The Conservative party has claimed that the level of gun crime in Britain is rising while the number of armed police officers on patrol is falling.
The party cited statistics obtained after parliamentary questions as showing that police numbers were on the decline in areas experiencing the most violations of the law. It accused the government of "complacency" and blamed ministers for the trend.
In the country as a whole the number of officers with firearms fell from 6,738 in 1997 to 6,584 in 2006 while armed offences rose by over 10 per cent, according to the figures.
The Tories claim gun crimes trebled in Northamptonshire over the last ten years while police forces in the area fell by 56 per cent. It points to a similar situation in Merseyside where violent crimes committed with guns rose by 62 per cent during the period between 1997 and 2006 when 15 per cent fewer armed officers were on the streets.
It also reported a similar situation in Avon and Somerset where armed offences shot up by 62 per cent as 48 fewer officers patrolled the area.
Commenting on the reports, a Home Office spokesman said the number of officers in an area was a decision made at the local level.
"Police numbers are historically high and the make up of a local force, including firearms officers, is an operational matter for the local chief constable based on local factors including the number of firearms offences," he added.