Police forces amplify national firearm surrender campaign to counter rising gun violence

Police forces across the country have launched a fortnight-long crusade urging people to hand over firearms and ammunition without prosecution for illegal possession amid rising levels of gun violence in the UK.

National Firearms Surrender: The scheme aims to cut gun crime
National Firearms Surrender: The scheme aims to cut gun crime

The firearms surrender is being co-ordinated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS), with the aim of gathering thousands of guns and ammunition to prevent them being involved in crimes. 

Rachel Anstee, media and comms manager for NABIS, told PRWeek that a co-ordinated approach across the country was essential to the effectiveness of the campaign.

"We make sure we are communicating and liaising with all the corporate comms departments in police forces across England and Wales, so everyone knows about the campaign and the key messages," she explained. 

NABIS and police forces across the UK are working with partners such as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Local Government Association, to ensure the surrender fortnight, which launched on 13 November and runs to 26 November, is a success. 

NABIS ran a media day a week ahead of the launch for pre-recorded interviews and displayed some firearms for media to film, while managing live interviews on the first day of the campaign. 

The last national firearms surrender was held three years ago, when more than 6,000 items of guns and ammunition were handed in. 

"Although the campaign only launched on Monday, it has been really successful so far and we are already getting reports back from the forces that items have been handed in," revealed Anstee.

"We do expect the total to be quite high over this two-week period, as awareness is higher for this campaign [than three years ago]." 

The campaign is part of a drive to cut gun crime, as latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that crime involving firearms in England and Wales has increased by 27 per cent compared with the previous year. 

As well as its own social media channels, NABIS has provided artwork for printed materials to be used in police stations, libraries, community centres and other local public places.

Traditional media interviews are part of the campaign, while local police forces have been encouraged to spread the message through their own social media platforms, and are using the hashtag #NationalFirearmsSurrender. 

Among forces adding their own creative touch to the campaign is the Metropolitan Police Service, which has created a one-minute video telling the story of a young man who underestimates the consequences of possessing a gun, with the message #GiveUpYourGun. 

The chilling short film exposes the devastating impact one gun can have, and is being shared on YouTube, as well as through the capital’s individual borough social media. 

Callum Jones, press officer for the Met Police, who is leading on the comms for the campaign, explained it was critical that it was well-promoted internally too.

A specialist point of contact in each borough disseminates the campaign to all the officers, including front-desk staff, to make sure everyone is aware of the messaging and activity, said Jones.

In Derbyshire, the police force is using its own video asking people to guess which of two firearms is real, using Twitter's retweet and like features.

Meanwhile, West Midlands Police – which recently won a gold CIPR award for its hard-hitting ‘Guns – tell us what you know’ campaign – is using social media alongside a postcard drop to key targets of the gun surrender scheme.

Its aim is to warn people suspected of being involved in gun crime of the consequences and urging them to switch to the straight and narrow.

The force is also writing directly to wives, girlfriends, mothers, siblings and other family members in an effort to encourage them to report those involved in crime and offer support. 

Nationally, the campaign is not only urging gun surrender, but encouraging people to call police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report illegal firearms.

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