Sun, July 20, 2008
Happiness is a destroyed gun
UPDATED: 2008-07-20 04:12:30 MST
... at least it is for city police trying to keep streets safe
By NADIA MOHARIB, CALGARY SUN
Rifles and handguns seized by authorities are cut into pieces and turned into sheet metal before they are ultimately transformed into everything from manhole covers to sign posts.
It's a chop shop, so to speak, so weapons no longer pose deadly peril but also get a reprieve from simply being trashed, says Sgt. Todd Robertson with the police service's evidence and property unit -- it's where guns go to die.
"It can never be put back together," he says.
"We use an oxy-acetylene torch to chop them up into little pieces then they get squashed again in a metal recyling shop and get turned into manhole covers, poles at bus stops, pipes and fittings in buildings -- used anywhere metal gets reused.
"We don't just throw it in the garbage," he says.
"It gets put to good use."
Each year, that is the fate of more than 1,000 firearms and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, which are either seized during a crime investigation or earmarked for destruction in a bid to get them off the streets in the interest of public safety.
Sometimes, if an owner is found not guilty of a criminal offence, firearms will be returned and occasionally, rare and collector-types are turned over to a museum.
The goal is to render the weapons inoperable -- melting handguns and rifles until the metal bubbles fuse the parts together and the firearms barely resemble previous incarnations -- a process also applied to replica and pellet guns.
Then a Calgary-based metal company free-of-charge further destroys the guns, transforming them into sheet metal.
Ammunition is destroyed in a so-called ammo burner, technology which runs about $70,000 to buy, and is an oven of sorts where rounds are placed on a large screen before the door is closed and heat cranked up.
"We're left with a big pile of metal and we recycle that as well," Robertson says.
Although others are part of the process, it all starts with the police.
"It's a high liability exhibit -- we don't want it getting out anywhere and we don't want to send it to a contractor to be destroyed," Robertson says.
"We can say, 'The last time I saw it, it was a paperweight.'"
Navajo Metals processes the metal, putting it in cars, which are then shredded, says manager Darrell Hofer.
The vehicles and firearms are "basically pounded," and pushed through fist-sized slots and sorted into steel, aluminium, copper and non-metals before being crumpled like bits of paper and loaded into rail cars, which are sent to a Regina company to be processed further, Hofer says.
"They melt it down and it is turned into coil and a large portion is turned into pipe for the oilfields," he says, adding they also take care of other crime-scene finds from crowbars to screwdrivers.
In a bit of a departure from that process, hundreds of firearms collected in the 2006 gun amnesty program are now raw material for artists, says Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey who ran the program.
The plan began when a local businessman approached Mayor Dave Bronconnier with the proposal.
After approval for the creative endeavour from the solicitor general's office, justice officials and the police chief, the metal -- gleaned from than 10,000 rounds of ammunition and in excess of 1,400 firearms -- the material was turned over to a group of artists now working on giving the guns new life.
Plans are not yet finalized but possibilities range from a statue to a peace park or metal benches and street lamps.
"The caveat was -- as long as they were no longer guns by definition," Stacey says of approval criteria.
"We were planning on destroying the guns," he says.
"They are really just scrap metal at this point, and they want to make something out of them -- I thought it was a great idea (and) you probably wouldn't even be able to tell they were guns."
Bronconnier says he embraced the idea when the Calgarian, who wants to remain anonymous, made the offer to donate the piece to the city.
"In true Calgary fashion, an anonymous donor comes forward and offered to turn the guns into artistic pieces, for example a peace statue or some type of public art," Bronconnier says.
"It sends a message, Calgary is a very peaceful city and this is a good example (of) taking something which can have a negative connotation and turning it into something very positive -- a symbol."
He says the finished art will likely find a permanent place somewhere in the downtown core.
This is clearly a plot by the gun manufacturers to get rid of old product and force new sales.
Would be better if those commiting the criminal offenses were liquified in the recycling tanks.
But that would probably solve the problem.