Owners of BB guns and other imitation firearms are being reminded of the laws around their use in public.
Whilst it is not illegal to own certain weapons for sports including airsoft and paintball, it is an offence to carry them in public without a reasonable excuse.
Doing so has the potential to cause alarm and distress to anyone who may see such an item and confuse it with a viable firearm.
At around 8.35pm on Friday 17 November 2023 Kent Police received a report that a man had been seen with a handgun inside a public house in Queen Street, Deal.
The incident required the attendance of specially-trained armed officers who located the suspect in nearby Park Avenue and arrested him on suspicion of possessing a firearm in a public place.
It was later established the man had taken two airsoft guns to the pub after collecting them from a repair shop, and had not intended to cause any alarm.
As he had admitted the offence and was of previous good character, the incident was resolved by way of a community resolution in which he was required to write a letter of apology to those affected.
Don't risk arrest
Detective Chief Inspector Patrick Milford of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said:
‘Between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023 in Kent we recovered 75 BB guns and 26 other air weapons including two sub-machine guns and 19 rifles.
‘Whilst it is an unfortunate fact that criminals will sometimes arm themselves with imitation firearms in order to commit robberies and other serious offences, there are also a number of incidents every year in which members of the public who would otherwise consider themselves law-abiding find themselves in handcuffs.
‘This can be avoided by never taking an imitation firearm out in public and by transporting it inside a bag or case if you are planning to play a combat sport at an approved location.
‘If you are a parent or carer, please ensure you are aware of what items your child may be leaving the house with. As well as being illegal to possess in public, air weapons including BB guns also have the potential to cause serious injury in the wrong hands.
‘Kent Police is committed to keeping the county’s streets safe and all reported firearm sightings are treated with the utmost seriousness. Whilst it is fortunately rare that legitimate firearms are seen or discharged in Kent, we understand how difficult it can be for members of the public to tell the difference and will do everything in our power to protect them and prevent any unnecessary concern.’