Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A police chief has urged parents not to buy their children toy guns for Christmas. Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester, said hundreds of hours of police time were wasted on complaints involving imitation and toy guns each year. He said armed units have been called out unnecessarily - at taxpayers' expense - because officers have been unsure whether a gun was real or fake.

Parents should think twice before buying presents such as toy or ball-bearing guns, toy knives and mini-motorbikes which could lead to anti-social behaviour, he added. Research earlier this year by Greater Manchester Police revealed that ball-bearing guns now account for 30 per cent of gun crime. The weapons, which fire tiny plastic pellets, are popular with children because they are readily available on the Internet and cost as little as �14.99. But because they are modelled on real guns, such as Smith & Wesson or Kalashnikov rifles, it is often difficult for police to immediately distinguish them from genuine weapons.

"Presents are traditionally seen as a reward to young people for being good over the preceding year but, in some cases, they can be the source of anti-social behaviour," said Mr Todd. "I would urge parents to look carefully at what young people are asking for and refuse to let them have potentially anti-social and dangerous presents this Christmas." A spokesman for the Greater Manchester force added: "Dozens of young people perceived to be engaging in threatening behaviour with imitation firearms and ball-bearing guns have been reported to the police who, in some instances, have no alternative but to call in police specialist firearms units to ensure they are not real weapons." He refused to give any details about the amount of time officers have wasted dealing with toy gun incidents.

Last night critics warned that Mr Todd's comments could cause "unnecessary panic". David Hawtin, director-general of the British Toy and Hobby Association, said children had played cops and robbers for generations. "The police are introducing unnecessary panic about traditional toy guns," he added. "They are perfectly harmless."

Under current law, it is not illegal for someone to buy or sell toy guns. Toy guns can, however, be classed as "imitation firearms". Police have the power to arrest anyone seen brandishing one in public. There have been several recent high-profile cases of people being stopped by police for having toy guns. In April, a father was jailed for waving a bright orange toy gun belonging to his six-year-old son at two youths who had been harassing his family.

Richard Bottley, 37, from Oxford, was sent to prison for six months for threatening the 14 and 15-year-old boys after a campaign of terror in which they threw eggs and flour at his home, smashed windows, shouted abuse and turned up on his doorstep with baseball bats.

In July, eleven-year-old Earl Crump was arrested after two officers spotted him playing with a toy gun in his school playground, in Sheerness, Kent. The youngster was eventually released without charge.


South Africa: Gun owners in for shock: "Owners of firearms are set for a rude awakening early next year. According to the Central Firearms Register those who fail to comply with the act on the control of firearms will be arrested, their weapons confiscated and they'll have to appear in court. Statistics have shown that are more than 500,000 firearms licences countrywide need to be renewed before December 31. ... Van Tonder said gun owners had to fill in numerous forms and make statements. These include SAP 517 and SAP 517E forms. They also had to make statements and write motivations. They had to hand in four colour-identity photographs and a number of certified copies of, among others, their identity document, arms licence and proficiency certificate. 'The paper war is just too much for the older gun owners in particular,' he said. ... Director Phuti Setati, national police spokesperson, said gun owners who refused to renew their licences, could be sentenced to up to 12 months in prison."

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