City officials hope the successful partnership with photo retailer Henry's on a gun amnesty program will set an example for other businesses.
More than 1,700 firearms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition were turned in to police during the 30-day Pixels for Pistols amnesty campaign, exceeding expectations and smashing the numbers set during a 2010 amnesty.
"This has truly turned into something amazing," Mayor Sam Katz said during a news conference Tuesday.
Katz and police Chief Devon Clunis expressed their appreciation to Henry's and its president, Ian Landy, who sponsored the campaign, and hoped other businesses will take on a project to improve life in Winnipeg.
"The goal would be that maybe others in the retail industry may come out with other ideas such as this that can go towards safety or for programs with at-risk youth because this has certainly been a phenomenal success," Katz said.
Landy brought the campaign to Winnipeg on Nov. 1, promising every resident who turned in a firearm would receive a gift voucher from Henry's for a digital camera valued at $240. Vouchers were also given out for photography lessons in exchange for other weapons and ammunition.
Clunis described the partnership with Henry's as "a corporately driven community initiative," which he hopes will lead to similar ventures.
"I hope this will be an example to other corporate members and citizens within our community of what can be accomplished," Clunis said. "I thank Mr. Landy but I want to say to the community at large, look at this wonderful example and if you all just follow this, even to a small percentage, just imagine what can be accomplished in the City of Winnipeg."
Police were overwhelmed with the public's response from the start of the campaign.
Henry's had conducted similar amnesty exchanges in Toronto and Halifax and Landy said he knew Winnipeggers would embrace it as well.
"I was not prepared, with my staff and my resources, to handle this," Patrol Sgt. Kevin Wiens, who processed the collected firearms this time out and back in 2010, said. "This one kind of blows my mind."
A similar month-long gun amnesty in 2010 saw only 192 firearms turned in to police. The campaign was open only to Winnipeggers.
Police said no one who turned in a firearm would be charged.
Landy said he wasn't surprised by the results of the amnesty program but added the final number exceeds even his own estimates.
Landy said the retail cost of the campaign was about $700,000, an expense shared between Henry's and Panasonic, makers of the cameras given away in exchange.
The city and Winnipeg Police Service incurred no costs. Henry's and Panasonic bore the cost of the giveaways and advertising. Police officers assigned to collect firearms worked regular hours but were reassigned from normal duties.
Staff Sgt. John Boguski, who supervised the collection, said most Winnipeggers were grateful for the opportunity to turn in the firearms.
"The people we dealt with were very appreciative," Boguski said. "We didn't have any negative comments."
Wiens said an Italian shotgun that looked like a handgun was the most unusual firearm submitted. The oldest weapon was a rifle dating back to 1860.
Second World War-era Enfield rifles were typical of the firearms turned in.
Wiens said some of the firearms will be tested to determine if they might have been used during a crime.
All of the weapons will be destroyed.