Taking illegal weapons off the streets of Newport News and out of the hands of criminals is a top priority for the Newport News Police Department and involves every division within the department. In 2017, the NNPD seized 661 illegal guns, up from the 603 seized in 2016.
“In Newport News, we take weapons offenses very seriously and our officers aggressively enforce all Virginia gun laws,” said Acting Chief of Police, Michael Grinstead. “An effective gun violence reduction program, including the removal of illegal weapons is an ongoing process that involves many moving parts. The mechanisms, means and targeted populations can vary based on area demographics. At the NNPD, improvements and advancements in the process are made daily.”
Most guns in the state of Virginia are legally owned, and Virginia is an open-carry state, meaning if you buy a gun, unless you have a concealed weapons permit, the gun must be visible. You are not required to register a gun in Virginia; however, when you buy a gun from a legal dealer, federal paperwork is completed documenting the transaction.
There are many reasons why a weapon is considered illegal. Guns are seized when used in the commission of a felony and many of the 2017 gun confiscations were from persons convicted of a prior felony, where federal law prohibits possessing a firearm. Or, the weapon was concealed and the carrier did not have a license to conceal. The legal age to carry a gun is 18 years old, so some were taken from juveniles.
Not all weapons recovered are illegal. Some are simply found or turned in by citizens who no longer want them for whatever reason. The NNPD’s policy is to destroy all weapons. Weapons are destroyed only after meeting certain criteria, i.e., the weapon is no longer needed for evidence, is returned to their rightful owner in the case where the suspect was found innocent, or meets the length of time legally required to hold the weapon. “By destroying the weapons, we are certain that the illegal ones don’t return to the streets and consider this a best practice,” added Grinstead.
In 2017, annual shootings and homicides in Newport News declined. “It is difficult not to make a case that the strategies employed about the removal of illegal weapons were not part of this reduction in these violent crimes. We will continue to add other evidence-based strategies to reduce violent crime, in the entire city, and this will remain one of the Department’s top priorities.” said Grinstead.
For more information about the Newport News Police Department visit www.nnva.gov/police