Gun buy-back and amnesty programs allow people to surrender firearms to police safely. Most firearms used in street-level crimes are bought or stolen from Canadian homes. So these programs are aimed at reducing firearms offences in Toronto communities.
During these amnesty periods, gun owners can get rid of unregistered or unlicensed firearms without legal repercussions. We look into what happens when you surrender a firearm to the police.
HOW TO SURRENDER A FIREARM
If you want to surrender firearms to the police, call ahead. Even during a gun buy-back program, you do not bring your firearm down to the police station.
There should be a hotline available, if not, call your local police division. Over the phone, you arrange a time for the police to pick up the firearm.
When the police arrive they will secure the firearm and take down your information and address. Although the program allows you to surrender firearms without repercussions, it is not anonymous. You won’t have a criminal record, but the surrender of the weapon will be permanently linked to your name and address in police databases.
If you are surrendering during a gun buy-back program, the police will then pay you for the firearm. Usually, the payment is about $200 for a long gun and $350 for a handgun. It can take 6 to 8 weeks to receive payment.
Once the police remove the gun, your part in the surrender process is over.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SURRENDERING A GUN?
Once surrendered, the firearm is not immediately destroyed. First, it goes through an inspection process to ensure that the weapon was not involved in any ongoing investigations.
The guns are sent to a forensic testing unit. There, they determine whether the firearm has ever been used in a crime. They also inspect the surrendered rounds for fingerprints and DNA that connect to any ongoing investigations.
If, after inspection, the forensics team doesn’t find a connection to a crime they mark the firearms for destruction. Very few firearms are surrendered that are linked to crimes.
CAN YOU BE ARRESTED IF YOU SURRENDER A FIREARM TO POLICE?
This ultimately depends on a few factors. Generally, surrendering a firearm doesn’t result in criminal charges. Police want to get more guns off the street, so there isn’t much incentive in penalizing people who give up their firearms voluntarily. However, criminal charges are possible in some circumstances.
One such factor is whether there is currently an amnesty program. An amnesty program forgives several potential firearms charges. During these programs, gun owners will not face charges for unsafely storing a firearm or possessing an unlicensed or unregistered firearm.
However, even during an amnesty period, charges are possible if the weapon is found to have been used in the commission of an offence.
For more information on the efficacy of these programs read our piece: Do Gun Amnesty Programs Work?
FIREARM SURRENDER FAQ
Can Surrendering an Unregistered Firearm Affect Your Ability To Purchase A Legal Firearm?
During an amnesty program, there are no charges for possessing an unregistered or unauthorized firearm. So the surrender itself should affect neither your ability to get a firearms license nor to purchase a firearm legally.
Outside of an amnesty period, it is possible to have your firearms licence revoked for reasons of public safety.
Can You Surrender Anonymously?
One of the main challenges facing gun buy-back and amnesty programs is the lack of anonymity. This prevents people from surrendering the types of guns most commonly associated with firearms offences.
It also means that if a gun was potentially involved in a crime, there is no way to surrender it without fear of repercussion. As a result, the most dangerous firearms tend to remain in circulation.
Even if there is no reason for repercussions, many people simply do not want to have their names or addresses associated with firearms.
Fortunately, there are options available. Lawyer-lead programs, like Piece Options, provide an alternative to police programs. This allows you to surrender firearms anonymously. The lawyer can surrender the firearm on your behalf, and due to confidentiality protection, they do not have to give up your identity.
How Do You Surender A Firearm Outside of Amnesty Programs
Gun owners do not have to wait for an amnesty program to surrender their firearms. You can call in to surrender a weapon outside of these periods, but you do not receive the same amnesty protections. So it may make sense to surrender through a lawyer instead.
If you possess a firearms licence, properly secure the firearm, and have it registered, you should be fine surrendering outside of an amnesty program. Otherwise, it’s better to surrender anonymously through the Piece Options program.
SURRENDER A GUN TO A TORONTO CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYER
If you’re interested in surrendering a firearm through the Piece Options program, do not bring the weapon to a lawyer’s office. Call ahead to arrange a safe, mutually agreeable, method for surrender.
William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who is directly involved in the Piece Options program. If you wish to surrender a firearm, he will help protect you and your interests throughout the process. Contact Jaksa to arrange a surrender plan.