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31 October 2016, 06:24
Essex Police is launching a two-week firearms amnesty so residents can surrender any unwanted or unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
It will run from 8am on Monday, October 31 until 5pm on Friday, November 11. During this time members of the public are encouraged to hand in unwanted firearms, ammunition, imitation firearms, and air or gas-powered weapons to one of eight police stations.
During this period anyone surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for illegal possession. They can also choose to remain anonymous when handing the items in.
The history of each live weapon will however be checked.
Det Chief Supt Rob Fordham said: "There has been a concerning rise in the number of offences involving firearms in Essex in the last three years – from 700 to 806.
"Guns can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. This amnesty will give members of the public the opportunity to safely dispose of any unwanted or unlicensed firearms and ammunition safely, ensuring they do not fall into the wrong hands.
"Essex has many responsible licensed firearms holders, however there have been a number of changes to the law in recent years and people may be unaware of how these changes affect them.
"There may also be people out there who have inherited weapons from elderly relatives or friends that are actually not legal for them to possess.
"This amnesty gives them the opportunity to surrender the items and not be prosecuted”.
The weapons can be surrendered at front counters at the police stations in Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Harlow, Grays and Southend but those wishing to surrender any items are advised to call ahead on 101 so they can be advised on how best to transport the item.
Members of the public can also use the 101 service to arrange for a police officer to collect the weapon.
Det Chief Supt Fordham added: "As well as real firearms, we are also keen for the public to hand in imitation firearms, air weapons and BB guns.
"Often it can be difficult to tell apart an imitation firearm from a real one, but the fear and concern felt when one is produced is just the same.
"This amnesty will help make Essex safer and reduce the chance a member of the public will come face-to-face with one”.
Changes to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 now prohibits anyone who has previously served custodial or suspended sentences of between three months and three years from possessing firearms or ammunition for a period of five years.
Anyone who has served custodial sentences of more than three years are permanently prohibited.
Additionally, while the Firearms Act 1968 allows antique firearms to be possessed without a certificate as a "curiosity or ornament”, the changes to the law in 2014 now ensures that anyone prohibited from possessing firearms will be unable to possess antique weapons.