If you have unwanted guns or other weapons in your house, you’ll have a chance to unload them in October during a province-wide amnesty program.
During the month, British Columbians can get rid of documented and undocumented weapons, including restricted and prohibited ones, through their local police. The program is part of the province’s expanded Gangs and Guns strategy and is aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals.
“All shootings are preventable,” Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said during the announcement. “The root cause of these events is access to a weapon. Times that a weapon is used in an assault or a shooting is usually traced back to a break in where it was stolen from the original owner.”
Morris says preparations to take in weapons are already underway.
“There’s a number of steps that have to be taken in order to effect these amnesties. We’re in the process. This process also demands a lot of attention and a lot of resources from our police community throughout the province and we have to make sure that they’re also ready and available to enter into these programs.”
While concerned citizens who find themselves in possession of unwanted restricted or prohibited firearms can call their local detachment any time to have the weapons removed, Morris says amnesty programs encourage those who could face charges possessing illegal weapons to come forward.
However, Morris says there is a protocol for getting rid of your guns.
“We do not want you to bring weapons into police offices throughout the province. Don’t carry any weapons into the detachments. Give the police within your jurisdiction a call and they will send somebody out to your residence to pick those weapons up.”
The province has run two amnesty programs in the past decade – one in 2006 and one in 2013. Both were very successful, according to Morris.
“Together they’ve yielded more than 5,000 firearms, including 900 handguns, 2 machine guns plus about 128,000 rounds of ammunition. People turned in everything from a rocket launcher to vintage rifles and bayonets.”
While the amnesty program ensures no criminal charges or fines will be levied against participants, there’s no incentive for turning in weapons either. When asked about offering monetary incentives, Morris had this to say.
“We’re not in the business of exchanging money for weapons in BC.”
According to the RCMP, 5.3% of British Columbians held a firearms license in 2013. That’s slightly below the national average of 5.7%
In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that 31% of homicides in Canada were committed with firearms.