Steel company ArcelorMittal yesterday carried out the destruction of some 22.500 firearms in the combustion ovens of its plant in the port of Ghent.
The weapons have been collected over the last six months, mainly from owners of defective weapons, old police firearms and seizures made in cases that have now been disposed of, according to East Flanders governor Carina Van Cauter (Open VLD).
Getting the weapons to ArcelorMittal involved police in a three-day secret operation to transport the 60 tonnes of guns that could be an attractive target for organised 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.”
For governor Van Cauter, the disappearance of more than 20,000 firearms 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.”
The police, meanwhile, have repeated a call for owners of firearms who are not active hunters or sports shooters to turn their weapons in.
“Come and hand in weapons that are not used or that you cannot handle,” a spokesperson said. “That also applies to firearms on the black market. Bring them in to the local police. Someone has been appointed to take care of them.”
This is the third time that such a collaboration has involved ArcelorMittal, which works for free. “Steel is endlessly recyclable without loss of quality. For us, steel is the cornerstone for a sustainable circular economy,” Karen Warnier of ArcelorMittal told Het Nieuwsblad.
Once consigned to the ovens of ArcelorMittal, the deadly firearms emerged as 60 tonnes of plain, ordinary steel.
“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.”