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Sharp rise in number of firearms seized at UK ports

There has been an 174% increase in the number of weapons recovered.

Firearms: There has been an 174% increase.
Firearms: There has been an 174% increase. PA

Seizures of guns and related items at UK air, rail and sea ports have almost tripled in a year, figures reveal.

Border Force officers seized 110 real and 353 imitation firearms across all modes of transport in 2016-17.

The agency also took possession of 5,849 other "firearms-related" items, including gun parts, pepper sprays and stun weapons.

The haul of 6,312 firearms and associated paraphernalia was a sharp jump compared with 2,299 in the previous 12 months.

There was also a rise in the number of offensive weapons seized by Border Force, from 8,931 in 2015-16 to 10,935 in 2016-17.

The statistics were disclosed by the Home Office following a parliamentary question.

A spokesman for the department 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.

"Our targeted operations and routine searches led to the seizure of over 10,000 offensive weapons last year."

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

Official border controls guidance gives examples of items that can fall into the "firearms" category, including rifles, shotguns, handguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

CS gas canisters, pepper sprays, high-voltage electric stun guns and high-powered air rifles are also listed, as well as items that "have the appearance of being a firearm and can be readily converted into a live firearm".

The guidance says it is an offence to import certain weapons, including so-called zombie knives and knuckledusters.

Some organisations are allowed to import and hold restricted items for specified purposes, such as police forces importing batons and truncheons.

Allowances are also made for theatrical performances, films and TV productions. 

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