Gun surrender campaign launched in Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire Police is asking people to hand in unwanted and illegal firearms as part of a national two-week surrender.
Coordinated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS), the firearms surrender will run for two weeks, from November 13 to Sunday, November 26.
Those in possession of unlawfully held or unwanted firearms and ammunition are being encouraged to contact police to give them up safely, helping prevent them getting into criminal hands.
During the last national firearms surrender in 2014 more than 6,000 items were handed in.
Among those items were 177 guns surrendered to Northamptonshire Police and more than 100 different weapons including knives.
“We’re hoping to see at least that this year, and more hopefully," said Superintendent Chris Hillery.
"The overall aim of Operation Humane as part of the national firearm surrender is to reduce the number of firearms on the streets in Northamptonshire, whether they're held legally or illegally, and ultimately to stop those getting into criminality or to the hands of terrorists."
The latest crime figures issued in October by the Office for National Statistics showed that nationally there has been a 27 per cent (to 6,696) increase in crimes relating to firearms over the last 12 months.
This is reflected in the county statistics where it has gone from over 10 a month to just over 15 a month.
Supt Hillery was speaking at Northamptonshire Police's gun range where on display were a variety of weapons handed in during previous surrenders including a homemade pistol, a small revolver with a blade attached to it disguised in a walking cane, and others dating back to wartime.
Three similar handguns were laid next to each other as a test to see if visitors could tell the difference between the real thing, a plastic replica and a BB gun.
During the surrender period, those handing over firearms will not face prosecution for illegal possession, at the point of surrender, and can remain anonymous.
Firearms and ammunition can be given up by calling Northamptonshire Police on 101 and making an appointment for the items to be collected.
“What I don’t want is people just turning up or walking through the streets of their town on the way to a police station with a firearm, so that needs to be prearranged," said Supt Hillery.
"Equally we can come out and take it from you.
“We acknowledge that it might not be the person that’s in possession of the firearm that wants to contact us - it may be a family member, it may be a partner, it may be somebody else in the community.
“We would encourage you to report that to us and we’ll deal with that.
“Equally people might be worried that they have one of these in their loft and what might happen if they hand it in - that’s not an issue, we can deal with that."
The surrender is also being used to highlight changes to firearms legislation which those in previously legal possession of guns may remain unaware of. Provisions within the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 make it an offence to possess prohibited weapons or ammunition for sale or transfer, and extend the definition of those prohibited from possessing firearms following a previous criminal conviction.
The maximum sentence for illegal possession of a firearm is five years, while possession with intent to supply can lead to a life sentence.
“I would encourage people whether they’ve happened across it as their clearing a loft, a shed or a garage that once it's in our possession it's not going to get into criminal hands.
“Once it's out there, regardless of people’s intention or regardless of how people have come across that firearm, it could still end up in the wrong hands. Whether that be the grandchildren coming across it and playing with it, or a break-in and it falling into a criminal’s hands.
“We can dispose of it properly and then everyone is safe in the knowledge it won’t be pointed at someone in the community, in a shop or at one of our officers.”
Should a handed-in gun be found to have links to criminality, the police will fully investigate the crime and make a decision about who is or is not responsible based on the timeline behind the weapon.
If you know of anyone involved with illegal firearms, or are a licensed firearm holder and would like advice, contact police on 101, online at www.northants.police.uk, or call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.