British police have raised concerns that illegal firearms smuggled into the UK by organised criminal gangs could make their way into the hands of jihadi terrorists planning a Paris-style marauding gun attack.
Launching its new #GunsOffOurStreets campaign, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is urging members of the public to call police with any information they have on people who hold guns illegally in the UK, or instances of legally-held weapons being stolen.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the head of National Counter Terrorism Policing, commented: “Despite our good work we know that firearms can enter the criminal market through a variety of means, including thefts from legitimate holders or dealers.
“Law enforcement, together with security and intelligence services, are working tirelessly to locate these weapons, confront the terrorist threat and keep the public safe.
“It is imperative that we intercept these firearms before they can do immeasurable harm to our communities. Ultimately it is communities that defeat terrorism and our collective safety depends on everyone’s efforts to report criminality and a possible firearms incident.”
The warning comes after an apparent increase in the number of illegal weapons smuggled into the UK from Eastern Europe has led to a massive rise in firearms seizures on the streets of London.
Only last week, a report for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned that Britain’s poor border controls could help Islamist terrorists get hold of the weapons they would need to launch an attack on the capital. The author of the report, Lord Toby Harris, said a Paris-style marauding gun attack is the greatest terrorist threat London presently faces.
Despite Britain having some of the strictest firearms legislation in the world, the country’s porous borders have been an area of concern for security officials for some time. Earlier this year, the head of a gun smuggling gang who attempted to bring the UK’s largest illegal shipment of automatic weapons into the country was jailed for 30 years. It was later revealed that Harry Shilling obtained the weapons from the same source who supplied the Charlie Hebdo attackers.
Announcing the NCA’s new campaign, Lynne Owens, the organisation’s chief, said that while automatic weapons remained relatively hard to the get hold of in the UK, converted weapons from Eastern Europe and Baikal pistols were becoming more commonplace.
“The UK’s illegal firearms market is still geared mainly to criminals using weapons to protect against one another or to target one another, but we must be clear that one gun in the wrong hands in a public space is all it takes to cause devastation,” she told reporters.