June is Gun Amnesty Month, with RCMP detachments in Chilliwack and across the province offering to take in unwanted or illegally owned firearms without the threat of criminal charges.
“A typical scenario is having a family member pass away, leaving a collection of firearms for a widow or other surviving family members,” said Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen. “They don’t know what to do with them and they don’t always keep them properly secured. It’s a common occurrence to have break-ins where criminals are specifically targeting firearms. We like to take those firearms out of houses so they don’t end up on the streets or used in situations of domestic violence.”
Legal possession of a firearm requires a firearms acquisition permit and license, and those documents aren’t transferable. There are also many firearm owners who didn’t update their documents 10 years ago when legislation changed to require more permits.
The amnesty is aimed at people like this.
“If you don’t have a valid permit or certificate, we’re not going to charge you for that. We just want you to bring in the guns so we can dispose of them properly,” vanNieuwenhuizen explained. “What the amnesty does not cover is firearms that have been used in a criminal offence.”
So, if you’ve held up a liquor store at gunpoint lately, this may not be for you.
“We’d be more than happy to take the guns away from the gangsters as well, if they want to turn ’em in,” vanNieuwenhuizen chuckled. “But if we take in a gun, and through analysis in the lab we find it has been used in a criminal offence, if charges are applicable, we will follow through.”
The 2006 amnesty saw 505 handguns and 725 other unwanted weapons (knives, nun-chucks, etc) turned in.
The eye-popping items were a rocket launcher and machine gun.
Amnesties have been a proven tool for reducing violence, which raises the obvious question.
Why seven years between them?
“It was noted at the BC Chiefs of Police meeting that we hadn’t had one in a while, and they thought it was timely,” vanNieuwenhuizen said. “They don’t want to do it too often because it loses its appeal, but it’s an initiative we probably should have more often.”
If you have firearms you want to turn in, don’t stroll into the RCMP detachment with them as it scares the administrative staff.
In Chilliwack, call 604-792-4611. In Hope call 604-869-7750 and in Agassiz call 604-796-2211.