‘Give up the gun’: GMP begin two-week firearm amnesty to help clean up streets of ‘Gunchester’

This terrifying arsenal of weapons was seized by Greater Manchester Police during a successful war against the gangs who gave their city the nickname: ‘Gunchester’.

Looking more appropriate for the battlefields of the Middle East rather than streets of Britain, a sniper’s assault rifle, a cache of machine guns and even a grenade launcher was recovered as officers dismantled ruthless drug gangs terrorising Manchester.

During one ten year period between 1999 and 2009, 112 people lost their lives to gun crime across the city leading to its notorious nickname.

Yet today there has not been a fatal shooting in the county of Greater Manchester since the tragic deaths of policewomen Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in August 2012 at the hands of cop killer Dale Cregan.

The last fatal gang related shooting was of 16-year old schoolboy Giuseppe Gregory who was shot dead by a 15-year old hitman while sitting in the back seat of a VW Golf in a pub car park.

Despite major falls in gun crime in the area, Greater Manchester Police have announced a two week weapons amnesty giving hoodlums a fortnight to surrender firearms and ammunition with no questions asked.

Detective Chief Inspector Debbie Dooley from the elite Xcalibre Task Force, which was formed in 2005 to tackle the gangs, said: “Gun crime in Manchester continues to fall year on year since the last amnesty we held in 2008.

AMNESTY: People have two weeks to hand over their firearms to avoid prosecution

“This is a result of continued efforts from the Force and our partners working together to safeguard, educate and intervene at the earliest opportunity. 

“The last fatal gang shooting was Guiseppe Gregory, and the last fatal non-gang shootings were the tragic circumstances surrounding Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in 2012.

“These deaths, although not recent, are still far too many. We therefore want as many weapons as possible and would encourage people to hand them in.”

Gregory’s father James Gregory, 42, now an anti-gun campaigner, said: “I hope this gun amnesty makes a massive difference.

“For someone who has lost a child through a weapon it is devastating so if someone wants to hand a weapon in I would encourage that – you can’t take a life if you can’t replace one.

“I have met with former gang members and people who used to own guns that have come to me to talk – there is no fear in my mind. If you are part of the community and want to talk I am here from you.”

Mr Gregory said lots of children aquire guns because their vulnerability. He argues that if children are growing up in a house without a father figure where there is no money or too many other children it can have a grave consequence.

DEADLY: The Israeli UZI was one of the weapons seized by police  

“That child whose mother is working two or three jobs is not always there to keep an eye on him and if the mum isn’t there to keep an eye on him then the streets will keep an eye on him and therefore you can be more likely to go down a bad side,” he said.

“If you take children to a morgue to see the devastation that guns can cause will they think that guns are still cool? Being behind a bullet is completely different to the person pulling the trigger.

“It’s easier for people to join a gang than to leave and youngsters need an exit strategy to get out of that so obviously we are on hand to support that and making sure that an individual can be reached.

“To a person involved in weapons and guns it can only end two ways: jail or death and this is sadly happening and this is the message I am trying to send out.”

The most notorious murders during the height of Manchester’s drug was that of Benji Stanley, 14, who was shot dead outside a takeaway in 1993 and of, Jessie James, 15, who was shot and killed on September 9, 2006, cycling home from a party with friends.

In one incident in 2004 panic broke out at Manchester Royal Infirmary as rival armed gangs spotted each other after a shooting and ran after each other through the hospital corridors.

But police cracked down on the gangs with Tommy Pitt, then 28, leader of the Pitt Bull Crew, after he was sentenced to 30 years for murder in 2001.

And in 2009 Colin Joyce, then 29, and 32-year old Lee Amos were given 35 year jail terms for two murders after being convicted of running the Gooch Close Gang.

GEARS OF WAR: Guns from World War II have been recovered from the streets 

Ian McLeod, then 42, and leader of the Dodington Gang was jailed for 21 years in 2007 for organising a botched hit which saw both his hit-men shot dead.

The amnesty gives holders the chance to dispose of the firearm or ammunition with no questions asked, by simply taking it to a local police station and handing it in.

The amnesty will be held for two weeks from Saturday 12 July at 7am to 11.59pm on Saturday July 26.

During that period, those surrendering firearms will not face prosecution for the illegal possession and they can remain anonymous.

There will also be a change in legislation which will make it illegal for certain people to hold weapons such as antique firearms.

CITY OF GUNS: Tony Lloyd has oversaw the war on gun crime in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “Greater Manchester has led the way in both reducing and sustaining the reduction in gun crime over several years.

“This is as a direct result of the police, public bodies such as local authorities, probation or youth offending services and – crucially – communities working together in a genuine partnership.

“But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. This year’s amnesty shows that we won’t stop trying to address this issue. Anyone in possession of a firearm should take this opportunity to hand it in without facing prosecution – it is simply the smart thing to do.

“I’ve seen first-hand the destruction that guns have caused to families and communities in our area. Every weapon removed from the streets potentially represents a life saved, or indeed many lives saved.

“So take this opportunity to do the right thing and get rid of that deadly weapon. This amnesty will help us realise our goal of having streets that are safe and free from guns.”

Story via Cavendish Press.

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