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France makes push to collect heirloom weapons across country

by The Associated Press | December 2, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A German Luger P08 from World War II is held by a gunsmith in front of boxes of weapons is seen in a box of weapons in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

BRUNOY, France (AP) -- The pistol the elderly French woman inherited from her grandfather had once belonged to a German soldier, killed in a war fought on France's soil in the last century.

Now the woman has turned the heirloom over to police for fear her grandchildren would stumble upon it.

French authorities want others to follow the unnamed woman's example by turning in millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars and long-abandoned hunting excursions.

The country has launched a weeklong nationwide campaign ending today to collect old, unregistered weapons that are tucked away in attics and storerooms across the country that saw much of the twentieth century's fiercest fighting.

"We believe there are about 5 or 6 million weapons that are being kept in an irregular manner by our fellow citizens," said Jean-Simon Merandat, Head of the Interior Ministry's Central Service for Arms and Explosives. "Eighty to ninety percent of these weapons are in their possession due to an inheritance."

Despite many such historical items seeming harmless, authorities promoting the campaign warn that appearances are deceptive. The old weapons can still be deadly and can be used to perpetuate domestic violence, or even fall into the hands of criminal networks.

The good news is French authorities deem their campaign so far to have been "a real success," claiming to have rounded up 1.6 million munitions pieces, and 65,000 firearms. There will be no legal consequences if weapons are handed over willingly, authorities said.

The overwhelming majority of unregistered weapons that will be collected will be destroyed. But a prized few whose metal barrels tell remarkable stories will be saved and preserved by the state. "We expect those with historic or cultural value to be spared destruction and brought to one or several museums," Merandat added.

Anyone wishing to hold on to their weapon and join the ranks of France's 5 million legal gun owners can do so if they seek to obtain a legal permit. With a population of 67 million people, France has proportionally far fewer guns than countries such as the United States.

A public outcry over a spike in the number of murders of women by their partners has also prompted authorities to push ahead with the gun collection drive.

photo A gunsmith handles a German MP 40 from World War II in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo A gunsmith handles an old weapon in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo A gunsmith records information of old weapons and their ammunition in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo Boxes of weapons are seen in a police station in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo People wait to bring back their weapons to the Ustaritz gendarmerie, southwestern France, Thursday, Dec.1, 2022. France has launched a nationwide push to collect millions of old firearms; remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting habits. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
photo A gunsmith records information of old weapons and their ammunition in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo A gunsmith records information of old weapons and their ammunition in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo A police officer handles two weapons including a German luger pistol from World War II in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. France has launched a nationwide drive to collect millions of old firearms, remnants of the two World Wars or long-abandoned hunting excursions. French Interior Ministry officials suspect French families keep many unregistered weapons tucked away in attics and storerooms as heirlooms in the country that was once the scene of many of the last century's fiercest battles. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo A gunsmith records information of old weapons and their ammunition , as France's government collects heirloom rifles and other unregistered firearms from its citizens as part of a week long nationwide gun-control campaign, in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

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