm possession can result in very lengthy prison sentences and convictions that will wreck their hopes for the future.
“It’s illegal to possess most firearms in the UK without a licence.
“We are urging people to know the gun, know the law and know the consequences.
“Naivety or ignorance are not excuses.
“The stakes are very high.
“Where firearms fall into serious criminals’ hands, it often leads to the loss of life.
“And those criminals should know that where they exploit the vulnerable to smuggle firearms around the country we and our policing partners will pursue them tirelessly.
“The use of firearms is often associated with drugs gangs which devastate communities.”
Deputy Chief Constable Helen McMillan, National Police Chiefs’ Council firearms lead, said: “This campaign highlights the important ongoing work by UK law enforcement to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and other serious incidents due to armed criminality.
“Even though the UK traditionally has lower rates of gun crime than Europe or the US, we still need to do more to make our communities feel safe.
“Ignorance of legislation is no excuse and we will tackle those who break the law.”
Pauline Sergeant, chairperson of the charity Mothers Against Violence UK, said: “We support the firearms prevention campaign. We have personal experience of the devastating impact of gun violence, especially on the lives of young people.
“We are confident young people can improve our communities, ensuring the prevention of gun crime and the trafficking of illegal weapons.”
Criminals will go to any lengths to secure viable weapons including stolen shotguns and converted low velocity blank firing weapons.
While criminal groups are known to smuggle firearms into the UK, a proportion of illegal firearms are brought into the country simply by people acting out of naivety or ignorance of UK firearms laws.
This is particularly the case with certain blank firing weapons which in some parts of mainland Europe are legal to possess and sell, but are illegal in the UK.
UK law enforcement knows through the number of firearms recovered, that convertible blank firers are currently popular with offenders.
Since 2018, there has been an increase in people acquiring blank firearms.
The bulk of the 552 recovered firearms were imported from European suppliers and shipped to UK customers through fast-parcel or post. The emergence of blank firing weapons being converted remains of concern with indications that young urban street gangs prefer this weapon due to its ready availability.
National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) data shows that 40% of inferred firearms – a weapon not recovered but identified through recovered ammunition – in 2016/17 were converted, modified or reactivated weapons manufactured overseas.
In 2020, firearms activity remained broadly stable in comparison to previous years, with a slight decrease on 2019.
A small proportion of lawfully-held firearms, such as shotguns, are stolen for criminal use. Theft of shotguns declined in 2020, almost certainly due to Covid-19 restrictions on movement. Shotguns are typically stolen from license holders in rural areas and used by criminals in urban areas. While such thefts may be targeted, most are the result of opportunistic burglary.
If you have any information about illegal firearms or any concerns about people’s access to firearms, please report it to police or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
1 February 2021