NSW Police Force will run a three-month Firearm Amnesty encouraging those who have unregistered firearms to surrender or register them and to also remind licensed holders of safe storage requirements.
While police have already stopped 63,000 unregistered firearms being fired as a result of previous amnesties in the past decade, the new campaign hopes to build upon that figure.
Between March 1 and May 31 2009, owners of illegal firearms can hand them in with no questions asked, no penalties given and anonymity guaranteed. However, after the amnesty any breach will be dealt with under the existing laws and penalties.
Following the amnesty, Local Area Commands across the State will run a safety program by increasing their inspections on gun storage facilities of licensed firearms holders.
More than 160,000 gun licence holders across the State will receive letters from the NSWPF Firearms Registry from Monday 23 February notifying them of the amnesty and what to do if they have unregistered firearms, which includes imitations and replicas, firearm barrels, ammunition, magazines and silencers.
Alternatively, licence holders, and anyone who may have illegal firearms, can go to www.police.nsw.gov.au/firearms, email queries to email@example.com or call the amnesty information line on 1800 803 041 for further information.
As part of the amnesty, a Statewide public awareness poster, print and radio campaign titled ‘Take Guns out of the equation’ will serve as a reminder to those who have illegal guns, those who are licensed shooters and also those who may know of someone with unregistered firearms.
This will be the third amnesty in the past 10 years that NSWPF have called for.
In 2001, 45,000 firearms were handed in to police. In 2003 following changes in handgun restrictions, a five-month amnesty and mobile gun buyback which encouraged legal handgun owners to submit their weapons for inspection/destruction, resulted in 18,000 guns being handed into police.
The purpose of the current amnesty is to keep the community safe by taking unregistered firearms off the streets and ensuring that those who are legally allowed to have firearms keep them safely stored to prevent any accidents.
Assistant Commissioner David Hudson, from the State Crime Command, said police were hopeful that this amnesty would make a difference.
“We have had great success with the amnesties in the past and are hopeful that this latest one will encourage people to do the right thing when it comes to firearms,” Assistant Commissioner Hudson said.
“The purpose is to keep the community safe. Any sort of firearm is extremely dangerous if misused or in the hands of the wrong people, which can all lead to fatalities.
“Likewise with firearms that aren’t stored correctly. The idea of children or teenagers playing with guns they can access is a tragedy waiting to happen.
“We have taken 63,000 illegal firearms off the streets so far but there are still more to go and we are always doing what we can to protect the community.”