The National Crime Agency and National Counter Terrorism Policing have joined forces to appeal directly to the public for information preventing criminals and terrorists gaining access to firearms and ammunition #GunsOffOurStreets.
The hard-hitting appeal urges the public to call Crimestoppers with any information about illegally held weapons entering the country or being stolen from legitimate gun owners.
With the current UK threat level from international terrorism remaining at severe, and at least 10 terrorist attacks foiled in the last two years, officers want to ensure that weapons do not enter the hands of the terrorists, potentially leading to an incident similar to that seen in Paris a year ago.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the head of National Counter Terrorism Policing, said: “In the UK our detectives have a unique tactical advantage in countering terrorism. The relatively low level of weapons, especially automatics, compared to Europe and America provides more opportunity to intercept terrorists before they acquire them. Indeed about half of the plots we intercept involve terrorists seeking to obtain weapons.
“But we cannot be complacent. Intensified counter-firearms operations by the National Crime Agency, the National Counter Terrorism Policing network and local forces, along with border force and other partners, are essential to maintain this advantage.
“We also need more help from the public and are appealing for people to come forward with information that will help keep communities safer from guns and prohibited weapons. Our message to the public is this: if you know anyone who may own or have access to an illegal firearm then please call Crimestoppers. Your call could help save lives.
“The current threat to the UK from international terrorism remains ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely. Of the attack planning plots that we have disrupted since 2013, nearly half of these have involved a firearms angle to some degree.
“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 NCA’s Director General, Lynne Owens, said: “Suppressing the availability of illegal firearms in the UK has never been a more significant priority for the law enforcement community. Criminal networks, who think nothing about who they sell firearms to, present a significant route by which extremist groups will try to access the sort of weapons used in recent attacks in Europe.
“This is where organised crime and terrorism cross over, and where the NCTP and the NCA come together, doing what we each do well, with a joint purpose.
“The NCA has active operations against the groups involved in supplying, distributing and providing access to firearms. In the last year the NCA and Regional Organised Crime Units have arrested 128 suspects in firearms related investigations.
“To stop weapons getting into the wrong hands we need intelligence about the firearms being used, both the supply and the access to them. We need to reinforce the importance of the public remaining alert to the potential threat and the role they play in helping to keep everyone safe.
“The appeal is intended to raise awareness amongst the general public and also families, partners, friends and associates of criminal or gang members and make them consider the deadly consequences of keeping silent.
“Anyone who has any information about illegally held guns or ammunition should either contact the police or if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”