Saturday, March 25, 2006

But...But...Don't The Criminals Know That This Is Illegal??

British Army 'lost' guns end up on streets...


"DOZENS of lethal weapons have disappeared from Britain's high-security military bases and found their way on to the streets, it has emerged. Defence chiefs admitted they have managed to lose almost a hundred weapons, including high-powered rifles, pistols and even a light machine-gun in recent years. Many of the guns have ended up in the hands of some of the country's most brutal criminals, including a Yardie gang in London - sparking fears that weapons have been stolen to order from bases.

Some have simply been lost by military personnel in a series of embarrassing incidents, including one in which an army captain left a loaded gun in a supermarket toilet. New figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday show that, despite massive security at bases and strict rules on issue of firearms, thieves have managed to steal 63 weapons from the army, air force and navy over the past five years: 19 pistols, 27 rifles, 16 antique weapons and a light machine-gun. In the same period, 34 weapons were lost, while more than 500 pieces of ammunition were stolen.

One defence insider said: "The figures in these various categories go up and down a bit every year, but we are still losing a lot of guns. A few of them will be genuinely lost, or taken as souvenirs by squaddies. But we cannot ignore the fact that most of them will be making their way on to the black market."

The Tory defence spokesman Julian Lewis said the numbers had been declining slightly in recent years, but he remained concerned by at least one item. He told Scotland on Sunday: "I'm a civilian and I may be ill-informed, but I am particularly concerned about the possibility that a machine-gun is not where it should be. I would want to know exactly what the circumstances were in which a machine-gun made it out of a military installation."

MPs became aware of the problem after it emerged that guns stolen from a Ministry of Defence (MoD) armoury were sold to Yardie-type drug dealers. The Defence Committee was stirred into action following the revelation that 28 Browning handguns and shotguns stolen in a raid on the Royal School of Artillery armoury at Larkhill barracks in Wiltshire were still missing. Bruce George, a Labour MP and former chairman of the MPs' defence select committee, said: "I would express some anxiety about any cache of weapons which fall into the hands of terrorists or criminal organisations. "It is disturbing when these guns may well have emanated from British military sources." The thefts reached a peak in 2003, the first year of Britain's Iraq campaign, with 19 thefts of weapons, including six pistols and 11 antiques.

One of the most dramatic losses came last autumn when 14 Signals Regiment had to suspend a military exercise at Templeton airfield in Pembrokeshire after an SA80 rifle - capable of firing 700 rounds a minute - went missing. That followed the recovery of a handgun left by an army captain in a supermarket toilet in Hertfordshire. It was found in a postbox a few days later."

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