December 27, 2002, 08:11 PM
If you can't catch the criminals, don't worry. They'll turn in their [toy] guns and be law-abiding citizens again if you only ask nicely and threaten them with prosecution if they refuse.
Chief constables have earmarked April, May and June for the initiative under which offenders would be invited to dump their weapons at police stations or in special protective bins without fear of prosecution.
The Metropolitan Police, plagued with increasing bouts of gang warfare in the capital, earlier this month announced full-time armed patrols while dramatically boosting the number of officers carrying guns.
The amnesty would cover the growing threat from imitation firearms - used in 60% of robberies.
December 28, 2002, 01:15 AM
Similar report from another news source (http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/story.jsp?story=364549):
Firearms amnesty to tackle surge in gun crime
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
27 December 2002
A national firearms amnesty is to be held in the new year to tackle the growing menace of gun crime.
New laws to outlaw carrying replica firearms and a minimum five-year jail sentence for being caught with a gun are also expected to be announced and a national guns database and tracing agency are to be set up.
The guns amnesty, agreed by Britain's chief constables, is planned for April, May and June. It will follow similar schemes held after the 1996 Dunblane and 1987 Hungerford massacres and reflects the growing state of alarm about the escalating gun threat on Britain's streets.
More than 60,000 weapons were handed in during the two amnesties but the police believe hundreds of thousands of guns are still circulating.
New figures to be published by the Home Office in January will show a record number of crimes involving firearms. Guns are being used to carry out revenge shootings between rival gangsters and drug dealers, for robberies, muggings, and even as fashion accessories among young men out to impress.
The Metropolitan Police announced last week it was setting up full-time armed patrols in trouble spots and dramatically raising the number of firearms officers it employs. The move follows an increase in shootings in London, particularly between competing crack cocaine dealers and, more recently, heroin traffickers.
In response, chief constables plan a firearms amnesty, in which gun owners will be asked to hand over weapons to the police or drop them in special protective bins.
David McCrone, the Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' criminal use of firearms group, said: "The amnesty has the support of all the chief constables. It will probably be in the April, May, June period. We have just written to the Home Secretary [David Blunkett] and the Attorney General [Lord Goldsmith] for their support."
During the amnesty that followed the Dunblane massacre – in which 16 children and a teacher were shot dead by Thomas Hamilton in their primary school gymnasium – 15,360 firearms were handed in.
Some 48,000 guns were handed in during a similar amnesty after the Hungerford massacre, in which 16 people were shot by Michael Ryan. In an amnesty in 1968, 25,000 firearms were recovered.
Mr McCrone said the UK has about 150,000 deactivated weapons – which criminals could reactivate – and "millions" of replica and blank- firing guns. In addition, an estimated six million air guns are in circulation.
No one knows how many working firearms are held by criminals, although the growing reliance on converted weapons suggests they are in short supply. An imitation firearm is used in about 60 per cent of armed robberies, which are currently on the increase.
Derek Bennett, 29, was shot dead by a police marksman in Brixton last year while carrying what police thought was a handgun. It was later discovered that the weapon was a cigarette lighter.
Many replica guns are easily converted into working weapons. The police recently discovered that thousands of Italian ME8 replica handguns were being imported into Britain and converted. The manufacturer has since halted the export. Police in London seize 144 firearms a month – a 23 per cent leap on last year's figures.
December 28, 2002, 01:16 AM
Does anyone hear the laughter rising?
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