Record number of guns seized in London over last year, says police chief

© Jorge Cabrera
A record number of firearms, including semiautomatic weapons, have been seized in London, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said.

Officers have seized more than 700 guns as the number of weapons smuggled into the country continues to grow, Hogan-Howe told a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.

“We’ve seized more firearms than ever before. In the previous year we’ve seized 714 guns – that’s around two per day.”

“In a city this size, that’s a worrying number. This is an increase on previous years. Some of them are semiautomatic weapons, too,” he said at the hearing hosted by Sophie Linden, London’s deputy mayor for policing.

Hogan-Howe warned the pattern also rings true for major British cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.

Figures from The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) reveal an increase in recorded lethal firearm discharges in London, with 302 recorded for the year up to August 2016, compared with 211 the previous year.

“We are targeting with the National Crime Agency (NCA) the supply routes. It’s either from abroad, it’s stealing legally owned weapons in this country, sometimes you’ve got to look at military supplies and also you’ve got to look at licensed dealers,” Hogan-Howe added.

The efforts are the latest in Scotland Yard’s initiatives over the last year to curb gun crime, reduce the number of illegal guns in the city, and combat the threat of terrorism.

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In May, Hogan-Howe warned the growing number of illegal firearms in circulation means that terrorists are more likely to get ahold of the weapons. That month, Scotland Yard launched Operation Viper, a gun crackdown initiated in response to the spike in shootings. Under the plan, armed patrols focus on gun crime hotspots across London.

In August, Hogan-Howe and London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced additional armed police patrols as part of the capital’s counter-terrorism effort, after an initial 600 armed police officers were added to the force in January.