You'll soon be able to exchange guns for 50 bus tickets in Halifax. Regional council approved a gun amnesty program and it will run from Sept. 12 to Sept 23.
The proposal for the gun amnesty program — known as Fares for Firearms — came after a number of gun killings in the Halifax area this spring. To date, there have been nine homicides in the Halifax area and at least 5 of those incidents involved firearms.
"It's certainly something that's going to contribute to the overall public safety of the Halifax Regional Municipality, so I'm happy with their decision," said Ted Upshaw, a public safety advisor with the municipality who wrote the proposal.
Police will pick up guns
Upshaw said the program would involve people calling Halifax Regional Police or RCMP and telling them they have firearms or ammunition they want picked up. Police would then go to the residence and retrieve the restricted, unrestricted or prohibited firearm.
"Hopefully with this program, we'll be able to take some of the guns off the street and just overall make it a little more safe," he said.
The person turning over the weapon would be able to do so without fear of being charged with possession. If the firearm is connected to a crime, police would still investigate.
The municipality's public safety office is responsible for handing out the bus tickets and promoting the program.
Bus tickets as an incentive
The 50 bus tickets would be given out per number of firearms received, so if you had two guns you could get 100 bus tickets. The value of 50 bus tickets is $100.
While discussing the proposal, some councillors questioned if bus tickets were a good enough incentive. Coun. David Hendsbee said there should be another option, such as cash.
A spokesperson for CeaseFire Halifax, one of the anti-violence groups in Halifax, said the initiative is a great first step in curbing gun violence but also said there should be other incentives for people who don't use public transportation.
"We all play a vital role in reducing gun violence in the city of Halifax and I would encourage the business community to also step forward and to actively participate in this program so we can get more guns off the street," said Carlos Beals, an outreach worker with the group.
Upshaw said people living in rural areas with little bus access who have an unwanted gun should still call police to get rid of their firearm.
"If there is no value for you to have it in keeping it, why leave it lying around the ground or around the house? It becomes a real safety thing," he said.
Previous amnesty program successful
Upshaw emphasized that people shouldn't be driving their guns to police stations. He said police will pick up the guns in person at their residence.
The last time Halifax had a gun amnesty program, it was in 2009 with the Pixels for Pistols program that allowed residents to trade in their gun for a camera. There were 1,074 firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition collected.
The total cost of the gun amnesty program is expected to be no more than $5,000, which will be absorbed by Halifax Transit's operating budget unless the agency finds a private sponsor.