Cameron Puts More Armed Police on Streets to Combat Terrorism

  • Additional 1,000 officers will be able to use firearms
  • Move announced at nuclear summit follows 2015 Paris attacks

Armed British police officers guard the Big Ben following a series of explosions in Brussels.

Photographer: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

The U.K. is to increase the number of its armed police by a sixth as a response to recent attacks in Europe that have seen terrorists make coordinated strikes against multiple targets.

Around 1,000 extra firearms officers will be recruited, 400 of them outside London, and they’ll be given 40 new armed response vehicles, Prime Minister David Cameron said during a visit to Washington to discuss nuclear security.

“After the terrorist attacks in France last year, we decided to look at whether there was more we could do to protect people from the type of terrorist threat we now face,” Cameron said in a statement. “That’s why we’re increasing the number of specially trained armed officers up and down the country to make sure the police have greater capability to respond.”

Britain’s police force is largely unarmed -- out of 120,000 officers, just under 6,000 can carry weapons -- something made possible by tight rules on gun ownership. There are only about 30 deaths due to gun crime each year, compared to more than 8,000 murders involving firearms in the U.S. in 2013, according to the FBI.

The expansion of armed police is taking place alongside military contingency plans for as many as 10,000 troops to be deployed in response to an attack.

The Nuclear Security Summit that the prime minister is attending in Washington is due to discuss ways to protect civil nuclear programs from terrorism. Later this year, British and American security officials will simulate a cyber-attack on a nuclear power plant to test their responses.

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