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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Airgun ban call for children
Airguns
Young people can possess an airgun at 14
Campaigners are calling for a ban on children using airguns after a spate of serious injuries.

Trading Standards officers say there have been more than 700 injuries and widespread criminal damage in the past year.

They said tougher laws are needed to stop the problem spiralling out of control, as they met at their annual conference in Birmingham on Wednesday.


Let's get them out of the hands of the very young

Trading Standards officer Ed Chicken

It is legal to buy an airgun at 17 but 14-year-olds upwards can possess them.

A teenager, left permanently blinded in her left eye after she was shot with an air pellet by teenagers, wants the law changed.

Sandra Diston from Gateshead said: "People think they are toys but look what has happened to me."

Airgun craze

The 16-year-old's mother, Sandra, has helped raise 18,500 signatures for a petition campaigning to tighten airgun laws.

She told the BBC: "It is definitely a craze from what we have heard since this happened to Nicola. There are people living in fear."

Nicola Diston
Nicola Diston: Law must change
It is estimated that there are already four million airguns in circulation in the UK.

Trading Standards officers say they are happy for air rifles and air pistols to be handled by young people at supervised gun clubs.

But they want them banned for all children under 18 in all other circumstances.

Officer Ed Chicken said: "Let's draw a line in the sand before the numbers rise so high that nothing can be done about it".

There were 10,000 offences involving airguns in a year.

Mr Chicken said: "Let's get them out of the hands of the very young.

Weapons control

"What shouldn't happen is that they are used as toys in inner city areas."

Officers say there is some evidence that the weapons are being traded by unscrupulous dealers.

But the pro-shooting lobby says the existing law is sufficient but not enforced sufficiently.

Carl Cox of the British Association of Shooting said the control of the sale of these weapons was down to trading standards.

"They need to do it correctly and they need to do more of it," he said.

See also:

02 Jul 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | England
27 Mar 02 | Scotland
07 Mar 02 | Wales
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