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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Police defend gun amnesty 'success'
John Hesketh of West Midlands Police with amnesty haul
John Hesketh of West Midlands Police with amnesty haul

Police are hailing a month-long gun amnesty as a success despite claims by critics that it has done nothing to tackle gun crime.

More than 20,000 weapons were handed into police before the final day of the nationwide scheme on Wednesday.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the amnesty, which was set up after the killing of teenagers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in Birmingham in January, had been a "great success".

But critics said the majority of weapons handed in were old, unused or simply used for hunting and few were relinquished in the country's inner cities.

More than 1,485 firearms and 34,677 rounds of ammunition were surrendered to the Metropolitan Police.

Commander Alan Brown, head of gun crime for the Met said: "The streets must be a safer place as a result of these weapons and ammunition being taken off them.

"Today marks the end of the official gun amnesty but we continue to urge those people in possession of a firearm to come forward and surrender it."

Lives' saved

Letisha Shakespeare's mother Marcia urged parents to spend more "quality time" with their children to stop them taking to the streets and becoming embroiled in the gun culture prevalent among inner city youths.

"At the end of the day it starts from the family home," she said.

"If you are not giving your children quality time they are going to go out there and go on the streets."

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Welcoming the result of the amnesty, she added: "If one gun comes off the streets it has saved one person's life."

The amnesty was also welcomed by Asher D of rap group So Solid Crew, which has been associated with gun culture.

Since being convicted for gun possession, he has been warning young people about the dangers of carrying weapons.

"After I purchased the gun it seemed pointless having it and I needed somewhere to get rid of it.

"That's why a gun amnesty would have been good for me," he told the BBC.

The amnesty was the first to be held nationwide since the 1996 Dunblane shootings.

Rocket launcher

West Midlands Police said 896 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition were handed in across its area, including a rocket launcher, a gun fashioned from a walking stick and a 3ft-long home-made cannon.

Referring to the amount of ammunition handed in, Detective Superintendent John Hesketh said: "Some might say that is 10,000 lives saved if every bullet has a name on it."

The officer said 55% of guns subjected to police forensic examination turned out to be blank-firers.

Asher D
A gun amnesty would have been good for me
Asher D

The majority of weapons given up will be destroyed, though some of the antiques collected will be sent to museums.

Mr Blunkett told MPs on Monday that by 23 April 17,216 guns and 483,000 rounds of ammunition had been taken by police.

As well as prohibited, unlicensed and unwanted firearms, the police also encouraged people to hand in air weapons and imitation guns during the amnesty.

But shadow home affairs minister James Paice said the amnesty had "failed to address the real problem".

He said: "Nearly all gun crime involves illegally-held handguns, not legally-owned shotguns or rifles.

"The real problem is that illegal firearms are flooding into Britain because the government cannot secure our borders."

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
"The government is hailing the amnesty as a success"

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