Gun surrenders – where policemen encourage the public to give up any old guns they’ve got laying around the house, and later prosecute them for illegal possession* – have a history, in Britain, of being embarrassing exercises in “look, look, here’s some old scrap that we’re falsely claiming is a mass murder weapon!”
Not so with Wiltshire Police’s latest effort.
“More than 100 firearms have been collected by Wiltshire Police during a two week surrender, which finished on Sunday (20 September),” begins the press release. Oh dear, you think, here we go again.
“Items collected include 27 air rifles, 35 shotguns, nine air pistols, three revolvers and three handguns. Ammunition has also been collected with some of the firearms.”
Eh? Since when were police forces open and transparent with the details of their gun surrenders?
“There were a mix of weapons collected. However most of the items surrendered were shotguns and air rifles, which is what we expect in a rural county.”
So here we have a gun surrender where the police openly admit, for the first time, that most of the items recovered were likely to have been legally held, either on certificate or as antiques. This is good.
Firearms collected also include inherited service weapons from the World War I and II, antique weaponry dating back to Victorian times, duelling pistols, starting pistols, stage props and BB guns.
Inspector McGrath added: “Many of these firearms have stories to tell, such as a .303 rifle from the 1870s. This was an ‘unreliable’ rifle type for military use, but was converted to .22 calibre and used for sporting purposes in shooting clubs across the country. We also collected two rare European pistols from the 1900s.”
The majority of the firearms collected will be destroyed. Wiltshire Police has also established contacts with weapon museums and some of the antique items are likely to be passed to them for display.
Even better – heritage items are actually being saved from destruction, or so the police say. In the spirit of good journalism’s motto “trust, but verify”, it would be good to know which museums are receiving these items.
More concerning was the mention that Jeremy Kyle also visited the police during the surrender for a new TV documentary about gun crime in Britain. Kyle was at Bisley during this summer’s NRA Imperial Meeting, so it will be interesting to see what angle he takes when the programme is broadcast in January.
* “Gun surrenders” are different from “gun amnesties”. In the latter case, you can hand over property, legally held or otherwise, without fear of prosecution; the idea is to get unlicensed and prohibited firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. In a gun surrender, however, the police are under no obligation to treat you fairly.
As ever, the standard UKSN advice is never to hand anything in to the police because you risk prosecution and imprisonment regardless of your good intentions; give any items to your local registered firearms dealer instead, who will dispose of them safely and lawfully for you.