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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Gun amnesty launched
Charlene Ellis (second left) and Letisha Shakespeare (second right)
Charlene Ellis (second left) and Letisha Shakespeare (second right) were killed on New Years Day

The mothers of two teenagers shot at a New Year party have urged owners of illegal guns to give them up during a month-long nationwide guns amnesty.

Marcia Shakespeare and Beverley Thomas lost their daughters Letisha Shakespeare, 17, and Charlene Ellis, 18, in a drive-by shooting outside a party in Birmingham at the beginning of the year.

Attending the launch of the campaign in Birmingham on Monday, Mrs Shakespeare said: "As mothers, our lives have been turned upside down and the horrific trauma we have all experienced will always stay with us.

"We have all been totally devastated by the loss of Charlene and Letisha and there is nothing we can do to bring them back. That is the reality of gun crime."

Their daughters' killings were blamed on a gang feud, but neither of the teenagers had gang affiliations.

Anyone with illegal or unwanted firearms is being urged to hand them in without the need to fear prosecution.

The first national amnesty in seven years comes ahead of the introduction of tough new gun laws, which will include a five-year minimum sentence for illegal possession of a prohibited firearm.

The campaign has been launched at London's New Scotland Yard by Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth.

New powers

Mr Ainsworth said: "Every weapon handed in is a weapon that cannot be used in crime.

"Anyone with an illegally-held gun, or any other weapon that might be used to cause fear and distress on our streets, should take this chance to get rid of it.

The young... may carry such items in public and face the real possibility of being confronted by armed police officers
Detective Chief Constable David McCrone
"If you don't, the police will come down hard with new powers due to come into force later this year."

Every police force in England, Scotland and Wales is taking part in the scheme.

They are appealing for all unwanted air weapons, blank firers and imitation guns to be handed in, as well as illegally held firearms.


Meanwhile, boxing promoter Frank Warren has offered tickets to the upcoming double world title bill in Manchester for anyone handing in weapons.

People surrendering the weapons can qualify for tickets to see local hero Ricky Hatton fight at the MEN Arena in Manchester at the weekend.

"Sports Network operated a similar scheme in New Mexico three years ago with former world champion Johnny Tapia and that was a great success and I believe the same results can happen here," he said.

Targeting youths

The amnesty is part of a range of schemes being launched by the government, the police and community groups to tackle the linked problems of gangs and guns in UK communities.

The new laws will be supported by targeted police operations and ongoing work with local communities to help divert young people away from gun crime.

Detective Chief Constable David McCrone of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said they supported the initiative.

He said the inclusion of replica and air weapons in the amnesty also reflected the fact that "the young, who possibly through ignorance, may carry such items in public and face the real possibility of being confronted by armed police officers".

Dee Warner from Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA) said: "We have been calling for a national firearms amnesty because we believe the issue of street violence needs to be addressed.

"We are delighted to have worked closely with the Home Office and ACPO, speaking on behalf of the families of murder victims we support."

The last national firearms amnesty in 1996, following the killing of schoolchildren at Dunblane, saw 23,000 firearms and 700,000 rounds of ammunition surrendered.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Those who hand over a weapon will avoid a prosecution"

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