Comment: There should be fewer guns on streets

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The sight of police swooping on homes across the south of the city this morning will have gone a long way to reassuring residents after a troubling couple of weeks.

We all know that, by and large, that Edinburgh is one of the safest cities in the UK in which to live.

Shootings are, thankfully, still very rare despite the recent incidents which detectives believe were targeted at the family of jailed killer Jamie Bain.

These sort of events may be extremely unusual but that does not stop them terrifying neighbours in the communities where they take place. The risks involved every time someone fires a gun on one of the city’s streets no matter who the intended target are all too clear to everyone.

The best way of controlling this menace is to ensure that there are as few weapons as possible on the city’s streets. The police raids should help do to that by disrupting the activities of criminal gangs.

The wider question of weapons on our streets though also involves the police themselves.

The fear of many officers is that by sending them out on routine patrol carrying arms they themselves become legitimate targets in the eyes of the criminal gangs operating in the Capital.Far from bringing greater peace to the streets, routinely arming officers risks escalating the very problem we are trying to contain.

The public are set to be consulted on the issue by the Scottish Police Authority, the watchdog which has so far tended to be bypassed by the Chief Constable in his reforms of the service. If the consultation is successful in canvassing a broad base of public opinion, it is sure to find grave concerns about the direction in which Police Scotland are moving when it comes to arming officers.

Today’s show of force is a welcome reminder, to both criminals and law abiding citizens, that the rule of law remains in place in our communities.

The frontline police deserve our full support when it comes to keeping both them and us safe. We should think long and hard though before overturning generations of thinking about the best way of doing that.