Police and citizens swap money for guns

  • 2001-03-29
  • Sergei Stepanov
NARVA - Narva police have been carrying out an unprecedented scheme since the beginning of March. Officers are asking the residents of the city, in the North-East of Estonia, to hand over any illegal weapons in exchange for money, without any prosecution involved. The campaign will conclude March 31.

According to the Narva police department, the idea to organize such a project had been discussed for over a year, but many other important tasks had delayed it.

To make the scheme safe, police ask those willing to get rid of their weapons not to bring them in personally, but simply to call and inform officers where the weapons are.

Narva residents wishing to give the arms away have been calling every day. By the end of the third week, the police had built up an impressive arsenal of cold steel and firearms, including explosives and a machine gun dating back to World War II.

However, the new collection will not be used to make a museum exhibition. It will immediately be destroyed.

The general rate of the award for a weapon is 50 kroons ($3) per kilogram, but if it is an explosive, for example a grenade, the reward is higher.

According to Artur Parnoja, Narva's police chief, the money stimulus is the key question. Without it the entire scheme would have lacked any reason. The police department scraped money together for a year to fund the project.

Parnoja said this kind of action, which was inspired by both American and Russian examples, has never been arranged in Estonia before.

But Parnoja's bosses are skeptical about the scheme. Herman Piirsalu, the head of the Ida-Virumaa county police, doubted the reasoning behind such a project and insisted that the police have illegal arms in the region under control.

"Last year we confiscated six illegal firearms, mostly shotguns, and in general the situation with illegal arms here in the county is not alarming," said Piirsalu.

According to Estonian laws, a person who voluntarily gives up an illegal weapon does not face trial but can otherwise look forward to between one and five years in jail.