Police hail gun amnesty success

Firearm surrender a “life-saver” as 131 guns handed to police.

West Midlands Police’s gun surrender has been hailed potentially “life-saving” after taking more than 100 firearms out of circulation.

The two-week surrender window − which closed at midnight last Saturday − gave people a chance to hand over firearms without being prosecuted for gun possession. It was a move timed to coincide with a law change tightening controls on gun ownership and imposing tougher penalties.

Of note, from July 14, anyone found storing a gun for someone else − even if they have no intention of using it themselves − now runs the risk of a life prison sentence.

In total, 131 firearms were seized at police stations across the region, including pistols, rifles, sawn-off shotguns, BB guns, imitations and antiques, whilst more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition were also seized.

The haul included viable handguns like .38mm revolvers, self-loading pistols and a .44 Ruger Redhawk magnum, plus historic service weapons like Webley and Enfield revolvers, a 1915 German Luger, a Smith & Wesson and a Japanese type 26 revolver.

Detective Inspector Andy Bannister led the gun surrender initiative. He said: “It’s been a huge success…that’s 131 fewer firearms that could end up in the hands of criminals. Some of the weapons seized are, I suspect, from exactly the kinds of people we wanted to reach out to…people who under the new legislation are risking life behind bars by ‘looking after’ guns for friends, relatives or partners through some misguided loyalty.

“Every gun taken off the streets is potentially a life saved.”

The legislation update also clamps down on antique firearms amid fears obsolete weapons are being made viable by criminals with ballistics know-how.

Anyone given a prison sentence, including suspended sentences, of three months or more is now banned from possessing antique firearms which could previously be held as a “curiosity or ornament” with a relevant certificate.

Antique weapons were among firearms handed in during the surrender, including century-old shotguns and a black powder rifle dated 1853, whilst several guns were collected by officers from the homes of elderly residents. One Coventry man in his 90s contacted to police to dispose of a double-barrelled shotgun stored in his loft for decades.

Det Insp Bannister, added: “The problem of antique weapons being used in crime is an emerging threat we’re addressing. The law has been changed to make communities safer and we welcome the tighter controls…the change in legislation closes any loopholes that may be exploited by criminals.”

Guns could be surrendered anonymously but the history of any live weapons handed in will be checked for any evidence of criminal use; the firearms will either be destroyed at the West Midlands Police armoury or retained for training exercises.

Gun crime has fallen significantly over the last decade − offences fell from 24,000 nationally in 2003 to 8,135 in 2013 (according to ONS data) − whilst the number of fatal shootings in the West Midlands has also decreased. There were 17 fatal shootings in the five years between 2004 and 2009 but that fell to nine between 2009 and 2014.

Detective Chief Superintendent Iain O’Brien from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, said: “NABIS always fully supports forces who are proactive in tackling gun crime, whether through enforcement activity or preventative activity such as this gun surrender. The removal of guns that could fall into the hands of criminals is critical to ensure safer communities.”

Four guns were passed over to police on Saturday, the final day of the surrender, with two air pistols taken to Digbeth police station at around 3pm being the last.

If you suspect anyone to be involved in illegal firearms call West Midlands Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.