Former Garland, Tx., police Officer Ben Johnson, celebrated three years ago as the first foreigner to become a British police constable, provoked a national uproar this week after saying he would resign to protest a ban on officers carrying guns, reports the Dallas Morning News. Johnson, 34, said the increasing risk of encountering a gunman who could render his 18-month-old daughter fatherless has caused him to reconsider his work. He is now the focus of a British media frenzy. Johnson’s complaint, which has aired on British national television and radio stations as well as major newspapers, goes to the heart of a debate about the extent to which gun control laws and restraints on the ability of police to respond have given criminals the upper hand. Only in rare instances are civilians permitted to own firearms, and 90 percent of British police carry out their duties unarmed.
His remarks come amid public debate over the death of Sharon Beshenivsky, a police officer and mother of three children, who was shot last month while responding to a burglar-alarm call in the city of Bradford. Johnson cited her death – particularly the fact that she had no weapon and apparently lacked proper training in responding to a break-in – as major factors influencing his resignation. Johnson’s comments and those of other advocates for increased arming of police have provoked widespread criticism as well as support. Sir Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan Police, said 90 percent of British police are unarmed, and he has no intention of changing the policy. The Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, told the BBC, “I do think that the resilience of the police officers, in terms of having enough firearms officers, is extremely questionable at the moment, and that will need to be properly debated.”