Brampton mother wants city to introduce gun amnesty buyback program

After a slew of recent shootings, a Brampton mother is calling on her city to introduce a new gun amnesty program — and she wants the city to offer up cash for the turned-in weapons. Not everyone is convinced it will help.

Charmaine Williams calling for month-long amnesty program in September

Brampton resident Charmaine Williams says the city must do more to combat a growing gun epidemic. (Submitted)

A Brampton mother is calling on the city to introduce a new gun amnesty program, and offer up cash when weapons are turned in.

Her plea comes after a slew of recent shootings in Brampton, including two homicides within the past two weeks.

"It seems like there is an epidemic of gun violence in Brampton," said Charmaine Williams, a mother of five and small business owner.

"My neighbours have told me that they're worried that the Brampton that they know and love is slowly slipping away."

Williams is asking the city to introduce a month-long amnesty program in September, in which Peel police would pick up unwanted guns from people's homes, no questions asked.

The City of Brampton would then compensate the former gun owners for the weapons, at $100 per handgun and $50 per long gun.

"Money is a big motivator and it works," said Williams, who has registered to run for city council in the upcoming municipal election in October.

While Toronto police and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have run recent amnesty programs, they do not usually offer to pay for the guns.

Peel police do not have a standing amnesty or turn-in program for weapons, but the force did participate in an amnesty program run by the OPP in April, 2017.

Officers collected 69 firearms and 75 pounds of ammunition from Peel region during that event.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders stands near a collection of guns collected during a 2015 amnesty program. The majority of the seized weapons were long rifles. (Robert Krbavac/CBC News)

In the United States, many local police departments frequently include buyback incentives in their amnesty initiatives.

On July 10, the Utica, NY police department recovered 169 weapons during a buyback event, in which police offered gift cards for the firearms.

"Gun buybacks help ensure safer communities by taking dangerous weapons out of our homes and off our streets," said New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood in a news release after the event.

In San Francisco, police recently announced the recovery of 187 weapons during a buyback event. Police there offered $100 for handguns and $200 for assault rifles.

Who turns in the guns?

While law enforcement and justice system officials say the programs have been a success, some critics say the amnesty and buybacks do little to prevent gun violence.

"I don't think it has a huge impact at all," said Christian Pearce, a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto and author on gun violence.

Pearce said the majority of guns turned in during amnesty and buyback events, such as rifles and shotguns, are rarely used in violent crime.

Money is a big motivator and it works.- Charmaine Williams

Criminals in possession of handguns have little incentive to participate in a buyback program, he said, since they often feel their guns are necessary for personal safety. If someone does want to sell their handgun, Pearce said they can typically sell for between $500 and $1500 on the street.

"An amnesty sounds good, but I don't think it accomplishes anything. You've got to look at the reason guys are carrying guns to begin with," he said.

Pearce said the majority of guns used in crimes are stolen from the legitimate, private collections of people unlikely to take part in an amnesty program.

Williams acknowledges that the buyback proposal won't take all dangerous guns off the streets of her city.

"I know gang members won't necessarily hand in their guns, but owners of unwanted firearms will," she said.

"This is not the solution, but it is part of the solution."