Police agencies set sights on province-wide gun amnesty program in Sask.

People with unwanted guns will be able to hand them over to police across the province. The Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police is getting ready to launch a coordinated provincial gun amnesty program .

Deputy chief says police don't expect criminals to hand over their guns

Guns can be turned into nine different police services throughout the province, including Saskatoon and Regina police, the RCMP, and Saskatchewan Conservation Officers. Call the police, do not walk into a police detachment with a gun. (Regina Police Service)

Saskatchewan gun owners can hand over their firearms without penalty during the first-ever provincial gun amnesty program. 

Police agencies are preparing for the program which will launch on March 29 and run until April 27. 

"It's all about community safety," said Regina Police Service deputy chief Dean Rae.

The amnesty is meant to allow people to get rid of unwanted firearms they have acquired, whether it be from inheritance or some other means.

​'It's an opportunity for us to address a growing concern in our communities.'- Saskatoon Police Service Superintendent Mitch Yuzdepski

Rae said police don't expect criminals or ill-intentioned people to hand over their weapons, but it could prevent them from acquiring more. 

"We know that a lot of the firearms that are used in the commission of offences in the province are stolen — sometimes in break and enters, or other types of crimes," he said. 

"Anytime we can take even one firearm off the street and stop one offence, I think we're having success."

In 2017, the Regina Police Service held a two-week municipal gun amnesty program. During that time, charges related to the unauthorized possession of a firearm were not pursued for people who turned guns in. 

The provincial program operates like Regina's did, and Saskatoon Police Service will be participating. 

"You can turn in that firearm and it's almost like no questions asked," said SPS Superintendent Mitch Yuzdepski, noting people can hand over any type of weapon or ammunition. 

Yuzdepski said the focus is on community safety. But it also comes at a time when cities in the province are experiencing more gun crime.   

​"It's an opportunity for us to address a growing concern in our communities," he said. "Regina, ourselves — I know Prince Albert as well — we've seen an increase in the amount of weapon offences." 

Some members of the public criticized the Regina Police Service for destroying the firearms at the end of its program, and suggested they would be better off with a dealer or in an auction. 

But Rae said he doesn't believe the gun amnesty program has anything to do with businesses that sell guns. 

"I don't believe we're infringing on their ability to do that. [Those businesses] have ways to go purchase firearms from people, and if people are inclined to take them and sell them to those individuals, they can." 
The Regina Police Service collected 157 guns last year during its gun amnesty program. (Regina Police Service)

Rae said the municipal program was successful in the eyes of the police service, so he presented the results to Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police (SACP).

"There was consensus in the room that we should try to do something on a larger scale." 

In Regina, people will be able to call police to notify them they have guns to hand over, so an officer can come pick it up. 

"We don't want anybody coming to the police station, walking in the front doors, carrying a firearm," Rae said. 

The report filed about the retrieval is contained in a confidential data base, he said, noting police will conduct checks on the firearms to see if they are related to any ongoing investigations. 

The guns will be sent for destruction at the end of the collection.

The nine agencies participating are the RCMP "F" Division, Regina Police Service, Saskatoon Police Service, Saskatchewan Conservation Officers, Prince Albert Police Service, Corman Park Police, Estevan Police Service, Weyburn Police Service and Moose Jaw Police Service. 

Rae said the specifics on how people can turn in their guns across the province will be available to the public near the end of the month.