Police expect October gun amnesty will save lives

In 2006 and 2013 more than 5,000 firearms including 900 handguns, two machine guns and 128,000 rounds of ammunition were surrendered.

B.C.'s top RCMP officer Craig Callens speaks at gun amnesty presser on Thursday with Public Safety Minister Mike Morris in the wings.

SURREY — British Columbia will run a gun amnesty campaign during all of October with the provincial government and police expecting it will save lives.

The amnesty offers the public a safe way to get rid of guns, ammo or other weapons like switchblades and throwing stars — even restricted and prohibited ones — without sanction, as long as they haven’t been used in a crime.

“Many people inherit firearms or keep them as souvenirs without realizing the risk these and all weapons pose in the wrong hands,” Public Safety Minister Mike Morris noted at a press conference Thursday.

“Whether it’s a child that comes across a loaded revolver that’s not properly stored, or a weapon that’s used in an assault or a shooting that is traced back to break-ins, firearm amnesties can help prevent these and other tragedies from happening.”

People who want to participate in the amnesty should call their local police department on its non-emergency line to arrange for an officer to come by their home to pick the guns up.

“Under no circumstances should anyone deliver firearms, weapons or ammunition in person,” Morris stressed. “I can’t make that more clear than this: Do not walk into a local detachment with any firearms or ammunition. It’s certainly not advisable at all.”

“Under no circumstances deliver them in person.”

Morris noted that in B.C.’s gun amnesties in 2006 and 2013 more than 5,000 firearms including 900 handguns, two machine guns and 128,000 rounds of ammunition were surrendered.

“People turned in everything from a rocket launcher to vintage rifles and bayonettes and they did so knowing that the weapons would be destroyed and no longer pose a threat if they were stolen or misused.”

Police destroy the weapons and ammo that are turned in, said Chief Constable Les Sylven, of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police. “When people turn over unwanted firearms to their local police, they are permanently eliminating the danger that these weapons pose.”

Sylven said criminals often obtain weapons from residential and commercial break-ins.

“No one wants these weapons in the hands of criminals,” he said.

“We know that  unregistered weapons that have been passed down in families from  one generation to the next can end up in the wrong hands.”

Sylven said the month-long amnesty, from Oct.1-31, will apply to any undocumented firearms.

“So long as they’re not to have been known to have been used for criminal purposes,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, in charge of the RCMP in B.C., said that over a four-year period, between January 2012  and December 2015,  the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia seized on average one firearm every three days.

“With sixty per cent of weapons being sourced domestically, this gun amnesty allows all of the police agencies in British Columbia to work with the public to ensure all our neighbourhoods are safe,” Callens said.

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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