‘Keep Essex safe’ plea as police launch firearms amnesty

A firearms amnesty is taking place across Essex.

A firearms amnesty is taking place across Essex. - Credit: Archant

Police are encouraging Uttlesford residents to hand in any unwanted or unlicensed firearms to help keep Essex safe and prevent it from falling into the hands of criminals.

Essex Police is running a two-week firearm surrender, running until Sunday, August 4, where residents can hand a firearm into officers and won't face prosecution for possessing it illegally.

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Kirby, from the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said: "Gun crime is, fortunately, low in Essex but we do still see offences where firearms are used.

"We have many responsible, law abiding firearms licence holders in Essex but there are members of the criminal fraternity who want to get hold of guns to threaten, frighten and injure others and it's really important we do everything we can to reduce the chance of them getting their hands on one.

"There are a number of reasons why you may possess a firearm illegally, whether it be because you've inherited a trophy of war weapon from a family member, your own licence has expired or, may be unaware that changes in the law mean you're no longer eligible to have a licence.

"It may just be that you possess a firearm legally but you just don't want or need it anymore and want to dispose of it safely and that's exactly what you can do during our surrender."

There were 569 offences involving a real firearm in Essex last year.

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Officers also seized, or had handed into, 2,224 real firearms and 520 air weapons or imitation firearms.

DCI Kirby added that this surrender is just one of many things officers do to protect Essex and keep people safe from firearms:

He said: "Thanks to information and intelligence from the public we regularly carry out proactive operations to tackle criminals using weapons and targeting those who are possessing them illegally.

"We've carried out a number of warrants in the last year where we've seized a significant number of illegally held firearms from people and this surrender is just another way we're keeping Essex safe."

Many people who people who possess a firearms licence live in the rural community.

Nick Charrington, the chairman of the Rural Community Council of Essex, said: "The Rural Community Council of Essex really approves of this scheme as it is a chance to dispose of firearms that are no longer needed or are unlicensed.

"We know that people legitimately possess firearms - both shotguns and rifles - for both work and recreation.

"However, over time the rules relating to firearms have changed and people may be in possession of a firearm that is no longer licensed.

"Additionally, the need to possess a firearm changes - and there are occasions when people own a firearm which they no longer use.

"You may own a pistol brought back from the war by a family member or friend, and be afraid of handing it in to the police for fear of prosecution.

"Between Saturday 20th July and Sunday 4th August any firearms may be surrendered to the police under the terms of this campaign".

In recent years the law has changed which means residents may no longer be eligible to hold a firearm licence.

In 2014, laws affecting gun ownership and licensing changed meaning anyone who's previously served a custodial or suspended sentence of between three months and three years won't be able to possess a firearm or ammunition for five years.

Anyone who has served a custodial sentence of more than three years will be permanently banned.

In addition, anyone who has served a custodial or suspended sentence won't be allowed to possess an antique firearm.

To hand in a firearm, call 101 and ask to be put through to a participating police station, arrange a time to surrender the firearm and take them to the police station.

In exceptional circumstances, they can be collected by pre-arranged appointment from members of the public.

The police stations involved are Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Grays, Harlow, and Southend.

Once they've been handed in they will be checked to see if they've been used in any criminal activity.

If you have any information about someone who has a gun illegally you can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.