Someone could get shot, police warn

POLICE have issue a warning that anyone seen pointing an initation firearm at an officer or a member of the public faces a real risk of being shot.They urged parents not to buy ball-bearing guns or airguns for their children after revealing they were dealing with 100 incidents a month involving real and fake weapons.

POLICE have issue a warning that anyone seen pointing an initation firearm at an officer or a member of the public faces a real risk of being shot.

They urged parents not to buy ball-bearing guns or airguns for their children after revealing they were dealing with 100 incidents a month involving real and fake weapons.

Ball bearing guns – known as BB guns – look so similar to their real equivalent, it is often impossible for even the most experienced firearms expert to tell the difference.

BB guns are gas or spring-loaded soft air guns that fire small plastic pellets at up to 100 metres and can be bought by teenagers over the age of 14 for as little as £2.99.


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Suffolk police's firearms unit went to 136 gun-related operations, between April and September 2003, of which a huge proportion involved the use or presence of BB guns.

Inspector Clive Benneworth, of Suffolk police's firearms and support training unit, said: "We send armed response vehicles to deal with BB guns because we cannot tell the difference. It's a huge problem.

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"Irresponsible behaviour by a minority of members of the public who risk being shot which is the bottom line."

Insp Benneworth also warned of the risk of serious injury related to BB guns and described a recent incident in which a BB gun pellet – fired at a distance of 25 metres – smashed the front window of a stationary police car.

"I would encourage all parents to really consider very hard whether they should purchase any handgun or imitation firearm. Why buy it?" he added.

It has now become an offence to possess an imitation firearm in a public place without a reasonable excuse and the age limit has risen from 14 to 17 for anyone wishing to possess an air weapon.

New legislation will also prohibit air cartridge weapons – air guns that can be easily converted into real weapons – and those who own them already will be forced to apply for a licence.

Sentencing powers will also increase to include a minimum custodial sentence of five years and maximum of 10 years for people illegally possessing weapons in a public place.

Insp Benneworth said: "My main concern is we have armed response vehicles on the road 24 hours a day which can get to a scene very quickly. There is a danger within the first few minutes that things can go wrong.

"The danger is a member of the public points an imitation weapon at a police officer or another member of the public and as a result we have no choice but to shoot somebody. That's the main fear of every police force in the country."

N Do you think guns and gun crime is increasing in Suffolk? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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