Amnesty yields 15,000 guns

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The Independent Online
More than 15,000 firearms were handed over to police during last month's gun amnesty - fewer than one-third of the number surrendered following the Hungerford massacre. However, the police and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, insisted yesterday that it would make Britain's streets safer.

The problem of firearms and the willingness of organised criminals to use them was further illustrated yesterday by the disclosure that chief constables were carrying out a study in an attempt to address Britain's growing gun culture.

June's amnesty, in which people were able to hand in firearms without fear of prosecution as long as the weapons had not been used in a crime, was provoked by the Dunblane massacre in March in which 16 schoolchildren and their teacher were shot dead.

In total, 15,360 firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and hundreds of other weapons were surrendered, although not all the results have been finalised yet. This compares with 48,000 in 1988 after the Hungerford killings, and 25,000 during an amnesty in 1968.

The largest number for a single force in the latest amnesty was about 1,000 in Devon and Cornwall. In London 682 guns were handed over. The limitations of the scheme - criminals were never likely to hand over their weapons - was revealed by the small number (120) recovered on Merseyside, an area which has recently experienced a spate of gang shootings and killings.

In Scotland there were 2,543 firearms, with 890 in Strathclyde, which includes Glasgow, but only 152 in the small force of Central Scotland which includes Dunblane.

Mr Howard said: "Every gun taken out of circulation reduces the risk of lives being lost. This will make it much harder for criminals to steal guns. The amnesty is only part of the battle against gun-related crime. The police will continue to work tirelessly to stop criminals using guns."

Sir Jim Sharples, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers and Chief Constable in Merseyside, speaking on the eve of the ACPO summer conference in Manchester, said yesterday that he was not disap- pointed with the results. "We believe the amnesty was extremely worthwhile. It was never going to be a panacea to all the problems relating to the misuse of firearms, but it allowed for a significant number to be taken out of circulation."

He revealed that ACPO is carrying out a survey to discover how many guns are being sold and used by organised criminals.