Drop your guns – with the police

NANAIMO – Law enforcement agencies across B.C. overseeing gun amnesty program to get unwanted and illegal firearms off the streets.

B.C. is holding its second gun amnesty program to get unwanted firearms and other weapons off the streets and prevent them from potentially falling into the wrong hands.

The B.C. Gun Amnesty Program, which started Saturday and runs throughout the month of June, was announced Thursday by the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, RCMP and other B.C. municipal police departments.

This is the second time – the first was in 2006 – a gun amnesty program has been run in B.C.

“Why we’re holding this amnesty is to get the public to safely dispose of their weapons and that also applies to imitation weapons and ammunition – anything they are not legally entitled to own and maybe they no longer want,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

During the amnesty period police will not recommend weapons-related charges – that could apply outside of an amnesty period – against people turning in firearms, but there is no amnesty for people who turn in weapons that have been used in the commission of a crime.

The purpose of the amnesty is to improve safety for the general public and police.

“To be realistic here, do we expect this to have an impact on the gangs? Probably not, but there is always probability somebody’s house could be broken into and that gun could be used in the commission of a crime,” O’Brien said.

Police estimate that most weapons in homes of unlicensed owners are likely neglected and improperly stored, creating a danger they could be used or stolen or that a child could stumble across a weapon and play with it.

It is illegal to own firearms in Canada without proper licensing or to keep improperly stored or unlocked firearms and ammunition in homes.

Steve Corscadden, Nanaimo Fish and Game Club treasurer, questions the value of gun amnesties in getting weapons out of the hands of criminals, but said they are useful otherwise.

“It’s our opinion they don’t do anything to take guns out of the hands of criminals or gang members who may choose to use firearms to commit their crimes,” Corscadden said. “They do give honest people a chance to dispose of firearms that they don’t want, without any legal complications, for one reason or another. They may not have registered them over the years or they just don’t want them, so from that point of view I don’t think we have any strong feelings one way or another on it.”

Corscadden said the amnesty is especially useful for anyone who has a restricted firearm, such as a handgun, who wants to dispose of it without facing criminal sanctions.

During the 2006 firearms amnesty 3,200 guns were turned in across B.C. including 505 handguns, 725 other unwanted weapons of various kinds and almost 100,000 rounds of ammunition.

“We have no idea how many firearms are out there,” O’Brien said.

To turn in unwanted firearms and ammunition, please call Nanaimo RCMP detachment at 250-754-2345 and officers will come to your home and retrieve them. Do not bring firearms to any RCMP detachment or police station.

For more information about the B.C. gun amnesty program, please visit the program website at www.bcgunamnesty.ca.

For more information about laws and regulations concerning firearms and their ownership in Canada, please visit the Canadian Firearms Program website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf.