Handful of weapons handed to police

JUST a handful of weapons have been surrendered to Essex Police in this month's gun amnesty – thanks to the success of a previous campaign.Officers believe the low numbers suggest their 1996 amnesty was a success.

JUST a handful of weapons have been surrendered to Essex Police in this month's gun amnesty – thanks to the success of a previous campaign.

Officers believe the low numbers suggest their 1996 amnesty was a success. This time, Colchester, Braintree and Clacton police forces have together received 27 genuine weapons only, including shotguns and rifles, and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.

Police are particularly pleased to have received six air guns and one imitation firearm - this year's amnesty targeted such weapons because of the difficulties police have in identifying whether a weapon is genuine or fake in the heat of the moment.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "The main thing we were concerned with were replicas. When called to an incident, we don't know that a weapon is not genuine."


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He added that police thought the amnesty, which lasts until April 30, had so far been "very encouraging".

He said: "If it doesn't continue at this rate then that may also indicate there are less weapons on the streets than we suspected. Gun crime in Essex is a rare occurrence but even one incident isn't acceptable."

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The last national arms amnesty was launched in 1996 after the Dunblane massacre. During that campaign, 793 firearms, 223 other weapons, mainly knives, and 15,994 rounds of ammunition were handed into Essex Police.

But it is unlikely that police will receive a similar amount this year.

Great Dunmow has received seven shotguns and one air rifle, Harwich has received one air pistol and Halstead and Brightlingsea police have received no weapons at all.

The arms amnesty was launched on March 31 as a joint police and Government initiative, after 17-year-old Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis, 18, were shot dead during a confrontation between rival armed gangs during a party to celebrate New Year at a hairdressers salon in Aston, Birmingham on January 2.

The amnesty gives people a chance to hand in weapons anonymously and without fear of prosecution for unlawful possession. Changes in the law are expected after the amnesty expires, to make using air and replica weapons in public an arrestable offence.

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