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In the post-mortem examination of taxi driver Derrick Bird’s shotgun spree-killing, the U.K. police have come under fire for not stopping the maniac’s mayhem earlier. Why wouldn’t they? In a society where even the thought of arming the populace is as politically correct as smoking a cigar in a maternity ward, the natural desire for “answers” focuses on the people with the guns charged with protecting the people without the guns. The British media generally leaves the cops alone. In this case, they do as well—despite new information which casts a shadow on the U.K.’s unarmed policing policies. The reports . . .

CRAZED gunman Derrick Bird was cornered by police after killing three people but pointed his firearm at the ­officers and escaped to murder nine more, it emerged yesterday.

The confrontation happened after a chaotic car chase, during which the police drove in the opposite direction to Bird to avoid going the wrong way around a one-way system.

As 52-year-old Bird approached Whitehaven police station, two officers in a transit van turned the other way, observing the one-way regulations.

By the time they had driven round the town, Bird had killed three victims and shot and seriously injured a fourth.

The unarmed officers finally caught up with Bird’s grey Citroen Picasso but were forced to dive for cover when he pulled into a driveway and aimed his gun at them.

The incident has revived Ye Olde Debate over arming U.K. police. Here are some introductory stats from the BBC on police and firearms:

There were 6,868 authorised firearms officers in England and Wales as of 31 March 2009, according to government figures.

Armed Response Vehicle units patrol around-the-clock in marked cars, carrying pistols and Taser stun guns.

Their duty is to deal with spontaneous incidents. Their cars carry safes containing weaponry, usually including a shotgun, a “baton round” launcher – firing “less lethal” plastic projectiles – and a carbine gun, which is similar to a rifle.

There were 16,564 such incidents in the year to April 2009, according to government figures.

The article goes on to remind readers that the police themselves don’t want guns.

This is a matter that is debated periodically. The last push for increased use of weapons came after Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead in Bradford in 2005.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, called for a 5% increase in the number authorised to use guns.

However, when it surveyed 47,328 members, 82% said they did not want officers to be routinely armed on duty. This was despite almost half stating they felt their lives had been “in serious jeopardy” in the previous three years.

The UK has a tradition of policing by public consent and not by force.

The Federation’s Paul Davis said this reflected members’ desire to maintain the British tradition of “policing by consent” – as opposed to force.

“Our view has always been to have the right amount of officers on duty on any day to meet the assessed threat level,” he said, adding that any decision to arm more police would need rigorous public debate.

The Police Superintendents’ Association is also against the routine arming of police, arguing for the current policy of using a limited number of highly-trained specialists.

“Arming all officers would damage the traditional image of the British Police Service which is held in such high esteem the world over, primarily because of the difficult and dangerous job officers undertake unarmed,” it says.

Likewise, Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, said an unarmed police service remained “central to the British model”.

Reactions to individual cases “rarely make a good basis for changing the law”, he said, adding that the current arrangements allowed for flexible use of firearms teams.

So, steady as she goes. With a fresh wind under the sails of gun control groups seeking to make the U.K.’s draconian gun laws even more draconier.

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