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Weapons under fire

Police want firearms off the streets and stored properly

SERIOUS MATTER: York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge spoke with reporters after launching the Safe and Secure Gun Program at 4 District Tuesday. Police want legal gun owners to keep their weapons safely stored and others to turn their weapons over to police. The public can view a collection of weapons at the police station this weekend. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

York police pulled the trigger this week on a program aimed at getting illegal firearms off the streets and legal ones into proper, secure storage.

The Safe and Secure Gun Program has three components: gun surrender, enhanced tracking and analysis of stolen and recovered guns, and home and commercial security assessments.

“We believe that our community is a safer community if unwanted guns or ammunition are no longer in homes across York Region,” Chief Armand La Barge said at the program’s launch Tuesday. “We also believe that our community is a safer community if licensed gun owners in York Region continue to secure and store their firearms and ammunition in the safest manner possible.”

The choice of 4 District as the venue to launch the program was no accident, La Barge said.

“We purposely started here in Vaughan because there are a large number of our 79,000 or so guns that are registered in York Region in this particular community,” he said.

The gun surrender portion of the program is intended as a way for residents to safely rid themselves of unwanted firearms or ammo, including military ordinance and any restricted, prohibited, unregistered or replica guns.

“I would hope that we will see hundreds of guns being turned in,” La Barge said.

“We’ve had situations where some of our serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces brought things back from the Second World War — pistols that they’d seized from German soldiers and things of that nature — still in the house and still in possession of the widow or the son or the daughter.

“This is an excellent opportunity for them to get rid of those particular types of guns and any ammunition that they might have.”

Not a gun amnesty, police chief stresses

The program is not a gun amnesty, La Barge stressed. Investigators will test all firearms brought in to determine whether they were used in any previous crimes.

The third component of the Safe and Secure Gun Program is to educate gun owners on proper firearm storage for both safety and to minimize the risk of guns being stolen. By request, police will provide free in-home and business security assessments, and will hand out free trigger locks to participants.

“We’re not just targeting guns that people no longer want,” La Barge said. “We’re also targeting lawful gun owners in that we think that some gun owners can be educated on how to properly store and secure their firearms.”

Failure to secure guns and ammo as prescribed by law is a criminal offence, he added.

A Safe and Secure Gun Program display is open at 4 District today from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The display will then travel to other police districts.

To surrender guns or ammo, or to schedule an assessment, visit

Vaughan Today
In print: February 13, 2009, page 1
Online: February 12, 2009 [link]