Residents with unwanted or unlicensed firearms are being encouraged to hand them over to reduce crime and help keep Essex safe.

Essex Police have set up a two-week firearm surrender from Saturday, July 20, until Sunday, August 4, where anyone who hands a firearm in, they will won’t face prosecution for possessing it illegally.

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Kirby, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Gun crime is, fortunately, low in Essex but we do still see offences where firearms are used.

“We have many responsible, law abiding firearms licence holders in Essex but there are members of the criminal fraternity who want to get hold of guns to threaten, frighten and injure others and it’s really important we do everything we can to reduce the chance of them getting their hands on one.

“There are a number of reasons why you may possess a firearm illegally, whether it be because you’ve inherited a trophy of war weapon from a family member, your own licence has expired or, may be unaware that changes in the law mean you’re no longer eligible to have a licence.

“It may just be that you possess a firearm legally but you just don’t want or need it anymore and want to dispose of it safely and that’s exactly what you can do during our surrender.”

There were 569 offences involving a real firearm in Essex last year which works out as less than one for every 3,000 people in the county.

Officers seized or had handed in 2,224 real firearms and 520 air weapons or imitation firearms.

DCI Kirby added that this surrender is just one of many things we do to protect Essex and keep people here safe from firearms: “Thanks to information and intelligence from the public we regularly carry out proactive operations to tackle criminals using weapons and targeting those who are possessing them illegally.

“We’ve carried out a number of warrants in the last year where we’ve seized a significant number of illegally held firearms from people and this surrender is just another way we’re keeping Essex safe.”

In recent years the law has changed which means you may no longer be eligible to hold a firearm licence.

Anyone who’s served a custodial sentence of more than three years will be permanently banned.

In addition, anyone who’s served a custodial or suspended sentence won’t be allowed to possess an antique firearm.

The police stations involved are Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Grays, Harlow, and Southend.

If you have any information about someone who has a gun illegally you can call us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.