Beyond the Headlines

Halifax police want your guns

Posted: Jul 25, 2012 11:34 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 25, 2012 11:34 AM ET
A little while ago, while chatting with a veteran Halifax police detective I asked what changes he's seen in our city since joining the force. Without hestitating, he answered "guns."
"When I first started it was rare to arrest a suspect who was carrying a weapon," he told me, "now we see it all the time."
That shift to an American-type gun culture is clearly evident when you look at the latest crime stats. We all know 2011 was a violent year in Halifax. A record number of homicides (18), a record number of shootings (75), and a homicide rate that is the highest since 1981.
According to Statistics Canada, Halifax is one of the most violent cities in the country. Last year we had a murder rate of 4.4 persons per 100,000 population. That was second only to Winnipeg (5.1) and far higher than the national avearge of 1.7 homicides per 100,000 people. Our homicide rate is even more sobering when you compare it to Canada's largest cities. The homicide rate in Montreal is just 1.4, Toronto 1.5 and Vancouver 1.8.
Halifax police acknowledge gun violence is a growing concern and they are trying to put a dent in those figures. They're targeting the two-bit criminals who now believe they not only have to pack a weapon, but have to be willing to use it.
And they are trying to get those guns off the streets. So far this year Halifax police have seized 609 weapons, up from 423 guns over the same period last year. That's more than three weapons seized every single day.
This week I had a chance to see some of those weapons at the storage locker at the Halifax police station on Gottingen Street. They have virtually every gun imaginable. I saw a .44 magnum (Dirty Harry's gun), some .38s, rifles sawed down and modified to fit under a coat, and pistols in every shape and size.
Some of these weapons were seized from crimes, some were guns police removed from homes during domestic dispute calls, while others were turned in by former gun owners.
That's where police say you can help get guns off the street.
"Many of the guns are coming from break-an-enters into local homes," said Cst. Brian Palmeter.
"We're asking legitimate gun owners if they have guns they are not using, contact the police, turn the gun over and it will be destroyed," said Palmeter. "It eliminates the chance of that gun falling into the hands of criminals to be used for a criminal purpose."
Police know deterring violent crimes is far more complex than simply getting a few guns off the street. But it's a start.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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