British citizens have been given two weeks to surrender all guns, “other weapons” and ammunition to local police stations, according to BBC News.
If they submit their firearms within this 14-day window they will not be prosecuted — unless the weapon is later connected to a crime. In other words, law-abiding citizens should submit any firearms still in their possession, but criminals probably should not.
According to police, many people still own weapons without realizing that they are illegal under British law. For example, families often do not know what to do with guns they have inherited from elderly relatives.
Assistant Chief Constable Helen McMillan told the BBC that realistically police were “not going to get hardened gang members” to hand in their weapons. However, she said that “this is part of our response to try and make it as difficult as possible for those people to come into possession of any type of weapon at all.” Ms. McMillan then added, “You don’t have to give your name or address, we just want more guns out of harm’s way.”
Certain types of BB guns and other air guns, rifles, shotguns and pistols are included on the list of weapons British police say must be surrendered by November 26. During the last official roundup of guns in 2014, more than 6,000 weapons were submitted in England and Wales.
According to Ms. McMillan, people often find illegal firearms when clearing up the houses of deceased relatives and do not know whether they should keep them. “It could be a trophy of war, it could be a starting pistol. Please contact us on 101 and arrange to hand it in to your nearest police station,” she said. “Each firearm we retrieve has the potential to save a life, so do the right thing and surrender your weapon.”
The United Kingdom enforces some of the toughest gun laws in the world. Handguns and fully-automatic weapons are banned. Civilians must apply for a license and have a “good reason” to own either a rifle or a shotgun, which can hold a maximum of three shells at a time.
Applicants are then assessed by the UK licensing authority, the Home Office, and the police force to make sure they do not pose any risk. This typically involves interviews, police visits to the applicant’s home, criminal background checks, mental health disclosure from the applicant’s doctor, as well as references from friends. Self-defense is not considered a legitimate reason for gun ownership.
In spite of the country’s extremely tight gun control laws, last year there were a reported 2,544 firearms offenses in the United Kingdom— a 42 percent increase from 2015 — mostly in London.