Firearm surrender begins as police target imitation weapons
Gun owners in Essex are being given two weeks to surrender their weapons as part of a bid to make sure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.
The surrender started on Monday, December 3 and will last until Friday, December 14, with guns and ammunition being taken at eight police stations around the county.
In 2017 there were nearly 550 offences involving firearms across Essex and 1,764 firearms were handed in or seized.
There are also concerns regarding airsoft weapons and BB guns, which can look very similar to the real thing.
Officers have warned they will be treating incidents involving any type of weapon as a “genuine threat”.
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Essex chief constable BJ Harrington said: “Clearly real guns on our streets is the highest priority we face but those weapons are extraordinarily hard for criminals to get hold of.
“I am increasingly concerned that realistic-looking airsoft weapons and BB guns are being used to commit crime.
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“Those guns look real to victims of crime and my message to people using them for crime is that, from a distance, they will look real to an armed police officer too.
“When we’re called to an incident because someone’s reported a gun being seen, we will assume it’s real and will treat it as a genuine threat to life. Believe me, you do not want to put yourself in that position.”
The number of offences in Essex involving imitation firearms increased by 166 in 2018, from 399 to 565.
There were 1,199 offences using real firearms, down 185 on the previous year.
Weapons can be handed in to police stations in Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Harlow, Grays, and Southend between 9am and 5pm.
Chief constable Harrington also called on responsible ‘air-soft’ weapons owners and retailers to make sure the guns do not fall into the wrong hands.
He said: “I can’t for the life of me think why someone would need to buy one, but the law says you must be over 18 and be a member of a licensed air-soft club to buy a realistic BB gun.
“If you have realistic looking weapons you no longer need, I need you to hand them in as part of our surrender.”
During the 2017 surrender, 184 firearms were handed over alongside around 9,000 rounds of ammunition.