French citizens have surrendered tens of thousands of guns under a week-long amnesty program by the government to round up unlicensed firearms without their owners facing penalties.
As of Wednesday, at least 65,000 firearms and 1.6 million bullets were collected at various drop-off locations across the country, Radio France Internationale reported. The amnesty was scheduled to end Friday, but four regions, including Paris, extended it to Dec. 6.
Starting on Nov. 25, the French government set up 300 drop-off locations across the country. The aim of the program was not to collect guns held by criminals, but rather for ordinary citizens to get rid of weapons that may have been family heirlooms and were just lying around the house.
One police official at a collection point in Nice told RFI that people were "quite happy" to get rid of their "cumbersome" weapons.
The Interior ministry said they wanted to prevent domestic accidents with unsecured weapons in the house as well as to stop unlicensed guns being stolen during thefts. People could also hand over other weapons like hunting knives and swords, while explosives would need to be collected directly from people’s homes.
The weapons will either be given to a museum or destroyed.
A gun owner at a police collection point in Nice told AFP:
They were my dad's and I didn't know what do with them. I don't really like guns, and since there's a way to get rid of them cleanly, there's a moment you have to get rid of such souvenirs.
Gun laws in France are stricter compared to the United States, but less strict compared to European neighbors.
French citizens have no right to bear arms and can only own them after obtaining a hunting or sportings license. However, citizens can legally purchase weapons like AK-47s, so long as they pass several evaluations like health screenings and interviews with police, The Spectator reports.
France reportedly ranks 12th in the world for gun ownership figures, with the estimated number of legal and illegal guns owned by civilians ranging between 10 and 20 million.
In terms of gun deaths, France’s rate stands at 2.42 per 100,000 people, according to GunPolicy.org. That number is far lower than the U.S. but significantly higher than neighboring countries like Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
The View From The United States
While gun crimes are the focus of the firearm debate in the U.S., several activists groups in recent years, like Everytown for Gun Safety, have also pushed for more awareness about unintentional gun deaths resulting from unsecured firearms in households.
According to GunPolicy.com, there were at least 486 unintentional gun deaths in the U.S. in 2019, the most current data. The rate of unintentional deaths per 100,000 people is five times higher than that of France.