Number of weapons seized at UK ports triples

The number of firearms and other weapons seized at UK ports has trebled in a year.

More than 6,300 guns and associated paraphernalia have been taken by Border Force officers in 2016/17 – a sharp rise from 2,299 in the previous 12 months which included the UK’s biggest ever gun smuggling plot.

The haul comprised of 110 real and 353 imitation firearms, and 5,849 related items such as pepper sprays, gun parts and stun weapons. All were seized from across air, rail and sea ports.

Rifles, shotguns, handguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons are all classed as firearms by the Home Office, as are pepper sprays, high-voltage electric stun guns, high-powered air rifles and tear gas.

A spokesman for the department, which disclosed the figures on Thursday, said: “The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world and we are determined to keep it that way.

“As well as making physical checks on arriving luggage and cargo, Border Force works with their fellow law enforcement agencies, using intelligence and advanced technology, to detect and stop dangerous weapons at the border.”

Britons are being urged to hand over illegal firearms during a fortnight-long gun amnesty

Image: Rifles, shotguns, handguns and automatic weapons are all classed as firearms by the Home Office

A number of legal requirements have to be met to lawfully import firearms and ammunition into the UK.

Prospective owners must be assessed by the police as not posing a threat to public safety and having good reason to own a firearm, with anyone who has been jailed for three years or more barred from having one at any time.

Organisations such as shooting clubs, museums and firearms dealers must also apply for licences.

“Applicants should be able to demonstrate to the licensing authority that they require their firearm on a regular, legitimate basis for work, sport or leisure (including collections or research),” Home Office guidelines state.

“Chief Officers are able to exercise discretion over what constitutes a good reason, judging each case on its own merits.”

The number of other forbidden items seized at ports has also seen a sizeable increase in the last year, including so-called zombie knives, which were banned in August 2016, and knuckledusters, which are both classed as “offensive weapons”.

Around 10,935 such items were seized in 2016/17, up from 8,931 in 2015/16. The haul came from both “targeted operations and routine searches”.

Some organisations are granted immunity for importing and holding restricted items, such as police forces importing batons and truncheons, while allowances are also made for the entertainment industry – such as theatrical performances, films and TV productions.