England

Devon and Cornwall police chief in armed civilians row

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Media captionPolice commissioner Alison Hernandez spoke to BBC Radio Cornwall

A police commissioner who said she would consider letting gun owners act during a terror attack has found herself at odds with her own force.

During a radio phone-in, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alison Hernandez said she would "really be interested" in the idea.

The force said armed civilians would risk being shot by officers.

Thames Valley's PCC later said firing on terrorists would be "reasonable" if people were "certain of the threat".

Speaking on a separate radio phone-in, Anthony Stansfield said: "I mean you wouldn't sit back and just watch somebody killing people if you could put a stop to it."

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton from Devon and Cornwall Police said it was "definitely an emphatic 'no'" that people should be arming themselves against such a threat.

The chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales Steve White said the idea was "a recipe for disaster" and that "vigilantism" had no place in "the fight against terrorism".

Conservative PCC Ms Hernandez has since said her comments on Monday were "misinterpreted".

More on the armed civilians row, and other Devon and Cornwall news

'Marauding gunman'

Her comments were made as she responded to a caller who said she was an "ex-registered firearms dealer" and gun-owner living in Bude.

She asked: "If there should ever be a terrorist attack close to the town centre... what happens if people like I and others try to defend themselves using those guns?"

Gun ownership

Dyfed-Powys has the highest rate of gun ownership in England and Wales, with a total of 9,126 per 100,000 people.

Devon and Cornwall comes 10th overall out of the 43 police force areas with a total of just under 6,000 guns per 100,000 residents.

London has the lowest rate of ownership per head of population with 789 guns per 100,000 people.

Privately held guns

Figures for Devon and Cornwall

68,575

licensed shotguns

33,712

licensed firearms

  • 31,139 shotgun certificates

  • 10,971 firearms certificates

Getty Images

Ms Hernandez replied: "This could be some of our solution..." before being interrupted by presenter Laurence Reed, challenging her on whether she was advocating vigilantes.

She responded "I'm just saying... let's officially have a look at that and see what would be the implications of it.

"We work with businesses to keep our communities safe. I'd really be interested in exploring that with the chief constable.

"If your community was coming under attack, people would do all sorts of things to try to save their community without even thinking."

Image caption Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton said tackling terrorists should be left to the police

In a statement released on Tuesday, she said she wanted to meet the chief constable to provide a detailed reply for the phone-in caller.

"To be clear, I am not advocating the use of firearms or other weapons by members of the public in the event of a terrorist incident," she said.

Ms Hernandez is now facing calls to resign.

Chris Batters - a former police officer and a member of the Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the PCC - said her comments were "outrageous".

"At times I'm doubtful whether she is up to the job. In the light of comments such as this I sincerely think she should do [resign], yes."

Philippa Davey, who stood as Labour's parliamentary candidate for South West Devon, also called for Ms Hernandez to stand down.

She tweeted that the PCC had made the news "for all the wrong reasons".

DCC Netherton said: "A marauding gunman... is probably the most challenging situation the police service is facing and our response to that is by highly professional officers as well as firearms officers and special forces and we would not want the public to be involved in that situation, especially with firearms.

"As was seen in London, we responded immediately and we don't have time to find out if you're an innocent member of the public or a terrorist.

"If you're carrying a gun we will deal with you and deal with you immediately."

He urged anyone caught up in a terrorist attack instead to "run, hide and inform us".

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