A police commissioner has caused alarm among rank and file officers by suggesting that members of the public who own guns could help defend rural areas against terror attacks. Alison Hernandez, the Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner, said she was interested in having a conversation with the chief constable about whether ordinary people with gun licences could assist in a terrorist crisis.
The comments have caused alarm within the force and prompted a stern warning from a senior officer that citizens should not arm themselves.
— BBC Radio Cornwall (@BBCCornwall) June 12, 2017
Hernandez, a former Conservative election agent, made her comments during an extraordinary exchange with a caller to a phone-in programme on BBC Radio Cornwall. The caller, from Bude in north Cornwall, said she was a gun owner and a former firearms dealer and asked: “If there should ever be a terrorist attack, what happens if I and other people try to defend themselves using those guns? What would be the repercussions?”
Hernandez replied that it was a “a very good question” and asked the woman if she would put it in writing so that the chief constable, Shaun Sawyer, could consider it. But she then added: “This might be some of our solution to our issues.”
When challenged by presenter Laurence Reed if she was advocating vigilantism, Hernandez replied: “I’m just saying, let’s officially have a look at that and see what would be the implications of it. Let’s unpick it a little bit.
“We work with businesses to keep our communities safe. I’d really be interested in exploring that with the chief constable.”
The presenter asked the caller if she would be happy taking on a terrorist. She replied: “Yes,” prompting Hernandez to remark: “She’s not messing about. Don’t go down to Bude.”
The presenter said he could not believe the chief constable would entertain the idea of the public defending themselves with firearms. Hernandez replied: “I’m sure he wouldn’t want to entertain it, but these are times that are challenging and I would like to have an official response on that myself.”
The official response came swiftly from the deputy chief constable, Paul Netherton, who said: “Quite obviously, a marauding terrorist is the most challenging of circumstances. The police response requires significant professionalism and training as well as firearms capability. During these incidents, highly trained police firearms officers and special forces will be deployed to protect our communities.
— DevonCornwall Police (@DC_Police) June 12, 2017
“Under no circumstances would we want members of the public to arm themselves with firearms, not least because officers responding would not know who the offenders were, and quite obviously they would not have the time to ask. Our message to the public is a simple one: to run, to hide and to tell.”
Rank and file officers also made it clear that they did not believe it was a good idea for members of the public to take up arms. Janice Adam, from the Police Federation, said reacting to and dealing with any such incidents should be left to highly specialised firearms officers. There was no reply from Hernandez’ office on Monday evening.
Thanks to www.theguardian.com for this post.