Playground gun law: In a grim portrait of modern Britain, rifle-toting police mix with children on estate plagued by gang shootings
Bedfordshire town suffers nine shootings in four month crime wave
Police say armed patrols in place for 'foreseeable future' to deter violence
Officers with guns and dogs will also be increasing searches to find weapons
With a heavily-armed policeman guarding the playground, assault rifle at the ready, it could be the scene of a terror alert.
In fact, this is a routine patrol just yards from a suburban primary school.
The show of force is designed to calm residents of an estate plagued by gang shootings.
In the past four months there have been nine gun-related incidents in Luton linked to the Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm estates.
In the latest, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the back early on Saturday morning. He may never walk again.
The violence has left law-abiding families so terrified they welcome the patrols, even if they risk scaring children.
Faye Bell, 37, a mother of two, said: 'The armed police might seem heavy-handed to some people but to us they are hugely reassuring.
'It's very sad that it has come to this but we need the police to be armed so they can protect our kids.'
The officers, with a dog unit, have been patrolling the estate near the rundown Purley shopping centre all week.
Marsh Farm residents told the Daily Mail yesterday that the armed patrols had given them the confidence to go outside.
Shannon Read, 17, said: 'I don't really come out of my house at all so it's reassuring to know these patrols are here.
'I knew the lad who got shot on Saturday so it has been even more terrifying recently.'
Darren Putney, 46, added: ‘Some of the children on the way to school or in the play area look frightened.
'But the police need to make their presence known.'
The officers carry Heckler and Koch G36C assault rifles with 5.56mm calibre ammunition that can pierce body armour.
But those are only good for spray-firing from the hip and gunning down large numbers of people!! How is that gun control working out for you, again? And what about these people's right to "freedom from fear"? I thought the "strictest control of firearms" was supposed to protect them, not Bobbies carrying assault rifles.
(h/t to expat Phil B. from New Zealand via email.)