The new fad these days seems to be firearm amnesties run by local police departments.
British Columbia held an amnesty over the month of June, 2006. Toronto held a 24 day amnesty in November, 2005 and Hamilton a month long one in March, 2006. Manitoba, Cape Breton, Sudbury, Edmonton and Ottawa are among other areas that have held their own firearm amnesty.
The stated reason for these amnesties is to “get firearms off the streets”. Of course few to none of these firearms were ever “on the street”. Many are turned in by older people who have had a particular firearm around from the days when they hunted or farmed. Some would be firearms that have been passed down from a relative, now long-gone.
The sad part is that many of these firearms have some real value that these people could realize if these guns were sold or if the government would fairly compensate them when they turn them over.
Of course that will never happen because:
1. No one wants to allocate any funds to paying these people for their property, and
2. The police want the public relations boost of being able to say that we can now sleep safer in our beds at night because these dangerous weapons (which have never been used in a crime) have been removed from the “streets” and therefore don’t want any outside buyers to take ownership.
An article in the May 7th, 2006 issue of the Edmonton Journal quoted a spokesman for the Edmonton police as saying, “The main point for this gun amnesty is to have citizens turn in weapons they will not be using, whether it’s old hunting rifles or historic weapons. What police are trying to do is reduce the number of weapons out there that are accessible to criminals.”
Old hunting rifles or historic weapons? No Uzi’s or AK47s that the gun banners seem to have palpitations over? It seems to me that if they are worried about the relatively few firearms that get turned in on an amnesty they must be frothing at the mouth to find some reason to get their hands on the rest of the legal firearms out there.
And it is certainly only the legally owned firearms that they are concerned about as they freely admit that the guns that are really out on the street are not going to be turned in under their amnesty program.
The Edmonton Journal article goes on to quote the Deputy Chief for the Hamilton police force as saying, “Because every gun we took off the street made officers safer, it was a real positive.” and that, “the long-term effect of the firearms amnesty is difficult to determine. “We haven’t had any shootings, touch wood, since that event.”
I have yet to figure out how destroying some hunting rifles and antiques that have been in the possession of law-abiding citizens for decades without ever causing the police a single iota of trouble would make the police officers noticeably safer, especially when I think that there are millions of similar firearms spread around the country that are similarly causing no harm to the community. Is the thought of all those legal firearms are keeping those officers up at night?
And the value of the amnesty is “difficult to determine?” I think not. The police themselves in moments of candor recognize that the amnesties will not reduce crime. An Edmonton criminologist says that “Gun amnesties serve more as a waste disposal program than as a way to curb gun violence”.
So what purpose do these amnesties serve? Well, police chiefs, like all good politicians – and never doubt the fact that they are politicians in their own right - know that it is better to be perceived by the public as doing something (anything). And it makes no difference if what you are doing in no way solves the stated problem (crime and violence in the streets) as long as you can convince the media (and therefore the public) that you are “doing something” (taking guns off the street).
Times have changed. When I was much younger, a firearms amnesty was made available so you could legally register any unregistered handguns you might have in your possession without fear of prosecution. But that was another time and a different Canada.