Armed criminals turn to shotguns as police take pistols off South Yorkshire's streets
Police have been so successful in seizing illegal pistols from criminal gangs in South Yorkshire that organised criminals have been forced to rely increasingly on shotguns as their weapons of choice because they remain more readily available.
Until recently, many offences involving firearms in the area had involved handguns – which cannot be legally owned in any circumstances by private individuals since the Dunblane massacre in Scotland – but which had entered the criminal underworld through a variety of channels.
However, South Yorkshire Police have had a catalogue of successes in seizing such weapons which criminals have found impossible to replace – leaving them to switch to shotguns, which are bulkier and potentially less lethal but more readily available through burglaries and thefts because they can still be held on a licence by members of the public.
That has seen a situation emerge where armed gangs are now more likely to use shotguns and often when they are fired it is a result of ‘vendetta’ shootings among criminal rivals rather than innocent members of the public intended as targets.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings questioned the declining use of handguns at a meeting of his public accountability board, which are used to hold the South Yorkshire force to account.
He was told by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber: “We had an awful lot of success in removing them. We have had really significant numbers of firearms seized. We can plot these guns and have seized a lot of them.”
That has allowed police to prevent shootings with the sort of weapons they would have expected to see a year or more ago.
“What we have seen is firearms discharges with a far greater prevalence of shotguns,” he said.
A year ago there would have been more incidents with semi-automatic pistols and “on occasion, sub-machine guns” he said.