MORE than 3500 firearms, including a machine gun and hundreds of shotguns and rifles, have been taken off Lothian streets after being surrendered to police.
The massive haul over the last five years, which also included stun guns, handguns and air weapons, has been melted down and recycled to prevent them falling into the hands of criminals.
Meanwhile detectives targeting organised crime have seized shotguns and ammunition from drug gangs in recent months.
The recovery figures were revealed as other statistics showed a large fall in firearms-related crimes in the last year.
A total of 150 crimes involving firearms were recorded between last April and March, compared with 267 the previous year.
Two 12-year-olds and two 13-years-old were among those arrested for such offences, although police chiefs said the vast majority of firearms incidents involved replicas and airguns.
Detective Superintendent David Bullen, director of intelligence for Lothian and Borders Police, said: “Many of the weapons handed over to police belonged to licensed firearms holders, but are no longer serviceable or have been replaced.
“Many are replicas, BB guns and air weapons which people want properly destroyed, often by parents who do not want them falling into the hands of their children.
“Others are older firearms, perhaps found when an elderly relatives passes away.
“The numbers being surrendered have stayed pretty constant over the last few years. We last had a firearms amnesty about six or seven years ago and because the flow continues we haven’t held another one.”
A total of 3653 firearms have been handed in at police stations since 2006. Background checks are carried out on each weapon to determine whether it was used in a crime before being recycled. New figures revealed that shotguns, BB guns and airguns were seized from drug gangs in the force area between April and July, while detective also arrested a total of 83 gang members. The targeting of these gangs saw £1.5 million of Class A drugs and £250,000 in cash confiscated, while £1.7m in criminal assets were identified for potential seizure.
Det Supt Bullen said that gang-related shootings in recent years showed that criminals were finding it difficult to acquire high calibre weapons.
He said: “The shooting of Robert Kelbie at Bannatyne’s gym in Newcraighall last October and the shooting at the Jock’s Lodge pub in 2009 involved poor quality firearms which did comparatively little damage. It’s encouraging that individuals willing to use firearms have been unable to source more powerful weapons.
“Our intelligence picture on serious organised crime has been improving, much of it due to information given to us by the public, and that makes it more difficult for these groups to operate and access the firearms they may have wanted.”
The number of firearms-related incidents fell from 440 in 2006-7 to 150 for 2010-11.
A total of 13 armed robberies were carried out between last April and March.
Det Supt Bullen added: “The massive majority of firearms incidents involve air weapons, BB guns or replicas. We recorded only four firearms discharges in 2008-9, two the following year and that has stayed the same this year.”
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