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11 March 2010, 06:00
Police in West Berkshire are warning parents that if they buy BB Guns for their children, they could find an armed response unit on their doorstep.
It comes after a recent case in Thatcham, where a teenager was charged with having an imitation firearm in a playground.
Although the boy was over eighteen, he was with a younger group of teenagers, some as young as fourteen.
Sergeant Caroline Harrison now wants parents to know what could happen if their children take a BB Gun out with them, "Potentially, they could find themselves faced with an armed response vehicle and armed response officers who can't tell the difference between their BB gun and the real thing."
Listen to the full interview
Sergeant Harrison wants parents to be aware of the risks of their teenagers having the guns as toys, and for the children themselves to be aware of the dangers, "Be informed about your decisions. Make sure you're not in a situation where you find yourself with an armed response vehicle."
Although BB Guns are legal (even though for many types, you must be over eighteen to buy one), it is not legal to carry one in a public place where it can be deemed an offensive weapon.
Seargeant Harrison explained, "There's a huge array of legislation to deal with firearms, and alot of that is around imitation firearms. Obviously if we can't tell the difference, the potential for criminal activity using imitation firearms exists. Because of that we have to treat each scenario as if it is a real firearm until we know it's not."
This can cause a huge expense on police resources, because if a member of the public sees someone with a BB gun and they do not realise it is not the real thing, then the police have to treat the sighting as real. It can take alot of time for officers to investigate such reports.