Elderly women use program most frequently
By Laura Lennie, News Staff
A gun amnesty initiated by Hamilton police is triggering seniors to get rid of their old weapons.
Acting inspector Paul Evans says elderly women have made the most use of the program, which had collected more than 100 firearms and 3,500 rounds of ammunition by its midway mark this week.
“The common story I’ve been seeing is a lot of elderly females, whose husbands have passed away, are starting to move to a new residence or something years later and are finding (guns) in basements, in closets, in trunks from their husbands, and they had no idea they were even there,” he said. “The whole idea is anybody who is in possession of a firearm right now, no matter what the licensing status, we’re willing to take them, get them off their hands and they’re very happy to get them out of their house.”
The gun amnesty program was launched at the beginning of this month.
Evans said collected firearms have included restricted, non-restricted and prohibited handguns and long guns, including pistols, hunting rifles and shotguns.
There also have been some pellet guns.
“A lot of the firearms that we are seeing coming in, people have no registration for, no firearm licences to posses,” Evans said, adding pick-up locations have included a lot of apartments, along with both rural and urban residences in all three divisions. “They’re not illegal guns in that they’ve gone out and acquired them illegally, but they are in illegal possession in that they’ve been passed on to them from family members and they were never really registered beyond the passing down.”
Evans said police are always willing to assist anybody who has any kind of firearm they wish to turn in.
The gun amnesty program is a coordinated effort with dedicated resources that allows it to be done in “one efficient sweep.”
Evans said the program also helps reduce the risk of having firearms stolen from residences and used for criminal purposes.
Over the past two years, 99 guns were reported stolen in Hamilton, he added.
“A firearm is supposed to be properly secured in a locker with a trigger lock and ammunition not stored with it. I’d say the majority of the firearms we have recovered have not been properly stored, have been insecure and have had ammunition either loaded in them or ammunition readily available,” Evans said. “These are the exact type of firearms that criminals doing a break-in would actually obtain. They would have got them had there been break-ins in any of these homes, so we’re bang on with getting the ones out of the homes that need to be out.”
Evans said the gun amnesty program provides an easy and “almost immediate” solution for those wishing to hand over unwanted firearms.
People can call 905-818-9656 to participate in the program. Police will arrange a time to come and pick up the firearms.
“We’ll call back usually within the hour, if we don’t get them live right on the first call,” Evans said. “We’ll then make arrangements to safely go to them because what we don’t want is people transporting firearms in their vehicles into any division.”
A similar program in 2006 saw more than 1,200 firearms and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition turned over to Hamilton police and destroyed.
Evans said in the case of firearms that may be of historical or educational value, the province’s Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto has the final call on whether any weapons should be destroyed.
The gun amnesty program is going “exceptionally well” so far, he added.
“From the firearms that I’ve seen coming in, they’re exactly the group that we basically target this program to,” Evans said. “In a nutshell, if we were to wrap the program up today, I’d say we’ve eliminated 100 opportunities for a gun to be stolen and who knows how many opportunities for a gun to have been used and somebody to be victimized. So we’re already successful, but we have a long way to go still.”