UK Legal News Daily – Londoners are today being urged to hand in realistic imitation guns during a four-week “Surrender” scheme being launched by the Metropolitan Police Service.
From 21st January to 17th February, the public will be able to hand in these weapons at any police station within London’s 32 boroughs without fear of prosecution for unlawful possession.
The scheme is targeted at realistic imitation guns because intelligence suggests they represent the largest number of firearms carried on London’s streets. In addition around 50% of all gun-enabled crime, including street robberies, involve imitation firearms that have either been converted to fire live ammunition or are so realistic looking that they are indistinguishable from real firearms, causing great fear and distress.
During the Surrender, people handing in weapons will not be required to give their details. The message is “We want your gun, not your name”.
Building on this message, a pan-London press and radio marketing campaign is being launched today targeting 10 to 25-year-old males and their influencers – be it family members, friends or partners.
Full colour press adverts, which will appear in youth orientated publications, regional and ethnic minority media, consist of an image of an ‘invisible man’ entering a police station, demonstrating that he is anonymous at the point of handing over the firearm. In addition to the press campaign, two 30-second radio adverts have been produced, featuring the voices of well-spoken older women who would not automatically be associated with firearms in order to create intrigue amongst listeners and grab their attention.
Whilst the Surrender scheme focuses on imitation firearms, the Met will accept other potentially lethal weapons that are handed in order to take them out of circulation.
During the campaign we are asking the public to provide us with information about imitation firearms within their communities, whether they are being kept in residential addresses on retail premises.
Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: “Imitation weapons cause fear and distress on our streets and I would urge members of our communities to take this chance to get rid of them. Every gun handed in is one less that can be used for violence and intimidation. Whilst overall crime in London has significantly decreased this campaign is aimed at young people whose lives are being blighted by gun culture and imitation firearms are an intrinsic part of that.”
Commander Shaun Sawyer, the head of the Met’s Violent Crime Directorate, said: “Carrying a realistic imitation or real gun in public is stupid and illegal. In doing so you are putting yourself in danger as well as endangering the safety of those around you. The chances are you will become a victim of gun crime yourself or be arrested by police and face a prison sentence. If you possess an imitation gun in a public place it could be mistaken for a real firearm and armed police called to respond.
“Whether it belongs to you, your son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or partner, by handing it you will be taking one more weapon out of circulation.”
The Surrender scheme is one of a raft of measures by the Met to tackle the availability of realistic imitation firearms in London and to enforce new legislation, which was enacted last October.
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 makes it an offence to manufacture, import or sell realistic imitation guns unless they are made available for specific reasons contained in the legislation.
In addition the maximum sentence for carrying an imitation gun in a public place without reasonable excuse or lawful authority has been increased from six months to 12 months under the Violent Crime Reduction Act. This applies to BB guns(discharging plastic, wax or ball bearing “shot”), blank firing pistols, cap guns, collectibles, ‘airsoft’ guns (which fire plastic ball bearings and are used during organised skirmishes), airguns and other items that resemble a gun.
Officers are visiting retailers who sell these weapons to ensure they are complying with the new legislation, while other enforcement activity is taking place to target armourers.
Test purchases are being carried out on retail premises in London suspected of supplying these weapons illegally and companies supplying realistic imitation guns over the internet.
We are also working with other UK law enforcement agencies to gather intelligence about the importation of weapons and distribution once in the country.
Commander Sawyer added: “It is a criminal offence to sell, import and manufacture realistic imitation guns. If you know anyone who is selling or supplying imitation weapons we want to hear from you.”
Crimestoppers is working with the Metropolitan Police Service to obtain intelligence on those who are using, selling or supplying realistic imitation weapons in the Capital.
Dave Cording, Crimestoppers’ director of operations, said: “We welcome this scheme by the Met to tackle the use and supply of imitation guns in the Capital and would encourage anyone wishing to remain anonymous to contact Crimestoppers with information. We want you tell us what you know, not who you are.”
Anyone wanting more details about how to surrender realistic imitation firearms should contact their local police. Anyone with information about the use of real or imitation firearms and suppliers should contact their local police or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.