Replica gun warning from police

PARENTS, teachers and children across Essex are being asked to lock up imitation weapons and toy guns following a recent spate of incidents in which "gun-toting" youngsters have been challenged at real gunpoint by police firearms officers.

By Sharon Asplin

PARENTS, teachers and children across Essex are being asked to lock up imitation weapons and toy guns following a recent spate of incidents in which "gun-toting" youngsters have been challenged at real gunpoint by police firearms officers.

The advice comes in the run-up to Christmas when police are keen to make people aware of the dangers of possessing imitation weapons, with offenders facing possible 10-year prison sentences if found guilty of intending to cause fear or violence.

In recent weeks, the force's firearms officers have been called to a growing number of incidents where young people have been in possession of imitation firearms and ball-bearing (BB) guns and caused fearful members of the public to dial 999.


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Firearms manager Chief Inspector Kevin Bailey is concerned that, whilst responding to genuine calls from the public reporting suspects with firearms, officers could inadvertently injure someone.

"When responding to such incidents, firearms officers cannot always identify whether or not a firearm is real or fake," he said.

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"Carrying an imitation could ultimately result in a highly-trained armed officer having to challenge a young person and so we are becoming increasingly worried. Specially-trained officers have been deployed to over 200 firearms incidents so far this year, with 10% involving a replica or BB gun. This has to stop now."

The guns amnesty held earlier this year brought in more than 1,200 illegal weapons off the county's streets, with the force committed to building on this success and eradicating the growing gun culture which endangers the whole community.

Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) Liam Brigginshaw is determined to use every effort to educate communities, especially young people, about the dangers associated with the use of any weapon.

"Fortunately, gun crime in this county is not as common as maybe elsewhere in the UK, but that does not mean we should be complacent," he said.

"Each gun taken off our streets means one less which could potentially kill someone in the community. Replica weapons look so much like the real thing that they too can terrorise individuals and communities.

"The majority of children, teachers and parents are simply not aware of the issues and consequences of carrying around such items – they don't realise the impact these so-called 'toys' have on our communities and on us."

Recent legislation now gives police powers to arrest anyone in possession of an imitation firearm or air weapon in a public place without reasonable excuse.

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