British authorities say an expanding smuggling pipeline bringing guns into their country from the U.S. is contributing to a growing number of gun deaths, The New York Times reports. Most illegal firearms in Britain still come from Europe, and gun crimes in the U.K. remain extremely rare. But hundreds of smuggled American guns were seized last year, part of a near doubling in gun seizures by Britain’s national policing body, while firearm offenses have increased by 38 percent since 2015.
In the last few years, the National Crime Agency has found that gangs favor “cleaner” antique or deactivated weapons that are harder to trace. Those weapons are sold legally at gun shows or by collectors, many in the United States, and are easier to buy because they can only fire if they are illegally reactivated. Gun control is one of the few issues that unites a politically divided Britain. Where the United States has had horrific mass school shootings for decades, it took just one such attack in Britain, in 1996, to usher in a ban on private ownership of handguns. “Weapons that don’t matter in the United States, because America deals in millions, routinely have an enormous impact in the U.K., because of the extraordinary scarcity of handguns,” said Aaron Karp, a senior consultant for the Small Arms Survey in Geneva and a lecturer at Old Dominion University in Virginia. “Dozens can have an enormous impact on British crime.”