Megapixels for machine guns

The Pixels for Pistols program is bringing in a lot of firepower and dishing out cameras in return

Winnipeg police are trading guns for digital cameras. In a program dubbed Pixels for Pistols, anyone who turns in a working firearm to police gets a Lumix DMC-FH8 digital camera and a gift certificate for photo classes, both donated by Henry’s, a Canadian camera chain. As an added bonus, anyone who surrenders a gun during the four-week amnesty period won’t face criminal charges for possessing an unregistered firearm.

This isn’t the first gun amnesty in Canada. Under the now-defunct federal long-gun registry, gun owners were immune from criminal charges for possession of unregistered non-restricted rifles and shotguns, but the federal government certainly wasn’t handing out cameras. And the cameras seem to make a difference.

In 2008, the Toronto Police Service offered its own Pixels for Pistols program. It was deemed a success, netting 1,897 guns, 304 non-firearms (including pellet and replica guns) and 1,486 boxes of ammunition in just over a month. During that program, a surrendered gun was good for a Nikon Coolpix P60, and there was a bonus—a higher-end Nikon Coolpix S52—for a handgun, machine-gun or assault rifle. The program was repeated in Halifax in 2009, when police collected more than 1,000 weapons.

Winnipeg’s gun amnesty is off to a strong start, says Sgt. Geordie MacKenzie. By the fifth day of the month-long program, Winnipeg police had already collected 105 non-restricted firearms, seven prohibited weapons (mainly old handguns) and 5,000 rounds of ammunition. During Winnipeg’s last gun amnesty in 2010, there was no incentive involved and police collected 300 guns in a one-month period. “If, in three or four days, we’re at what took half a month last time, clearly the incentive must be what the difference is here,” says MacKenzie.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.