Belgium police asked people to surrender unused or defective weapons and recycled them along with seized weapons.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 7, 2021. It has since been updated.
Belgium removed more than 220,000 firearms from the public and melted them into 60 tons of recycled steel. Belgium has moved to encourage people to turn in firearms that they weren't using, as well as defective weapons. The firearms melted into steel also included weapons not used by the police anymore. “The result is impressive: 22,457 firearms have disappeared from our society," said Carina van Cauter, governor of East Flanders in a statement, reported Reuters. "It is obviously positive for the security of our citizens that these weapons are no longer in use.”
The firearms collected and seized were melted at the steel firm ArcelorMittal in the combustion ovens of its plant in the port of Ghent. This is the third operation of the Belgium police along with ArcelorMittal to recycle firearms. It usually takes three days to complete the process and convert the firearms into recycled steel. “Steel is endlessly recyclable without loss of quality. For us, steel is the cornerstone for a sustainable circular economy,” said Karen Warnier of ArcelorMittal, reported Brussels Times. ArcelorMittal works for free to convert firearms into steel.
The melted weapons had been collected by the Belgium police over the last six months, according to East Flanders governor Carina Van Cauter (Open VLD). Due to the danger in transporting weapons to the steel plant, the police split the secret operation into three days to not draw attention considering they could have been targeted for organized crime. “Twenty officers guarded and escorted these weapons,” said Alexander De Baets of the federal police. “Not only during the escort of the weapons but also when they had already arrived at ArcelorMittal.”
Governor Van Cauter said the removal of more than 20,000 firearms from the public is a good thing. “That’s a lot of firearms that can no longer end up in the wrong hands. By that, I mean people with bad intentions or people who would get their hands on them by accident. So the weapons had to be destroyed if we wanted to prevent accidents,” said Cauter. The Belgium police continue to collect weapons that are not in use or are defective. “Come and hand in weapons that are not used or that you cannot handle,” said a spokesperson. “That also applies to firearms on the black market. Bring them to the local police. Someone has been appointed to take care of them.”
“They are now being recycled by ArcelorMittal and will be reworked into another steel product,” said the governor. “In this way, we are also contributing to the circular economy, the direction we all want to go in.” In three days, the firearms were converted into 60 tonnes of steel. “Steel is endlessly recyclable without loss of quality. For us, steel is the cornerstone for a sustainable circular economy,” said Karen Warnier of ArcelorMittal.
President Joe Biden has called gun violence a "public health epidemic." He called on Congress to take action after a string of gun violence incidents in April. "It's an international embarrassment," said Biden at the time. "Anyone from a criminal to a terrorist can buy this kit and, in as little as 30 minutes, put together a weapon," added Biden, reported BBC News. There appears to be considerable resistance from the public on the matter. In the wake of potential gun laws being implemented, a leading gun manufacturer, Ruger reported a 50% spike in quarterly sales and more than doubled its profit. “I could not be more proud of how well our folks rose to the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic and capitalized on the opportunities presented by the historic surge in demand during the past year,” said Chief Executive Officer Christopher J. Killoy, in a statement, reported Forbes.