HAMPSHIRE police are staging a firearms amnesty as part of a national crackdown on gun crime.

Residents are being urged to hand in any unwanted or illegally-held weapons during a two-week ‘surrender of firearms and ammunition’ which starts next Saturday.

One of the campaign’s main aims is to cut the number of weapons which could fall into the hands of criminals.

But recent changes in legislation mean people who own souvenir, replica or antique firearms can fall foul of the law without realising it.

A police spokesman said: “Many firearms are held in innocence and ignorance of their illegality or are overlooked and forgotten in people’s homes.

“Others are acquired and distributed by criminal networks to threaten or harm their local communities. The surrender gives the opportunity to dispose of a firearm or ammunition by simply taking it to a local designated police station and handing it in.

“During the campaign period, those handing over firearms will not face prosecution for illegal possession - at the point of surrender - and can remain anonymous.”

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) co-ordinated the last national firearms surrender which took place in 2017 and was deemed a huge success, with thousands of potentially-lethal items prevented from being acquired by criminals.

Speaking at the time, a Hampshire police spokesperson said: “We know the consequences of firearms or replica firearms falling into the wrong hands.

“While crimes involving firearms in Hampshire are rare, we know that every firearm poses a potential threat if it’s not licensed and stored safely.”

The spokesperson said the fight against gun crime was ‘stronger than ever.’

The latest campaign will focus on pepper sprays and stun-gun type devices as well as guns.

Police say they want to highlight the dangerous nature of the items as well as reminding people that they are illegal in this country and could lead to a jail sentence for anyone caught in possession.

Weapons can be handed in at designated police stations across the county.

People unable to visit a station can call 101 and arrange for weapons to be collected.