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Historic weapons collected during B.C. gun amnesty

RCMP Cnst. Adriana Peralta holds an AR-15 assault rifle that was turned in as part of a province-wide gun amnesty program, during a news conference in Richmond, B.C., on Friday July 12, 2013. More than 1,400 firearms and nearly 100 other unwanted weapons were turned into RCMP detachments in June.


A British Columbia gun amnesty appeared to be the perfect solution for the person who had a 1.8-metre missile hidden away in storage for years.

The missile and other notable weapons including bayonets from the 1800s, a machine gun, rifles, handguns, shotguns and 31,000 rounds of ammunition were collected in the month-long amnesty program.

The missile was brought to the Abbotsford, B.C., police by the relatives of an individual who had reportedly kept it as a souvenir of military service overseas, Attorney-General Suzanne Anton said in Richmond on Friday.

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The amnesty ran from June 1 to June 30, and allowed people to turn in documented or undocumented firearms not used in a criminal offence without being charged, and was endorsed by the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police.

"We have to not lose focus of the public safety aspect of the amnesty," Ms. Anton said. "These firearms are dangerous and deadly devices, and gun amnesties over the years have taken thousands out of circulation so that they can't be stolen or misused with tragic consequences."

Ms. Anton said the military has taken possession of the missile, adding the amnesty also recovered historic firearms like a Lee-Enfield .303 – a weapon Canadian soldiers used during the Second World War and Korean War and is still in use with the Canadian Rangers – and even a Russian sniper rifle.

More than 1,800 guns and 155 other weapons were obtained during the amnesty.

Ms. Anton said the weapons will be destroyed so they cannot be misused or fall into the hands of children.

That was a point underscored by Constable Jeff Palmer of the West Vancouver Police Department, who said halfway through the campaign that children found a 1914 Webley, six-shot, .45-calibre revolver on a local greenbelt.

"Although it wasn't surrendered as part of the amnesty, it illustrates some of the risks if you have unattended firearms that you are not keeping close track of. Who knows, maybe a family member, a child of the person who owned it, had it out, playing with it, loses it in the forest."

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Constable Palmer said police have not been able to track the revolver to an owner or connect it to an offence.

As successful as Ms. Anton said the program was, this year's numbers fell below previous amnesties.

The Ministry of Justice announced an average of 2,500 firearms and 100,000 rounds were surrendered during amnesties in 1997 and 1998, and 3,200 firearms and 725 other unwanted weapons were handed over in 2006.

Inspector Brad Haugli, president of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, said there's no way to know how many lives have been saved or how many injuries, crimes or accidents have been prevented.

"There is no question that our families, our homes and our communities are safer thanks to the 2013 gun-amnesty program," he said.

In fact, Inspector Haugli talked about an uncle who had committed suicide with a firearm, and wondered if he would be alive today had the weapon been turned in during an amnesty.

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"So this isn't about guns in the hands of criminals," he said. "This is about making our homes and communities safer by ultimately preventing any tragedies that may occur."

According to the Ministry of Justice, 5.3 per cent of British Columbians have a firearms licence, which is below the national average of 5.7 per cent, and 158 homicides were committed with firearms across the country in 2011.

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