Police swoop after firearm reports

ARMED police launched a major manhunt on the streets of Ipswich last night after reports of a group of youths firing a gun in the town centre.A worried member of the public called the police at 6pm yesterday after he saw a male firing what he believed to be a handgun in Commercial Road, Ipswich.

ARMED police launched a major manhunt on the streets of Ipswich last night after reports of a group of youths firing a gun in the town centre.

A worried member of the public called the police at 6pm yesterday after he saw a male firing what he believed to be a handgun in Commercial Road, Ipswich.

The force's helicopter was immediately mobilised and closed circuit television pictures were scoured to trace the youths. An armed response unit was also readied to apprehend the youths.

They were eventually traced to McDonalds, in Tavern Street, Ipswich and were stopped and searched by armed police as they left at around 6.30pm.

One male was found to be in possession of a ball bearing gun and had it confiscated. None of the youths, who are all around 18 years old, were arrested following the incident.

Inspector Mike Hinshelwood, of Suffolk police, said: "It was decided that it would be inappropriate to arrest anyone over the incident.

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"It was not as if anyone was threatened with the gun and he didn't actually point it at anyone.

"We had to act on the matter because the informant thought it sounded like a handgun."

Last night's incident comes barely a month after Ipswich borough council, on the advice of Suffolk police, banned the sale of handguns from Ipswich market.

Up until December 3, the BB guns were being sold on Ipswich market for around £20 each, although no one under the age of 14 was allowed to purchase them.

Inspector Hinshelwood today repeated the warning about the potential dangers of carrying BB guns.

He said: "Because they are so realistic, police advice would be do not carry them in a public place. Even if you are carrying one for a completely innocent reason, other people may not perceive it that way.

"Armed police are deployed to these type of incidents and obviously they have the potential to escalate."

The move to ban their sale was backed at the time by Ipswich MP Chris Mole and many members of the public surveyed by The Evening Star.

However army surplus trader Roger Granville warned the ban could force him to abandon his pitch on the market.

Common complaints about the guns centred on the fact that they were hard to distinguish from the real thing.

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