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Last Updated:  Sunday, 2 March, 2003, 10:42 GMT
Gun amnesty details announced
Guns
Guns have become fashion accessories for some young people
People who own illegal firearms will have the opportunity to hand them in without fear of prosecution during a nationwide guns amnesty.

The amnesty, running from 31 March to 30 April, is part of the government's efforts to cut back on soaring gun crime and beat Britain's increasing gang culture.

The move comes ahead of the introduction of tough new sentences for illegal possession of prohibited firearms, which will see a minimum five-year sentence for those convicted.

There are also plans to ban anyone carrying a replica or air weapon in a public place without a good reason.

The amnesty was agreed by police and ministers at a meeting with community representatives in January, chaired by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

'Safety first'

The meeting followed the murders of Charlene Ellis, 18, and Latisha Shakespeare, 17, who were shot outside a New Year party in Birmingham.

Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said the latest amnesty throughout England, Scotland and Wales would give people the chance to get rid of illegal or legal weapons.

"The safety of the public and police officers is our first priority," he said.

Every weapon that is given up is a weapon that cannot be used in crime and violence
Bob Ainsworth
Home Office minister
"Taking guns off our streets will save lives and cut crime.

"While armed crime in the UK is low compared with other countries, there has been an unacceptable increase in the number of guns being used in crime and the government is taking urgent action to tackle this."

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

Mr Ainsworth said: "We need to act now to show that this is unacceptable and to stop the development of a 'gun culture,' where firearms are treated as fashion accessories."

Prosecution

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.

There were four previous national amnesties dating back to World War II.

Deputy Chief Constable David McCrone of Greater Manchester Police, chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers' criminal use of firearms group, welcomed the amnesty.

He said it would help reduce the availability of firearms of all descriptions, resulting in lives being saved, injuries prevented and members of the public being spared the trauma of being threatened with a gun.

Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin MP said: "We welcome any amnesty to get illegal guns off the streets, but that should not mean that people who have committed crimes with those guns should escape prosecution."




SEE ALSO:
Guns amnesty agreed at summit
10 Jan 03 |  Politics
Turning teenagers away from guns
09 Jan 03 |  UK News


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