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Gun amnesty offers chance to surrender unwanted firearms

"We're basically just looking for anything we can get... when it comes to the voluntary search... it could be anything. It could be sawed off shotguns, it could be prohibited firearms... That's one of the main aims of the amnesty program is to try and get those firearms off the street with no penalty, and that's why it's completely voluntary."
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ST. PAUL - In an effort to combat gun related violence in the area, one of St. Paul's newest RCMP recruits is taking on a project that will allow residents to voluntarily turn in unwanted firearms.

"The amnesty program is about reducing gun crime and turning in unwanted firearms," reads information presented by Cst. Paul Charlebois at the Oct. 12 Town of St. Paul council meeting. 

Charlebois and Cst. Jonathan Boulet are working on the project. New recruits are expected to take on a project in the community, find an issue, break it down and talk to people about it. Charlebois says the amnesty was chosen based on an increase in gun related crime over the past year.

There has been a notable increase in firearms related violence in the communities of Saddle Lake, Goodfish (Whitefish) Lake, and St. Paul. Overall, the events do not appear to be connected to gangs or organized crime, but rather personal disputes and low level drug trafficking.

"June 7 of 2021, there was a shooting resulting in one death that occurred in Saddle Lake," explained Charlebois, as well, from January to June 2021, there was a 220 per cent increase in firearms-related violence, compared to 2020. There were 10 confirmed drive-by shootings in Saddle Lake, along with other reports of shots being fired that cannot be confirmed.

Contributing factors include substance abuse and easy access to firearms. 

Police do track the number of firearms related complaints being made, and that number has seen an increase in both Saddle Lake and Goodfish Lake, but not all complaints are confirmed.

"Some could be unfounded, and some could actually involve firearms," said Charlebois. For example, some calls could actually be fireworks being set off.

Confirmed occurrences

In St. Paul, which includes the Town and County, there have been eight confirmed occurrences that involved firearms or shootings, and two drive-by shootings reported, so far this year. One of the shootings was domestic related, noted Charlebois. In 2020, there were five occurrences.

As for confirmed occurrences with physical evidence at the scene, there were 12 occurrences in Goodfish Lake between January and Oct. 10, 2021; in Saddle Lake there was a total of 35 confirmed occurrences.  

Charlebois explained that the amnesty is entirely voluntary. He offered a couple of examples why people may want to turn firearms into police. On example is that homes can be broken into, and firearms can be stolen. Also, someone may inherit a firearm from a family member and may not know what to do with it. In that case, RCMP can make it so the firearm is deactivated, and it can then be safely stored.

How it works

The amnesty allows for the public to bring firearms into the detachment, or officers can go to a location with a search form to help dispose of unwanted firearms.

"It's totally voluntary," affirmed Charlebois.

A poster is being developed and dates are being set for the gun amnesty. He noted that an anonymous sponsor is also willing to offer a small door prize for those who do voluntarily hand in firearms.

The amnesty allows for people to turn in firearms that may be restricted, with no penalty. 

"We're basically just looking for anything we can get... when it comes to the voluntary search... it could be anything. It could be sawed-off shotguns, it could be prohibited firearms... That's one of the main aims of the amnesty program is to try and get those firearms off the street with no penalty, and that's why it's completely voluntary," said Charlebois. 

He noted that other police resources are available to ensure voluntary searches are done safely.

Speaking in support of the amnesty, Town of St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller said the program is about making all communities safe.

"It wasn't a specific target of any community, it's all our communities connected and interconnected. And it was to help facilitate an entire region," said Miller.

CAO Steven Jeffery asked if ammunition could be turned in to RCMP, to which Charlebois noted he couldn't see it being a problem to turn over unwanted ammunition. But, the overall aim is to voluntarily search and look for firearms.

Charlebois also offered a reminder to residents about the safe transportation of firearms. If a resident isn't able to properly transport a firearm, he recommended they call the detachment instead. 

"If you're not authorized to transport a firearm... reach out," said Charlebois.

 



Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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