Following the very public crushing of guns from the gun amnesty, the remains have been dumped out into the open sea leaving many people questioning the effects on the environment and shaking their heads in disbelief
The amnesty was launched on the 2nd of November last year by the police in an attempt to make the streets of Samoa a little bit safer.
This was the first amnesty since 2006 and the police had expected a little over 100 guns to be brought in.
Although illegal firearms were meant to be brought in before the 31st December, the police extended the deadline and subsequently announced they were pleased with the collection of 322 guns including an AK-47 high powered assault rifle.
The question many then asked was, what were the police was planning to do with all these confiscated weapons?
The answer soon came.
All weapons were crushed and then dumped 10 miles from the shore by the Nafanua mission patrol vessel.
Filomena Nelson who is the acting Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) – Disaster Management Office (DMO) explained, “This is the first time something like this had to be done because the police have never had the issue of where to dump illegal firearms.”
There has never been a collection of illegal fire arms as big as this in Samoa before which makes everyone new to this situation.
“The dumping of the weapons into the open ocean is a common practice overseas. The Australian Federal Police provide us with technical advice on how to treat situations such as this because they also deal with these issues in their own country,” Nelson said.
However this practice is not common throughout the world.
Disposing of illegal fire arms into the open ocean was once also used by American states but was ceased following an environmental law prohibiting dumping waste into the ocean.
Nowadays the different American states resort to cutting, crushing and melting illegal fire arms after which, the metal remains are either sold, or recycled into machine parts.
But with the recent halt to ferrous scrap metal exports in the country; it was claimed that this has left Samoa with not many options as to where the crushed firearms should go. All the options presented posed big impacts on either the environment or people’s safety.
“We gave permission to the police because we consider the safety of the people above all else. If we took the remains to the rubbish dump or buried them somewhere, then there is always the risk of people finding then and reassembling them,” Nelson said.
“It’s not just firearms; we have also taken a few ships out to the open ocean and sunk them.”
M.N.R.E. took into account all of the options, risks and impacts before issuing the ok to the police. The Ministry saw no other choice after weighing their options and considering the people’s safety as the top priority, it was claimed. Getting rid of the guns for good and leaving no chance for creative people to put the guns back together, was the only option left.
“The extent of the impact depends on the chemical and material content of whatever you dispose of into the ocean,” Nelson said.
As for the impact on the marine life, “There will always be consequences in every choice we make. If we dump them in the ocean then it will affect the marine life but if we buried them somewhere then it will affect the land environment and we will risk the safety of the people.”