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Firearms surrender Q&A

From November 13-26 Northamptonshire Police is supporting a nationwide firearms surrender. If you or someone you know has an unwanted or illegal firearm, the surrender offers the opportunity to hand it in. By taking firearms and ammunition out of circulation, the surrender is helping keep our communities safer. During the surrender we are also asking anyone with information about illegal firearms to contact us on 101 – you can remain anonymous if you wish.

What is the national firearms surrender?

Co-ordinated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) and supported by police forces across the UK, the firearms surrender means people can hand in guns they should not have or no longer want. During the surrender we want people to hand in:

  • Illegally-held guns and ammunition
  • Imitation firearms and air guns used for criminal purposes
  • Other unwanted guns and ammunition including air guns and imitations
  • Firearms you are being asked to hide for someone else

If you have a gun that falls into any of these categories, call police on 101 to arrange to hand it in.

When is the surrender taking place?

The firearms surrender is running for two weeks between November 13 and 26, 2017.  

What is the main purpose of the firearms surrender?

To reduce the number of guns in circulation in the UK. Every gun given up is one less that criminals can use, meaning the surrender could save lives.

If gun crime levels have been falling, why do we need surrender campaigns?

Generally, gun crime levels in the UK have dropped in the last decade and compared to other countries our gun crime levels are low. However, the latest figures show gun crime is on the rise and we cannot be complacent about the continued threat to our communities from criminals with access to guns.

Northamptonshire Police, NABIS and other UK police forces are determined to carry on suppressing the threat. Gun surrenders are one way to show the public how seriously we all take this issue. We want to get as many firearms out of circulation and off the streets as possible. One gun in the wrong hands can have catastrophic consequences.         

What items can be handed in?

Any kind of firearm or ammunition can be handed in. In previous campaigns there have been various weapons handed in including antique guns, air weapons, rifles, shotguns and imitation firearms. Although the surrender is not specifically targeting other kinds of weapons, such as knives, these may also be surrendered to police as part of the campaign. To safely dispose of a firearm, ammunition or other weapon call 101 to make an appointment to hand it in.

How can I hand in a firearm during the surrender?

If you have an unwanted or illegal firearm or ammunition you’d like to hand in, please call us on 101. You’ll be given an appointment time when a police officer will come to your address to collect the firearm, ammunition or weapon. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

If you don’t want an officer to come to your house, you will instead be given an appointment to come to a designated police station to hand the firearm or ammunition in. It’s important you call to make an appointment to do this as you will also be given advice on how to safely transport the item to the police station. The designated police stations are:

  • Daventry Police Station
  • Wellingborough Police Station
  • Weston Favell Police Station

What will happen to me if I hand an illegal firearm in? Will I be arrested?

The firearms surrender is not an amnesty, but if you are handing a firearm in you will not be arrested for having it in order to do so. The onus remains on you to prove you were in possession of the firearm under the terms of the surrender. Firearms can be surrendered anonymously, so you don’t have to give your name if you don’t want to.

Any possession or use of the gun prior to the point where it is handed in may be considered for prosecution.  The amnesty is not valid for the lifetime of the firearm,  and previous offences linked to the firearm will be investigated. Police may still consider prosecution linked to any offences committed before the weapon is handed in during a surrender campaign.

The key message we want to share is that anyone with a gun they don’t want or do not legally hold should give it up during the surrender and not wait for the police to turn up at their address.

What will happen to all the guns handed in?

A proportion of the firearms will be destroyed but some may be retained by police force armourers if they are of significant interest, have historic importance or are otherwise unusual. Any guns which can be proved to be linked to crime will be kept as evidence and retained for any future court case proceedings.

I have lawfully held firearms for years. Why do I need to know about the surrender?

The surrender coincides with recent changes in firearms legislation which some people may still be unaware of. We want to highlight this so those affected don’t commit an offence without realising it.

The changes involve the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which amends the Firearms Act 1968. They mean anyone who has previously served a prison sentence of between three months and three years is now banned from possessing firearms or ammunition for five years, and those who have served prison sentences of more than three years are permanently banned from having them.

In essence, the changes may mean people who previously had lawful possession of a firearm now hold it illegally. Examples may include where firearms have been inherited from relatives, or items overlooked by elderly owners.

If you are concerned the changes may affect you and the firearms you hold, the surrender provides the opportunity for them to be disposed of safely and without charge.

What about the rights of legal firearms holders during the surrender?

Aside from these changes, the rights of legal firearms holders are unaffected. License-holders can be reassured that these measures merely enhance their rights and privileges to own firearms, by removing the dangerous ones from the wrong hands. They are also encouraged to use this surrender to consider the surrender of firearms they may no longer have a use for.

Isn’t the surrender letting criminals with firearms escape justice?

Northamptonshire Police is committed to robustly investigating serious crime and protecting the public. The firearms surrender removes firearms from the streets, but does not prevent the police from investigating the background to any of the firearms handed in. Where there is evidence to follow up a prosecution we will continue to do so.

Does this surrender mean that the police have given up on tackling gun crime?

No, gun crime in the UK is still one of the lowest in the world. This is as a result of continued efforts from the police and its partner agencies.

How well is the force doing in combatting gun crime?

Northamptonshire Police continue to focus on protecting people from harm. We have active intelligence-led operations to deal with organised criminality who may be involved with the criminal use of firearms.

What are you doing to prevent an increase in gun crime?

We have a much greater understanding of this sort of crime thanks to partnership working. We understand better the potential triggers that can cause violence, we have an intervention strategy that aims to educate people around the dangers of firearms from a young age, provide alternatives to gangs, and we work hard on enforcement for those that insist on being involved in violent crime and illegal activity.

How can communities help?

Communities hold the key to helping reduce firearm-related crime. Information from witnesses and local communities is vital if we are to obtain the evidence we need to arrest and prosecute offenders.

We know that more people will share more information when there is a serious crime such as a murder but we are working to gain trust and confidence so communities feel they can share and report any issues at any time.

If you have any information about illegal firearms or any other crime, you can share it with us by calling 101, or call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.

I’m worried - someone I care about has a firearm they shouldn’t have. What can I do?

The purpose of the firearms surrender is to help reduce the number of firearms in circulation in order to keep our community safer. You do not need to be the owner of a firearm to hand it in, and can arrange to do so by calling 101. You can use the same number to pass on information about the illegal possession of a firearm. You can remain anonymous throughout either process if you wish.

Do not put yourself at risk in order to hand a firearm in. If you have any concerns about your safety, please call us on 101. In an emergency, when a crime is in progress or life is at risk, dial 999.

I don’t want to speak to the police, but I have information about illegal firearms. Who can I tell?

If you’d prefer not to speak to the police, or do not feel able to call us, you can contact Crimestoppers by phone or online to pass on any information you may have about criminal activity, including illegal firearms. Crimestoppers is an independent charity that gives people the power to speak up and stop crime – 100 per cent anonymously. The charity also shares advice on how to protect the people you care about from crime, so everyone can feel safe. Contact Crimestoppers free on 0800 555 111, or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

How effective are firearm surrender campaigns for targeting real criminals? 

Several police forces across the UK have held gun surrenders since the last national surrender in 2014 and this has resulted in hundreds of firearms and rounds of ammunition being handed in. This can only be a good thing. It takes these weapons out of circulation and out of the hands of criminals.  

During the last national firearms surrender three years ago more than 6,000 items were handed in to police across the UK. These included hand guns, rifles, shotguns, antique (obsolete calibre) guns and imitation firearms - as well as ammunition.

In Northamptonshire, the 2014 surrender saw 177 firearms handed in, and more than 100 other weapons were given up to police.

Useful links

Spotting the signs of gang-related crime 

Possession of weapons - crime prevention advice

Government advice on buying and carrying knives

Information about using someone else to hide or keep a weapon

Crimestoppers

Reporting online to Crimestoppers

Advice from Fearless

Government information about knife, gun and gang crime

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