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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Rocket launcher handed in
The rocket launcher and a range of other surrendered weapons
The prospect of new gun laws has prompted people to act, say police
A used rocket launcher is one of nearly 300 weapons handed in on Merseyside during the UK firearms amnesty.

On Wednesday, Merseyside Police said they have received more guns, knives and ammunition at the halfway point of the amnesty than during the last national amnesty, in 1996.

More than 8,000 rounds of ammunition have been surrendered, along with 246 guns and 49 other weapons.

The rocket launcher was handed in at the end of the last week, in Wallasey.

In 1996, 242 guns were handed in to police in the county, with 18 knives and 6,000 rounds of ammunition, across a whole month.

It's clear people are taking the chance to get rid of guns before new laws come into force
Chief Superintendent Paul Forrester
The force said the latest figures indicate a greater willingness from the public than during previous amnesties.

Chief Superintendent Paul Forrester, force operations manager, said: "We are very pleased... as every gun handed in is one which cannot fall into the wrong hands on the streets of Merseyside.

"Our figures include a number of handguns, along with potentially lethal air weapons and imitation guns that can cause fear and distress.

"It's clear that people are sensibly taking the chance to get rid of guns before new laws come into force, and I would urge others to follow suit in the next two weeks whilst the amnesty is on."

The amnesty is part of a major police and government initiative to remove illegal guns from the street.

It runs until 30 April and comes ahead of the introduction of tough new gun laws, giving people the opportunity to hand in weapons without facing prosecution.

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