A gun amnesty will take effect in Hobbema next month in an effort to rid the First Nations reserve of illegal firearms and the violent crime that culminated in April with the drive-by shooting of a toddler, the Alberta government and RCMP announced Wednesday.
Hobbema residents can hand over their illegal or unwanted firearms and ammunition to the Mounties from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30 without facing charges for possessing unregistered and unlicensed weapons.
The government and RCMP are working with Hobbema band officials to conduct the four-month gun amnesty.
"This amnesty is a great example of a community taking responsibility and taking action," Justice Minister Alison Redford said Wednesday in a news release.
"Community leaders recognize there is a gun problem in Hobbema, and they have decided to do something about it. By working alongside government and the RCMP, they are demonstrating that the safety of their residents is their top priority."
The amnesty comes in response to the shooting three months ago of two-year-old Asia Saddleback. A bullet fired through her grandfather’s home on the Samson Cree First Nation struck her as she was eating Sunday dinner on April 13.
Her mother Candace Saddleback has said she's too scared to go back to her home on the reserve.
Police have been stepping up patrols on all four reserves in Hobbema, following the shooting of the little girl, who has since been released from hospital.
All weapons covered by amnesty
The gun amnesty announced Wednesday is for all firearms, including shotguns and handguns, as well as ammunition.
Hobbema residents are also encouraged to turn over unwanted replica or imitation firearms or pellet guns, as these could be used to commit a crime. Other weapons, such as knives, will also be accepted.
"This amnesty will prevent unwanted guns from falling into the wrong hands or seriously injuring or killing someone if accidentally discharged," Fred Lindsay, solicitor general and minister of public security, said in a news release.
"Giving people the chance to dispose of their firearms in a safe and convenient manner is a practical, effective way to help ensure the safety of this community and its residents."
Carolyn Buffalo, a councillor with the Montana band, said her community supports the amnesty.
"Our RCMP detachment is the busiest in Alberta, and one of the busiest in the whole country," she said.
"Do we have issues? Absolutely. Do we have criminal gang activity? Absolutely. It’s there and because of that we’re doing everything we can, and we think this gun amnesty is one way to make our community safer."
Buffalo said there have been big improvements in Hobbema since the shooting of Asia Saddleback. Community members have been tearing down burned out buildings and removing graffiti.
A curfew has also put an end to much of the violence overnight, she said.
Anyone who wants to dispose of their firearms should contact the Hobbema RCMP at 780-585-3893 to make arrangements.
Officers will go to residences to pick up firearms and ammunition, but residents should not take these items to the RCMP detachment unless instructed to do so.
The Mounties will test all firearms, and if any of the guns were stolen or used in a crime, charges may be laid. Most guns turned over will be destroyed. The RCMP and band representatives will deal appropriately with any firearms which have historical significance.