The Regina Police Service collected 82 guns in the first week of its first-ever gun amnesty, but not everyone is cheering. Some firearms enthusiasts are unhappy the weapons will be destroyed.
During the amnesty period, police will pick up unwanted guns, illegal or otherwise, and there will be no charges associated with possession of the weapon.
Amnesties across the country have proven successful. One-hundred fifty-two guns were surrendered in Halifax over a two-week period during their September 2016 amnesty. Prior to that in 2009, Pixels for Pistols offered digital cameras in exchange for unwanted guns, which took 1,074 gun and 10,000 rounds of ammunition off the streets of Halifax. Additionally, 1,184 firearms were turned in during an amnesty throughout British Columbia last year, over the month of October.
“We’ve seen a gradual increase in the offences involving firearms,” said Elizabeth Popowich, who is the spokesperson for RPS. “We’ve also seen an increase in the number of guns that are seized by police out in the community.” In 2016 there were 141 violent offences involving firearms in Regina, which is 90 per cent higher than the five-year average.
As the guns come in they are screened by police for involvement in criminal activity and once cleared they will be destroyed. RPS is offering a free one-month city transit or leisure pass, in exchange for the surrender of unwanted or illegal firearms.
Darryl Schemenauer isn’t crazy about the RPS’ plan to destroy guns. As the owner of TnT Gunworks, Schemenauer thinks firearms are valuable. “Some of these are World War I generation firearms,” he said. Schemenauer added that his store has already collected 25 firearms, and offers a $50 minimum in exchange for unwanted guns.
“They could be museum-type firearms. They could go to people with licences. They could go to firearms instructors. They could be resold and the money could go back into policing or training. It’s just a big waste to see these firearms cut up and destroyed.” Schemenauer also said he will donate guns to hunters, in the name of the person who turned it in.
However, Popowich says, “If a firearm is considered to be of historic value we can make application to 'not destroy' it and donate it to a museum.”
CJ Summers is a journalist who openly supports gun ownership. He took to his Facebook page stating, “You can work with any of the participating firearms businesses and play an important part in preserving our history. Local gun shops all across Saskatchewan offer drop off or pick up service options for unwanted/unneeded firearms year round!”
In an interview Summers explained his reason for promoting the alternative option. “I believe that if you want to have an amnesty, and have an initiative as strong as you could possibly make it, you need to put all options on the table,” he said. “I think by including private businesses, you do that.”
“It’s a program that we think will take some unwanted guns out of our community,” Popowich said. “And in doing that it’s really important to recognize that sometimes guns that are used in crimes in our community are stolen in a break an enter, where a firearm isn’t necessarily properly stored.”
Regina Police Service’s gun amnesty runs Feb. 1 to 15.