In Brief

Gun amnesty bid to get weapons off British streets

National firearms surrender initiative follows 27% rise in gun crime in the UK last year

A two-week nationwide gun amnesty launches today, with members of the public given the chance to surrender firearms and ammunition without being punished. 

Police officers across the UK are urging people to hand in any unwanted firearms, including handguns, shotguns and antique weapons, to “prevent them from falling into criminal hands”.

Anyone who turns over a firearm at a police station during the next fortnight will not face prosecution for illegal possession.

Senior officers hope the initiative “will emulate the success of a similar campaign across England and Wales in 2014, in which more than 6,000 weapons were handed in”, says the ITV News website.

Northumbria Police assistant chief constable Helen McMillan, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s firearms lead, said it was aimed at the “full spectrum” of society.

“I am urging anyone with an unwanted firearm to hand it over to police,” she said. “You don’t have to give your name or address, we just want more guns out of harm’s way. Each firearm we retrieve has the potential to save a life, so do the right thing and surrender your weapon.”

The amnesty follows a 27% hike in gun crime in the UK last year - with almost 50% of offences recorded by the capital’s Metropolitan Police Service, says the London Evening Standard.

According to data from the National Office of Statistics, more than two-thirds of police forces recorded a rise in offences involving firearms in the year from June 2016.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) is coordinating the surrender initiative, and says that many firearms are held in innocence and ignorance of their illegality, or are overlooked and forgotten in people’s homes.

Nabis head Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton said: “Surrendering unwanted or illegal firearms avoids the risk of them becoming involved in crime and means that members of the community can dispose of them in a safe place.” 

Launching the drive in the Northwest, Detective Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, of Greater Manchester Police, said the public should be worried about the supply of guns on the UK’s streets.

She told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s worrying, because we know the damage firearms cause and it’s not always the person who’s targeted who gets shot.

We’ve had incidents whereby innocent children have been caught in the crossfire. I think it would be naive to say don’t worry. Yes, you should be worried.”

Asked whether police expected serious criminals to hand over weapons, Doyle said: “I think the reality is no. But the point is to take weapons off the streets so they can’t access those and there are less of them there to access.” 

The amnesty, at designated police stations, runs until 26 November.

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