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Gun amnesty declared
POLICE in Hertfordshire have pledged their support to a national firearms amnesty launched on Friday, March 28.

The UK-wide one-month amnesty will allow the public to surrender any illegally held guns and ammunition at their local police station without fear of prosecution for unlawful possession.

The amnesty also gives people the opportunity to surrender lawfully held guns and ammunition they no longer wish to own including air pistols and replica weapons.

Hertfordshire's assistant chief constable Simon Ash said: "Although Hertfordshire does not have a high number of gun related crimes, we have, like many forces, seen an increase in gun related incidents in recent months."

The latest figures released by the force indicate an alarming trend towards using firearms during other crimes.

From April to November 2002, police recorded 96 separate firearms offences.

This had risen from 67 offences for the 12 months up to April 2002 and just 35 offences over the previous year up to April 2001.

Superintendent Steve Hughes, who is co-ordinating the amnesty, said: "Imitation guns and BB guns in particular are a concern as many reports of firearm sightings in Hertfordshire turn out to involve imitations.

"Worryingly, many young people view the casual carrying of guns as fashionable, much like a mobile phone.

"In many cases they are simply replicas, but by carrying such items in a public place, they could face the real possibility of being confronted by armed police officers, something which we are obviously extremely keen to avoid."

New government legislation will soon make the possession of any type of firearm, even replica weapons, in a public place without reasonable excuse, an arrestable offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Superintendent Hughes said: "The more guns we destroy the less chance there is of them being used in a crime or to harm others in the future."

10:34am Thursday 3rd April 2003

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